An Astoria medical data analyst has announced his candidacy to replace Clatsop County Board of Commissioners Chairman Scott Lee in the May elections.
Andrew Davis will be running for Lee’s District 1 seat, which covers much of western Astoria as well as Warrenton and Hammond. Lee announced last year that he would not seek re-election.
Davis, 40, first became involved in politics while he was living in his hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, about 10 years ago, citing his disenchantment with former President George W. Bush’s administration. He served two years on the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability — a citizen committee under the city’s economic development department — and worked part time for a community access television channel.
A delegate for the Democratic Party of Oregon, Davis will spend much of the next few weeks advocating for Measure 101. The measure, up for a vote in January, will determine whether health insurance premium taxes approved by the state Legislature to finance Medicaid will be upheld.
Davis moved with his wife to Astoria in February 2015 after spending three years in South Korea as a teacher. He worked as a data analyst at Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare, the county’s mental health contractor, for a little more than a year before leaving last year in the midst of rapid staff turnover at the agency.
“I think the environment there was not entirely healthy for a little while,” Davis said. “There were lots of disputes between labor and management about what direction they wanted to take the shop, and I didn’t feel particularly happy there at the time.”
He then joined Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc. as an analyst studying where to best allocate money for medical resources. The agency oversees Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare. He said he has established productive relationships with current leadership at the mental health agency and even helped train new employees who assumed his old position.
“I don’t foresee any difficulty with me working with them,” he said.
Should he win the election, Davis may need to recuse himself from some decisions involving behavioral health contracts.
Davis touts his data analyst experience as a signal that he can reach compromises. In a county that depends largely on timber revenue, for instance, commissioners must be able to make decisions that balance economic development and environmental conservation, he said.
“I fall maybe on the environmental end of the spectrum, but somewhere in the middle,” Davis said. “I think I’ve taken people’s thoughts and opinions and information from research and synthesized it into something that’s good and meaningful to people.”
In May, Davis lost a close race for an Astoria School Board to incumbent Jeanette Sampson. The issue that prompted that run — as well as his upcoming commissioner bid — is an ongoing county study examining the feasibility of privately funded universal preschool. Commissioners approved the study in March.
“I have concerns about the wisdom of using private funding techniques to create these public programs that may well be needed,” Davis said.
A general supporter of universal preschool, Davis proposes letting residents decide through a bond measure. Though taxpayers would pay, the measure would still have a solid chance of passing, he said.
“People want preschool programs in their community,” Davis said. “My suspicion is that school funding measures are one of the easier sells as far as bond measures go.”
Davis also may push for commissioners to be more involved in policymaking rather than delegating authority to the county manager, he said. In what has become a contentious county issue, Commissioners Lianne Thompson and Kathleen Sullivan have expressed similar sentiments this year, while others on the board have pointed to limitations to their roles under the county charter.
“I find myself wanting to see them making policy that more actively, sort of, sets an agenda,” Davis said. “Even within the model that Clatsop County has, there might be room for a more active role for the commission to be setting the agenda.”
Davis is confident, though, that he will be able to work productively with any of the current commissioners.
“I agree with 90 percent of what they decide to do,” Davis said, “and the few things I maybe don’t agree with at first blush, I’ve got to think there’s more information I don’t know.”