A Knappa teacher is the first candidate to emerge for a seat on the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners in the May election.

Courtney Bangs, 40, is running for District 4, which covers eastern Astoria to Westport.

Commissioner Kathleen Sullivan, who was elected in 2016, represents the district. Sullivan has not publicly announced whether she will campaign for another four-year term, but she is expected to run.

Commissioner Sarah Nebeker, who represents District 2, which covers Gearhart and Clatsop Plains and portions of Seaside and Warrenton, is also up for reelection next year.

Bangs lives in Knappa with her husband and their three children. She is a teacher and earned a master’s degree in agricultural education from Oregon State University. She teaches preschool at Immanuel Community Preschool in Knappa. She also coaches tumbling and dance at a local dance studio.

“I started paying pretty close attention to what was going on around me politically in the last legislative session,” she said. “It really brought home to me the need for our rural communities to have a voice, especially in our natural resources industries and our small business sector. And the fact that our jobs matter here and our families matter.”

Bangs said her two loves are education and natural resources.

“I’ve been teaching or coaching for 22 years … that’s most of my life where I’ve just been invested in kids. And so education is a real passion,” she said. “But with that comes the need for money, and the need for industry, and the need for tax revenue that comes from them.”

Bangs said she would have made different decisions on some key points regarding natural resources.

She said she was disappointed that Commissioner Mark Kujala was the only commissioner to write a letter asking state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, to oppose House Bill 2020, the cap-and-trade proposal.

“I would have written my name right down with Mark Kujala in saying, ‘No, I don’t think this is a good idea for our community and for the industries in our community,’” Bangs said.

Although she said she is continuing to learn about the timber lawsuit several counties filed against the state, she is concerned the commission’s vote to opt out of the suit was not in the best interest of the county.

A Linn County jury found in favor of the counties, which allege the state has not maximized timber harvests in state forests, but the $1.1 billion verdict will likely be appealed.

“I do truly feel like $200 million for our community is quite a loss,” Bangs said. “That could have gone towards our infrastructure, towards our school districts, towards a lot of different things. We have needs here in this community and I really feel like that fiduciary loss, that financial loss, is pretty huge.”

Sullivan and Nebeker both voted to opt out of the lawsuit.

“It was eye-opening to me and I felt that our rural communities needed a stronger voice that really fought for our natural resources-related jobs,” Bangs said.

Bangs said she wants to be an advocate for the future of children in the county and local natural resource industry jobs.

“We’re currently raising the fourth generation on the family property, and this is an investment of the heart,” she said. “I’m actively involved and I love my community and I hope it shows.

“I can’t sit on the sidelines anymore and just watch,” Bangs said. “I need to do something.”

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

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