This is the last of three profiles highlighting the Clatsop County Commission candidates for Districts 1, 3 and 5. Ballots will go out in the mail Friday and Election Day is May 18. Ballots must be delivered to the Clatsop County Clerk's Office, 820 Exchange Street, second floor, Astoria, no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Three candidates are in the race for the Clatsop County District 5 seat.

Only two of them actually want to win. The third mostly wants to be heard.

The candidates are appointed incumbent Robert Mushen and challengers Debra Birkby and John Dunzer.

District 5 includes the southern portion of Clatsop County and Cannon Beach, Arch Cape, Jewell, Elsie, Hamlet and portions of Seaside.

Robert MushenMushen, an Oregon native and retired eye surgeon, was appointed to the District 5 seat after former commissioner Ann Samuelson was recalled last year.

He's had a crash course in county process these last few months and has entered straight into some of the more contentious issues facing the county - the proposed liquified

natural gas terminal at Bradwood Landing for instance.

"Like a baseball umpire, no matter how you call it, someone's going to be unhappy," Mushen said.

As far as Bradwood goes, Mushen says he has to follow the law. He compares his position to that of a juror sitting on a trial.

"I am prohibited from taking one position or another," he said. "People think we are free to vote our conscience. That's not the case. ... We have to approach an issue well-informed and with mind open, convinced by the facts and not by emotion."

Mushen can have opinions on other issues, however.

"A safe room is something we very desperately need," he said. Currently, the county has no secure detox room for people coming down off of substances.

Like all the candidates, Mushen believes a new jail is necessary.

"With fewer jail beds than we need, we lose the process, the deterrent process," he said. "If you're not likely to be jailed, you're going to offend again."

But there's no good plan in place to pay for a new facility, he said. He proposed a meal tax, but this was not greeted favorably by local businesses.

A meal tax would tax visitors as well as locals, Mushen said. During festivals (for example) when there's a lot of drinking and things can get rowdy, many visitors turn into offenders, he said, and it only seems fair that they share some of the burden for a new jail.

His medical background has informed many of his concerns and input while on the commission. But he is also ready to take a look at the county's need for solid economic development.

"I don't think anybody has the magic bullet," he said, "and you shouldn't make promises you can't keep."

But part of the answer could be the Clatsop Economic Development Resources organization, he said. The private organization's purpose is to provide education and resources to businesses in Clatsop County.

"I'd like CEDR to take a more local view, work more with small businesses," he said. "They have, but not quite to the degree I'd like."

He'd also like to see the county take a bigger role in emergency preparedness by moving vulnerable buildings to higher ground and working to put in a Seaside bypass.

"In the event of a tsunami, we're all going to be hit, especially Seaside," he said. "It's when, not if."

He hopes to continue to work with the county commission.

"I've seen a lot of things happen with this commission that were not happening before," he said.

Debra BirkbyShe never expected to run for political office, but then Debra Birkby decided she was "too young not to participate."

The Arch Cape resident is frustrated with how the current commission operates.

"At the meetings it seems like most of the decisions they've already talked about and they've made them before the meeting. There's no debate," she said. "It's frustrating to me."

She wishes more people showed up to meetings, she said, and that the board made more of an effort to encourage such attendance by emailing out the agenda and minutes to citizens.

"I don't see how you can do without citizen involvement," she said.

And speaking of citizen involvement, she wants the board to occasionally meet down in the South County.

"It would make the process of government available to more people," she said. "Astoria is the county seat and it's the farthest away from everything."

As a former small business owner, Birkby feels sympathetic to the plight of other small business owners.

In her opinion, anything the commission can do to support and encourage local businesses to engage in sustainable, smart practices should be done.

She is not so enthusiastic about larger industries, specifically the Bradwood Landing LNG project.

"I could easily find fault with the decision of Clatsop County to refer to the Bradwood Landing project as a small-to-medium project," she said. "It's the biggest thing this county has ever seen."

"This LNG debacle," she said, "it's taken everybody's focus and attention for so long now."

In the meantime, mental health issues have been left behind, she said, as well as other social concerns.

"It's time we take a hard look at affordable housing and improve the job market," she said. "There are so few places in this area that people have a choice to live."

"The basic needs must be taken care of," she added. "Housing, a living wage job, food. Once you get that taken care of that base of people are happier. That means a stronger community and a stronger county."

John Dunzer"Everyone knows my opinions, but they don't know my solutions," said District 5 challenger John Dunzer.

Dunzer said he is pretty sure he won't win, but he "runs for everything." It's his way of being heard, he said.

"I've never had any respect from anybody here, because they don't know how to tell me that they don't want to hear the truth," he said. "They expect it to go away. They want you to go away."

He has opinions and solutions for a whole list of county issues.

"I've worked in economic development for 30 years," he said. "People say we ought to just stay the course. We can't afford to stay the course."

In an economy that relies on the seasonal fluctuations of tourism "it's all right for the summer," Dunzer said. "Eight months I make it. Then winter comes and eight months I can't make it. You can't keep on with that."

Dunzer is for the LNG projects, but he thinks the Bradwood Landing terminal is poorly designed.

"And the commission has backed themselves in," he said. "The small-to-medium size issue (of the facility). This is a huge county problem. Where was everyone, the CEDR people, the fisher people, when this thing was being zoned? The county is certainly within its right to go ahead. Because you weren't there."

Situations like the LNG issue discourage other businesses and industries from moving to the area, he said. "Businesses look at that and ask, 'Why should I invest a dime in a county with that attitude.'"

What the county really needs is to add value to resources it already has, he said, and think bigger.

"They're working down in the mud," he said. "We need to think bigger. People here are not capable of thinking a little bigger."

Dunzer recently sent a letter to The Daily Astorian detailing his solution to the problem of the county jail. This letter ("What to do about the jail") was published in Wednesday's edition.

Dunzer wrote that the new jail should be built on the site of the old jail and should be run by a private firm.

"Cities should contract for police services from the sheriff and facilities provided from regional locations in Astoria and Seaside," he wrote. "There will be no increase in taxes for this type of solution, and it is sustainable to meet all public protection service needs for the next 30 years."

Although he does not plan to be elected, if he does win the District 5 seat, Dunzer said he would follow the law.

"I tell it the way it is," he said. "I'd follow the letter of the law."


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