As has been the trend in recent weeks, the Sept. 6 weekly business session of the Board of Josephine County Commissioners was brief, clocking in at less than 20 minutes while gathering at the Anne G. Basker Auditorium.
When the board took requests and comments from citizens, the only individual who took advantage of this segment was former commissioner candidate and meeting frequenter Mark Jones, who sparked a discussion he summed up as, “That was then, this is now” dissecting the state of Josephine County and the nation as a whole compared to decades ago, when he and the commissioners were young.
“When I was growing up, Josephine County was prosperous, clean and friendly. The logging industry was booming. Jobs were plenty,” Jones recalled. “These days it appears to have escaped us. The logging industry is almost gone and the jobs market has changed.”
Jones went on, “Back then, people were full of care and compassion for others. We were friends with our neighbors. We helped one another out whenever we could. We came together despite our political views, our religion, or other factors. We worked together to reach common goals, and we built community cohesiveness.
“Unfortunately, we have now become a community of one. We only look after ourselves, care about what we want, what we need, have and can get. We’ve lost the care and compassion for others, and our communities are just places where people live. We set our own agendas and individual goals without thinking of how they affect others. We have been divided by political views and beliefs, unwilling to see each other as fellow Americans.”
Ending on a hopeful note, Jones asserted, “I believe that we can stop the division, remove our walls and come together once again. Because together we’ll stand and create changes that we need to make this county like it was back then.”
In his response to Jones’ accord, Commissioner Dan DeYoung blamed the United States’ decline on immigrants:
“I think as time marches on, and as the population grows, and as the population in other parts of the world see what we have here, it seems to me that in their effort to come here to get away from what they are, they bring what they left and bring it here. And eventually we will probably be very much like what they left.”
DeYoung asserted pride in living in Josephine County, saying, “I would rather die here in Josephine County than die moving somewhere else. I’m going to just stick around because I think this is worth saving … I’ve traveled quite a bit; always like coming home to the Rogue Valley. Always. Even if it’s on fire, I like being home.”
Commissioner John West piled onto the hometown pride, saying, “Josephine County is still one of the greatest counties there is and it always will be.”
Baertschiger also struck a positive note, mentioning community activism and local programs he finds inspiring. “Don’t just concentrate on negativity; there’s a lot of positive things going on,” the board chair insisted.
During the board’s consent calendar, JoCo Public Health Director Michael Weber approached the podium to discuss the establishment of the SOAPP fund.
SOAPP, or the Southern Oregon Alliance for Providers and Physicians, is an alliance focused on the Collaborative recruitment of health care providers to the Rogue Valley.
According to Weber, SOAPP is “looking to provide education and outreach to try and bring providers into our community. And the intent of it is to try and overcome a current significant gap that we have in staffing. Up until now what we’ve been seeing is a lot of competition internally within our communities and neighboring communities, where we are pulling providers between clinics and a lot of coaching.
“And at some point, all these medical providers in the clinics were getting together in some of our meetings and talking about the challenge that that’s creating for them professionally. And they decided that the best approach was for them to start to work together to try and incentivize providers and physicians to come into our community.”
The SOAPP Fund will be an interest-bearing custodial fund segregated by accounting practices from all other funds. JoCo has agreed to hold and distribute the fund on behalf of SOAPP, as dictated by a memorandum of understanding between the two entities.
The board opted to table approval of the SOAPP Fund for one week, as they sought reimbursement for administrative costs incurred by the county that was not included in the current MOU. Baertschiger stressed that he was not against the program, while West was skeptical that Josephine County will receive as big a benefit as Jackson County.
Ronald Wright was reappointed to the Rural Planning Commission for a term set to expire Sept. 6, 2027.
Additionally, the commissioners recognized a handful of longtime county employees.
The four honorees were: Charles Hips – Communication Technician, 15 years; Cynthia Woods – Sheriff’s Office, five years; Trish House – Board of Commissioners’ Office, five years; and Nicole Mannon – legal counsel, five years.
We really appreciate these individuals who have served the citizens of Josephine County,” Baertschiger remarked. “We’re very fortunate.”
The board chair went on to repeat his belief that public servants are Josephine County’s “most valuable resource.”