Meet the Commissioner candidates for position 2

Annette McGee Rasch
IVN Senior Contributing Writer

Candidates Pat Fahey and Nathan Gonzoles did not return calls requesting interviews

Russell McAlmond

Russell McAlmond is a seasoned financial leader and human rights advocate. Most candidates for public office say they’d represent everyone, but Russell McAlmond, who is the founder and executive director for the Grants Pass-based Center for Human Equality, can back up the claim.
“The biggest problem we have in Josephine County is based on human relations,” said McAlmond, who was called upon to create and deliver human relationship training for the Grants Pass Police Department.
“The current county commissioners have not done a good job,” he said. “They’ve governed as partisans instead of representing everyone in the county.”
McAlmond said a recent poll in JoCo sponsored by Rogue Valley Realtors indicated how 55% of respondents believe the county is headed in the wrong direction. “These dissatisfied citizens are why I’m running for position 3 on the county board – to help create a positive, qualified and unique change for the county.
“Being divided or demeaning others because they’re different or because we don’t agree with them, this harms our ability to get along and make good decisions,” he said. “Conversely, if 88,000 people in the county can work together, I believe we can solve any problem the county faces now and in the future – with understanding, competence and intelligence.”
McAlmond, a Jewish Rabbi, explained how “being a minority in Josephine County helps me understand these issues more intimately. We need to have a welcoming county that’s not xenophobic. We also need a more compassionate county government.”
McAlmond routinely coaches people to view others as “unique individuals deserving of respect and equal fair treatment” and to avoid demonizing whole groups of people. It’s a topic he’s put a lot of thought into. He wrote the book, ‘Ethical Individualism: A Human Relational Philosophy,’ which can be purchased on Amazon.
After Dwayne Yunker was appointed to replace Lily Morgan as an Oregon state representative for District 3 he made “comments so negative about the LGBTQ community” that the national media picked up the story. Now, with Yunker currently running for that seat, McAlmond said this prompted a woman to write a letter to the Grants Pass Daily Courier saying that she’d never come visit the area if people elect someone so bigoted and hateful.

“If this is the image of us that’s being projected in the world, it’s a problem for economic development, tourism and recreation,” said McAlmond, who is also Southern Oregon’s chapter leader for the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism. “Visitors won’t spend time and money in a place full of bigoted people.
“We’re 99.9 genetically identical, so why can’t we come together and work together as a county to solve problems? Lack of tolerance can impact homelessness, tax issues, political disagreements and more,” he said.
McAlmond said some issues arise because JoCo lacks a professional county manager, noting that commissioners “can make a positive difference if they’re capable of administering effective and efficient fiscal governance of the county’s limited budget.” He added that the International City/County Management Association – an organization that’s been around since 1914 – cites how over two thirds of professional city or county managers have a graduate degree in finance.
McAlmond, who has two masters’ degrees in finance, was the founder and CEO of Evergreen Capital Management – Investments; before that a vice president and financial planner for both Bank of America and US Bank; and a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch.
“I urge people to select commissioners who have the education and experience the position requires to understand a $200 million dollar budget with over 400 employees,” he said. “I have more than 30 years of successful experience in management, finance and leadership.”
Thus regarding Measure 17-116, McAlmond chooses to remain neutral on the new charter because it financially benefits county commissioners to be opposed to it. “It’s an ethical issue for me to make any recommendations that could financially benefit myself as a candidate,” he said.
“I am in favor of the Measure 17-117 for the animal shelter, but am also sensitive to another tax increase for county residents on top of the Sheriff’s permanent tax of 99 cents per thousand that barely passed in the last election,” he said. “These increases can be a challenge for many who are barely keeping their heads above water due to inflation on gasoline, food and other necessities of life.”
McAlmond spent much of his life in Portland, then later, lived in Washington county. His wife grew up in Grants Pass, so after he sold his business six years ago, the pair, who have three grown children, moved to Grants Pass. He’s also a veteran. “As U.S. Marine I understand veteran issues. I’m the only veteran running in position 3 and will do more for veterans to honor their service.”
Finally, he asks Illinois Valley citizens to select commissioners who are compassionate and ethical and will never try to financially benefit from their role. “Please do your own independent research, read each candidate’s profile in the Voter’s Pamphlet carefully and choose wisely for all of us.
“Don’t hire a partisan who will keep the county divided – we’ll do better if we stand together; and please don’t elect someone who isn’t qualified,” he said. “Also, it’s not a good sign if someone keeps running without success.
Voting for a county commissioner is hiring someone to make decisions regarding millions of dollars in county assets and income. If you truly desire positive change, I humbly ask for your vote.”

Ron Smith

“Each time I run, my vote count increases, so now it’s time to win,” said Ron Smith, a well-known property rights advocate.
“Since the last election, I still host a lot of meetings, like I have for the past 25 years; and I also still attend a lot of public meetings to educate people about policies and legislation that are detrimental to their property rights and civil rights,” Smith said.
“Property rights are the key to our liberty and freedom, without them we’d have none – we’d lose all of our rights, he added. “It’s an important thing. Over 20 years before the Bundy’s had their confrontation with the BLM in Nevada, Wayne Haig fought the BLM over similar issues, and he said ‘if you don’t have the right to own property or control property, then you are property.’”
Smith, a former Illinois Valley resident, said his family came to Josephine County over 100 years ago and used the Homestead Act of 1862 to establish the family home site on Dick George road. “I can really represent the Illinois Valley, I know this place, my heart is still in the Valley. If elected, I’d be a real team player, I would be the people’s commissioner. And I am still all about defending our property rights, liberty and freedoms from government overreach and intrusion.”

Smith is a former small business owner, is involved with the Leadership Christians Ministry, was an overseer for the Grants Pass Fruitdale Grange and is a former member of Josephine County Pomona Granges. He’s also a past member in the Redwood Lions Club and the Josephine County Farm Bureau.
The Illinois Valley-Cave Junction Chamber of Commerce nominated Smith for “‘2001 Citizen of the Year’ for my leadership role with People for the USA, a property rights organization,” he said.
Smith also traveled to Washington D.C. to do political work. “I lobbied for the Klamath Farmers on a water rights issue and worked with Senator Harry Reed, Senator Gordon Smith, Representative Greg Walden and various other senators and representatives who took an interest in the plight of those farmers.” He also said he was “honored” to have met with President Clinton’s Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt.
When the state of Oregon created a wildfire risk map, which came out last year and indicated if residents were designated as living in a high or extreme risk area, Smith also became involved in citizen advocacy.

“So I hosted three public meetings, and the first two drew over 500 people and the third about 450,” Smith said. “Then I helped host meetings in Jackson County as well, because they got the same maps. Plus we launched a letter writing and post card campaign. I believe was instrumental in getting the state to back off and go back to the drawing board on the map. They haven’t come out with a second one yet.

“This relates to Senate Bill 762, which was what caused the first map to be created, which determined what category people are in,” he added. “This caused insurance rates to rise and some people, l understand, are getting dropped completely. The same thing happened in California after the Paradise Fires.”

Regarding the Ballet Measure17-116 that promotes a new a county charter, Smith said, “I just don’t think it is necessary and don’t think we can afford it – and I doubt it would accomplish what they say it would.”

Smith wants to help the Sheriff’s Office “diligently seek out long-term funding solutions and I am a strong supporter of Sheriff Daniel’s work to reduce crime and the drug epidemic that still plagues our communities.” He also sees the link to homelessness issues. “I really believe that a three-pronged approach of affordable housing, drug and alcohol treatment and strong law enforcement will greatly reduce the tragedy of our county’s homeless population and I support the community organizations trying to help people deal with their substance addictions.”

He also said he’d work hard to “alleviate the serious housing shortage in our county” and says the permitting process needs to be simplified and that “excessive regulations need to be reduced” to lower costs associated with building housing that the average family can afford.
Smith also looks forward to working with both state and federal agencies to give citizens more of a “stronger voice over management of federal lands within Josephine County.” He said that by “working with nature, we can restore a healthy forest and promote a greener and cleaner watershed, by managing forestlands to reduce catastrophic wildfires and support habitat for wildlife, clean air and clean water. This will all provide for a stronger economy.”
Describing himself as a “strong conservative” Smith said he’s “done with allowing politicians to waste our tax dollars on nonsense while we’re robbed by drifters, choked by smoke and gouged by outrageous housing costs.”
He said many of the county’s problems continue to arise from government overreach. “We need to put a stop to the over regulation of local businesses at the county level, because the state and federal government already have too many regulations that hinder business growth. I want to work on streamline the permitting processes for business start-ups and economic development as much as we can – and we really need to get rid of unnecessary rules and regulations so we can encourage the use of the county’s industrial and commercially zoned land for economic development outside of Grants Pass.”
Overall, Smith says he’ll work to help build and maintain a business friendly environment for job growth while “support our largest job-making businesses: agriculture, timber, building materials and our rich mineral industry.
“I would be a real team player, I would be the people’s commissioner,” he concluded. Check out Smith’s website to learn more about his positions on issues. Voteronsmith.com