Benton County primary election opens for County Commissioner 1, two measures on May 17


Sam Misa, Photographer

A ballot box in Corvallis, Ore. The Benton County primary election begins on May 17, and voters can drop off ballots at local county and city boxes.

Sam Misa, News Contributor

On May 17, Benton County will hold its primary election with a race for the County Commissioner 1 position as well as two education-related measures.

Alongside the County Commissioner 1 position, votes for federal-level positions, such as Governor and Senator, are to be counted on May 17 as well. 

One measure on the ballot is a local option levy for the Corvallis School District that, if not extended, would lead to a loss of budget for about 90 teaching positions, according to a fact sheet provided by the school board.

The second measure involves Linn-Benton Community College asking for bonds for an agricultural job training center, facility and safety improvements. 

The Benton County Sheriff position is uncontested and will not appear on the Primary Election ballot, but rather the General Election ballot. The position of County Commissioner 1, which is a four-year term, has three candidates running for the position with two being Democrats and the other a Republican.

Ballots for the May 17 election can be dropped off at any County Elections Office or official dropsite in the state of Oregon, or can be mailed in to the county clerk. 

“I think that the role of the commissioner is completely nonpartisan,” said Bill Currier, the Republican candidate for commissioner. “In that sense, it’s kind of odd to label people when those ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats don’t apply to the decisions you make as a commissioner.”

Currier has served on various committees at both the city and county level. According to Currier, that work included transportation, public safety, roads, utilities and water issues.

Helen Higgins, who is running for County Commissioner 1 as a Democrat, worked at Hewlett-Packard for 18 years and has been working for the Boys and Girls Club for 16 years, and wants to see more collaboration between nonprofits and the county.

“I’ve noticed that over time, it’s just gotten more and more disconnected,” Higgins said. “When I started 16 years ago, there was a group sponsored at the state level called the Commission on Children and Families… Years ago, they actually closed [it] down.”

One thing that Currier and Higgins both want to focus on is housing in Benton County and, more specifically, Corvallis, Ore. 

“Corvallis is in an especially tight housing market,” Higgins said. “We’re very behind on developing the type of housing that’s needed. It’s everything from low-income housing to workforce housing.”

Careful planning of the urban growth boundary around cities with housing in mind is one way Higgins says the housing market can be improved.

For Currier, the solution to the housing problem lies within finding and fixing underlying root issues with the houseless community as well as construction of affordable housing.

Alongside Currier and Higgins is Democrat and incumbent Pat Malone who is seeking to hold onto his seat this term. One thing that all three of the candidates have in common is a desire to follow through with current efforts to expand the Benton County Justice Center to include a rehabilitation center alongside the already in-place jail.

According to Malone, alongside the other objectives his two competitors have, he wants the county to be more focused on climate change. This includes added focuses on alternatives to car-based transport.

“I want people to be able to get around our region without a car,” Malone said. “I’m thinking of students. Hopefully not every student has a car on campus [and] that you manage to get your work done, and get around.”

Malone hopes to scale up the current models of non-car transportation for students to the wider community, because alternative transportation options can help alleviate the issues of getting to and from work. 

“I had a good background before I started,” Malone said. “Now I’ve got over three years on the job and in that time [I was] dealing with COVID-19.”

Was this article helpful?