Race for position 2, meet the candidates

Annette McGee Rasch
IVN Senior Contributing Writer

The order is set alphabetically.

Chris Barnett

Chris Barnett wants to nail down position 2 on the Josephine County Board.
“I’m running for a better Josephine County,” he said. “I’ve been in business, leadership, law enforcement and also involved in community events. Now I want to give back and help with the issues that are affecting our way of life.”
He wants to help with homelessness, drug issues and public safety and to bring unity into community relations and integrity to government so that JoCo’s citizens “feel good about the representatives that work for them.”
Barnett, a Republican who has lived in JoCo for 43 years, attends scores of town hall and county commissioner meetings. “I’m there as a citizen to learn this job. I’m asking a lot of questions.”
He also visits the county’s departments. “I’m taking the pulse, so I’ll be able to get to work on day one,” he said.”I want to know if there’s morale issues or budget issues and to ensure that our county employees are doing the best jobs possible for the citizens. I want to be sure that our taxpayers feel good about the services they receive. That’s called accountability.
“Our departments are still serving the citizens with small budgets, we’ve managed to provide services – though of course, the more taxes you put in, the more services we can provide,” he adds, “but people have to vote those things in.”
Some may recognize Barnett – or at least his voice – as he’s been a Grants Pass broadcasting radio personality for 25 years. Formerly a full-time announcer, now he has a regular show on Saturday mornings on KLDR FM and afternoons on KAJO FM. “If anybody has an issue, I have them stop by the station for an interview. We do a nice community interactive show. We do news and we have fun. Though while campaigning he’s taking a leave of absence. Barnett’s call name is “Commander Chris.”
Barnett has served in the U.S. Air Force, Oregon Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve and achieved the highest non-commissioned rank of chief master sergeant. He’s currently the command chief for the Pacific Region Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol, which includes six states and operates with a budget of more than $70 million; and he’s a search and rescue drone pilot for the Civil Air Patrol.
“I love to be challenged and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Aim high is what the Air Force has taught me.”

Now Barnett is an entrepreneur who operates two franchises: the Realty Executives Southern Oregon, and Hommati.com #222, a professional Real Estate photography and video company that both serve JoCo. He graduated from Hidden Valley High School, attended Rogue Community College and holds degrees in both criminal justice and human resource management. Barnett met and married his wife, Stefani in JoCo. The pair has three daughters.

“I’m a business owner, I’ve volunteered with both the sheriff’s department and the Oregon State Police, I’ve served on the Grants Pass Chamber of Commerce, the Grants Pass Association of Realtors, and was vice president of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard Oregon. “I’m a good juggler, I’ve juggled myriad tasks all my life.”
Regarding law enforcement in JoCo, Barnett is impressed that the sheriff’s office has done as well as it has with limited resources. “They answer every call that comes across their desk as fast as they can,” he said. With the recent passage of the law enforcement levy, Barnett hopes that Sheriff Daniel will bring back the reserve program, where volunteer deputies are trained to go out and patrol in vehicles provided by the sheriff’s office. “I wouldn’t mind being a reserve officer again. I would love to see Sheriff Daniel ‘win’ in that arena. Reserve deputies could help fulltime deputies cope with time and budget shortfalls.”
Regarding the proposed levy for the county’s animal shelter, Barnett said, “I have a heart for animals. We need a much better facility – there’s many great volunteers who work hard. I’d like to support them and the animals more. Almost everybody has or has had a pet of some sort. It’s up to the voters, but I know where I stand on it. The need is critical.”
One of Barnett’s biggest concerns relates to homelessness and those unhoused. “Ninety percent or more of the homeless in the county is related to drug abuse. I believe in a hand up – not a hand out. We need tougher penalties on illegal drug use and offers of rehabilitation to help people get back on their own two feet.”

Barnett has served in government for over 30 years and said, “When leaders aren’t good, it makes the entire organization look bad. The answer is to vote for experience people who have the will to serve others.” With the budget struggles the county has had over the years, Barnett notes how the trust of the people has been eroded and that he wants “restore faith in our county government and to represent you, the people of Josephine County.”

In closing Barnett said, “This community has given me great opportunities to excel, and I want you to have them, too!”
Go to VoteChrisBarnett.com to learn more about Barnett and his positions.


Mark Jones

When you ask Mark Jones why he’s running for the Josephine County Board, he says “I’ve noticed that politics are no longer ‘by the people for the people,’ it’s more ‘by the politicians for the politicians.’” Chuckling, he relates that this is why his business card reads ‘I hate politics.’ According to Jones, the ways 21st Century politics play out are a far cry from what our founding fathers envisioned. “We need to return politics to the people.”
Some of Jones’ biggest concerns relate to the region’s economy and the housing shortage, which he says “go hand-in-hand.” When it comes to housing availability Jones said, “We have some rentals and then homes in the $350,000 to $400,000 range. But there’s no middle ground. There’s hardly any smaller homes in the $150,000 to $200,000 range. We lack what I call a ‘stepping stone.’
“So you have a lot of people who are working, but they’re forced to crash on family and friends’ couches,” he said. “We need more development of affordable 800 square foot homes – the smaller homes where people can build up some equity. Considering how the median income in JoCo is $35,000, we also need that middle ground in the housing market.”
Jones believes that the Illinois Valley holds an important key to the county’s future.
“When it comes to building the economy and attracting business, one of the most underutilized areas is the Illinois Valley,” Jones said. “We just need to build up the infrastructure to make that happen. We already have access. There is Highway 199 and I-5 and rail access that is all underutilized, along with our two airports which are also underutilized.”
Jones believes there isn’t much usable flat land available in Grants Pass. “About the only flat land that’s potentially good for development is in the Illinois Valley.” He referenced the airport, and also, the former Rough & Ready lumber mill as great potential locations for light-to-medium industrial development and expansion. “There may be some water and sewer infrastructure issues to be worked out, but solutions can be found. And we could continue to work with ODOT to improve 199 to make it safer and more easily traveled. Realistically, with more economic development, there would be the impetus to develop an additional access route and that would also improve safety during wildfires.”
Jones grew up in JoCo and graduated from Hidden Valley High School. He worked his way up the ladder to a manager’s position at Ray’s Sentry Market in Rogue River at the age of 19, but after his best friend introduced him to fire service, he knew that he’d found his calling. In 1991 he became a resident firefighter for Valley Fire Service (now the Rural Metro Fire Department), then in 1999, transferred to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he eventually became an engineer for the city of Scottsdale Fire Department. During his tenure he was also an instructor for apparatus and aircraft rescue and fire fighting training as well as a leader to members of his crew. His attention to detail, ability to act under pressure and always think clearly made him a great asset to the fire service until he retired in 2018.
Moving back “home” he took a job with the county assessor’s office; and in 2019, started working with Rural Metro’s Fire Prevention Department doing home safety inspections and smoke alarm installations. Finally, he became inspired to run for public office after his involvement with the 2021 campaign for a fire district for the Josephine Independent Rural Fire Protection District. This involvement gave him a fuller picture of JoCo’s general state of health, which compelled him to get involved. “I realized that the county’s citizenry had lost its sense of community,” he said. “The care, concern and compassion I experienced growing up here is disappearing.”
Watching the political parties grow so far apart imbued in Jones a strong desire to help bring people together again “to create a prosperous future.” A non-affiliated voter, Jones initially ran for county commissioner in 2022. Since then, he’s attended most of the board’s legal and business meetings along with many workshops. He often utilizes the three minutes of public comment time to “share ideas, solutions and concerns with the commissioners and the public. So I’m well-versed on county affairs and operations – I’d easily pick up the torch and carry it with integrity.”
Jones currently serves on JoCo’s Rural Planning Commission as vice chair, is also vice chair of the Josephine County Housing and Community Development Council, the foundation director for the Grants Pass Rotary Club, member of the Merlin Community Park Board, member of the Grants Pass and Josephine County Chamber of Commerce and a member of a fire safety citizen group working to improve the fire service delivery in Josephine County.
“It’s important to remember that people’s opinions and experiences with politics can vary greatly,” Jones said. “If you’re like me, you don’t want to elect individuals who pretend to care but actually prioritize their own interests, or promote partisanship, lack of transparency and ineffective governance. Vote for me and I will do everything possible to make changes that matter to you!”
Go to electmarkjones.com to learn more about Mark’s campaign.


Dan Mancuso

Dan Mancuso says his newspaper background makes him a great candidate for a seat on the county board. “I have a strong awareness of today’s issues and I look at all sides of the issues – which is what a commissioner should do.
“The job shouldn’t be about political stances and ‘identity politics’,” he said. “Public service should be about enriching the citizens they represent – not partisanship. All Josephine County residents will be a priority to me.”
As the Illinois Valley News publisher, Mancuso has closely monitored JoCo’s commissioners for 14 years. “I’ve dealt with 13 individual commissioners. They frequently make promises during their campaigns but because they lack the knowledge of what the county commissioner’s job really requires, they only find out afterwards that they can’t deliver,” he said. “So then they talk a lot and don’t really accomplish much.”
Mancuso has attended approximately 3,000 meetings (both in person and online) and says he’s seen “what has worked and what hasn’t.” He’s sat on JoCo’s budget committee for three budgets, giving him “a solid understanding of where the county’s money comes from and how it’s spent.” Additionally, he sits on the Illinois Valley Airport Advisory Board and is the vice chairman of the Collaborative Economic Development Committee.
“So why vote for me? I already have working relationships with most county department heads and also with the Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and the Department of Forestry,” he said. “Many candidates say this, but I really am ready to go to work on day one.
“Outside of my day-to-day duties, my main areas of focus will be to find ways to ease our current housing shortage, the impact of unhoused on the community, public safety and economic development.”

Mancuso believes that before any substantial economic development can occur, “first we must come to some kind of consensus as to what that development should be. There’s a lot of people in the Illinois Valley and throughout rural Josephine County who don’t want to see growth. Then there’s people who think we should be a retirement community. But for that to work we need to have access to goods and services – and that’s going to require more development.”
He explained that two major economic drivers in the region are underutilized: “The airports. But we can’t develop there because the county neglected to bring infrastructure, such as water and sewer to those areas. Without ‘shovel ready’ properties no one is going to build anything. That’s why JoCo is losing businesses to White City – which is ready. For example, the Herb Pharm’s new White City development was shovel ready.

“There’s a real lack of foresight from previous administrations,” he said. “They want to live in the moment or go back to the 1950s. I want to head toward the future, because the future is coming – whether we like it or not. We need to prepare for reality.”
Mancuso said the Board of Commissioners recently made a bad decision to remove a county code requiring rural homes to have fire services. “They’re saying that the Oregon Department of Forestry would qualify as adequate protection, but it’s not ODF’s mandate to protect homes. The county is shirking its obligation. All residents need to have protection from a fire department trained to fight structure fires. These kinds of shortsighted decisions have compelled me to run for the board.”

Regarding the Sheriff’s Office, Mancuso said, “You get what you pay for in life, and the people of JoCo, until recently, didn’t have an appetite to pay taxes. I fully support the Sheriff’s Office, and as a budget committee member, I won’t approve any budget that doesn’t provide the same percentage of general funds that they’re currently getting.”

Mancuso moved to the Illinois Valley in 2010, when he bought and took control of the Illinois Valley News. Originally from Dekalb, Illinois, Mancuso previously worked for the News Media Corporation, where he managed 13 newspapers in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. He also managed a newspaper in Shelton, Washington. He has 20-plus years of government reporting experience.

Mancuso is married to Laura Mancuso, who is the director of both the Illinois Valley Wellness Resources and Illinois Valley Living Solutions, which is about to break ground on the Illinois Valley Hope Village, which will provide transition housing for homeless people ready to reenter society.

Mancuso wrapped the interview by saying, “People often say government lacks transparency. But I think there is transparency – it’s called a newspaper! Here’s an example. I have reason to believe that at least two of our current commissioners have been holding illegal meetings. As a trained journalist, I learn more about what questions are not asked, than by what questions are asked at any meeting. So what better way to ensure transparency than to put a journalist in the commissioner’s office? That hen house needs a fox,” Mancuso chuckled.


Colene Martin

During the 23 years that Martin owned and expanded a small business in Grants Pass, The Photo Den, she became increasingly engaged in the community: joining many clubs, boards and organizations. Her skill set covers myriad professional business and service spectrums and now she wants to apply that experience to serving the citizens of Josephine County in position 2 on the board of commissioners.
“After we sold our business in 2007, I became the CEO for the Grants Pass & Josephine County Chamber, and from there, got involved with the Oregon State Chamber which immersed me into all levels of politics – city, county and state.”
In the ‘90s Martin was on the YMCA Board; later, in addition to her chamber work where she got more involved in business retention and expansion, she also served as chairperson for Relay for Life, joined the Zonta Club and served on the Sparc board, which became Southern Oregon Aspire.
“I helped launch Mid Rogue Imaging and they offer savings on MRI’s, CT scans and X-rays,” she said, adding, “and I also sat on the Mid Rogue Independent Physicians Association board.” She also currently serves on the Mid Rogue Foundation Board, the Collaborative Economic Development Committee for the city and county, and is Grants Pass Rotary member.
“So, you can see that I have a servant’s heart,” Martin said.
“A chamber of commerce is much more than a visitor’s center,” she said, “the role is about being a community’s watch dog for a healthy business environment – business owners are busy operating their businesses, so they don’t have time to be engaged in politics.”
Her involvement at the Oregon State Chamber took her influence to a “much bigger level” because she’s working with 85 other chambers “and we all know how business friendly our majority legislators are to Oregon.” Martin took full advantage of the state chambers’ multiple national education tracts and learned a lot about economic development, government affairs and working with other community leaders regionally and beyond.
Martin champions fiscal responsibility, so she opposes unnecessary taxes. When the city of Grants Pass tried to implement a sales tax in 2015 she rallied the business community. “We defeated it by almost 70%! I stand against burdening our hardworking citizens with new taxes. We need to seek efficiencies in existing budgets and foster economic growth.”
That said, she acknowledges the need to pay for key services and feels strongly about the Animal Shelter levy. “The shelter is in dire need of expansion and updating, I really hope Measure 17-117 passes.”
She also supports retaining current funding levels for the sheriff’s office. “It will be a step backwards if we don’t. Effective law enforcement is a critical need – I want to know if my mom or my grandkids need protection that there is someone to respond.”
Martin says the right economic development drivers can help increase tax revenue to pay for critical services – but that “steps must be taken” to create a business-friendly environment that fosters work skills, housing and transportation to attract new businesses offering good paying jobs. “The good news is we have some industrial lands that could be developed and two great airports with lots of potential. Increased tax revenue will come from property taxes from building additional housing. There’s building going on all around us, just not at the pace that we’d like, because of high interest rates and high building costs. It’s slow but steady.” She also said the county must “be on the look-out” for additional federal and state grants.
The homeless crisis also concerns Martin. “We must implement programs offering support and resources while respecting the rights of property owners.”
Martin is pleased about signs of progress in the Illinois Valley. “You’re blessed with some of the most beautiful landscapes,” noting that the I.V. enjoys a “high livability factor, with new home developments, Taylor’s Sausage and Rogue Truck Body embracing the culture that you’ve created.” She also said the new KOA Campground will feed more tourism for the National Monument and that the airport offers great economic opportunities for expansion. “Plus the wineries have some of the oldest vines, if not the oldest in Josephine County. The future seems bright.”

Martin attended Rogue Community College, earning degrees in business technology and management. She also went through the Ford Family leadership training, Grants Pass leadership training, as well as JoCo’s community awareness program. Currently, she’s a real estate broker with John L Scott in Grants Pass.

“My experience is diverse,” she said. “I know a lot about budgets, profit and loss, strategic planning, project management, sales, marketing, quality assurance and customer relations. I thrive in a fast-paced working environment, I’m good at cultivating long-term business and community relationships, I have great organizational, communication and people skills and I’m results-oriented. I see things through to completion.
“I’ve been giving back to my community most of my adult life. I’m a native Oregonian. I was born in Gold Beach and moved to Josephine County here as a toddler when my dad took a logging job here. Grants Pass & Josephine County has always been my home. My husband and I raised our children here. After having had successful careers here, I want to be a community that we are proud of.”
Martin said her extensive community involvement has allowed her to “contribute to the creation and the structure of it of our community – and as a commissioner, I want to serve the people affected by policies and decisions that we create. Working to protect, to be fair and to advocate for all our citizens in the commissioner role is what’s most important to me.”