April 23, 2022 — Voters are beginning to receive their State of Oregon Voters’ Pamphlets with details on the upcoming May 17 Primary Election.
Among the decisions included election is the race for West Lane County Commissioner. District 1 Dunes City, Florence, Junction City, Veneta and the unincorporated towns of Lorane, Blachly, Mapleton, Elmira, Crow and Noti, as well as the communities of Santa Clara and a portion of the Bethel neighborhoods of Eugene.
This nonpartisan seat has four candidates: Ryan Ceniga, Terry Duman, Misty Fox and Dawn Lesley. A fifth candidate, Rod Graves, announced he withdrew “due to family considerations.”
Siuslaw News reached out to the remaining candidates to introduce them to readers in Western Lane County.
1. What is your educational and occupational background?
Ceniga: I graduated from Junction City then moved to Arizona for two years. I earned a scholarship as the president of VICA (Vocational Industrial Clubs of America). After graduation, I moved right back to Oregon; West Lane County has always been my home. I started my occupational career as many of our rural families do — working on a farm. I quickly learned how vital these farms and forest are to our small communities. I then moved on to be a diesel mechanic, house framer and construction worker. I was employed with Junction City Public Works for years and am currently a water distribution manager for EWEB.
Duman: I graduated from Siuslaw High School in Florence and joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. After returning home, I began my small business journey. Locally, I’ve been a commercial fisherman, farmer, dune buggy guide and bicycle shop owner. I’ve rebuilt highways, planned septic systems and helped build commercial buildings. I’ve spent years contracting with government agencies for road maintenance, wetlands restoration and creating salmon and snowy plover habitat. I’ve been involved with many stages of land development as a contractor as well as owner. Currently, our road building and logging construction company employs more than 20 people full time in the area.
I am a third generation Florence resident raising my family in the Siuslaw Valley. West Lane County is my home and I’m passionate about supporting and preserving it. I know the importance of adapting, changing and maintaining our communities to maintain resiliency.
Fox: I am a local, with a wide variety of interests and skills, encompassing a varied education and occupational background. I graduated from Junction City schools and attended community college in Portland, focusing on veterinary medicine, which was helpful when I started my own exotic reptile business and also a reptile rescue program.
I attended the police reserve academy, then put that knowledge to use in the private sector as a private law enforcement officer providing security/escorting VIP’s traveling within the state. I am currently working on becoming a licensed private investigator.
Lesley: I am a consulting environmental engineer with 30 years of experience promoting energy efficiency and cleaning up dirty water. I evaluate the cost-effectiveness of wastewater operations and lead Strategic Energy Management trainings that help wastewater plant operators use energy efficiently to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money. I earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, a master’s degree from OSU and I am licensed by the State of Oregon as a professional engineer.
2. What qualifications do feel prepare you for this position?
Ceniga: I have been on boards and committees for most of my life. Whenever something needs done or a position needed to be filled, I volunteered. I have learned a lot about getting along with people and seeing all sides of the issues at hand. I am currently a member on the Junction City School Board. The position has been very challenging at times while also being very fulfilling.
Duman: My most important qualification is my small business background and the knowledge I have gained from my career experiences. I am a taxpayer, resident and voter — just like my friends and neighbors.
After decades of hard work in this region, I’m ready to step up to a leadership role and represent Western Lane County as commissioner. I can listen to you and work to support your needs as they evolve. I understand how our local economy and many industries currently work in Western Lane County. What I don’t know, I’m ready to learn. After years of working in a variety of trades, I’m ready to move forward in a new direction, representing our collective needs as community members, consumers, taxpayers, business owners, friends and family.
I have more than 10 years of experience working on a political board; I’m currently serving as board chair of the Port of Siuslaw Board of Commissioners.
I like to make progress that can benefit us all.
Fox: Unlike any of the other candidates running for this position, I have a very good understanding of our constitution. It is the one thing that I will never compromise on and live by. I believe all laws and policies must meet two tests:
• does it abide by the constitution?
• is it beneficial to the people?
I'm tired of politicians who refuse to acknowledge that their job is to listen to and serve the people and instead hammer their constituents with taxes, mandates and restrictions while calling themselves “leaders.” The job description is public servant, not authority, and not leader!
Lesley: As consulting engineer and scientist, my main jobs are solving problems using data and finding agreement among diverse groups of people with diverse perspectives and interests. I also have to be excellent at asking questions, listening to the answers and explaining processes in a way that makes sense to everyone at the table — and bring projects to completion on time and on budget. These skills are directly applicable to the position of county commissioner.
3. Please share ways in which you are involved in the community.
Ceniga: I have been part of Junction City Athletics for many years, coaching sports and helping set up teams. For years I was the youngest Lions Club member and on the executive board as the vice president. I am very involved in the Lions and really enjoy all our fundraisers we put together. Currently, I am on the Junction City School Board while also serving on the Long-Range Facility Planning Committee for Junction City High School. This committee is focused on the future of our school district and is very rewarding.
Duman: My work history describes much of my community involvement to date. One of my favorite things to do is connect with other business owners, consumers, contracting agents and communities to learn about how they sustain their living systems today. It takes a little bit from everyone and I am happy to do my part. I am an active parent and grandparent in my community, supporting baseball, softball and volleyball tournaments from the sidelines as well as in fundraising events.
During my service at the Port Commission, I have worked through big issues including the ice machine crisis, hiring and keeping long term staff, efficient land solutions and budget management.
Fox: I was the chief petitioner for Lane County Second Amendment Sanctuary Amendment. I helped get the SAPO and SASO in place in Columbia County and on the ballot in Lincoln County. I have given public testimony at state and local levels many times.
I helped gather and deliver thousands of pounds of food and supplies along with money to help disaster victims. I volunteer time to do environmental cleanups in our communities. I teach foraging, gardening, survival, first aid, food preservation and livestock processing classes. I have put myself in danger to save another's life more than once.
Lesley: I am vice-chair of the Lane County Budget Committee and an elected executive board member of the Santa Clara Community Organization. In recent years, I have also volunteered thousands of hours in the public schools, in Egan Warming Centers that provide safe shelter for those who need it in freezing weather, for the YMCA Big Sister Program, Oregon Trout's SalmonWatch program and with many other community organizations.
4. What do you see as your priorities if elected to serve?
Ceniga: I am very focused on public safety and working to fully fund our law enforcement. A large part of this problem is getting our homeless population the help they need. I do not believe treating the mentally ill and habitual drug abusers in the same manner is helping solve the problem. This all needs to be done on a structurally based budget. The expenses need to match the income and stop funding ongoing expenses with one time money.
Duman: The first thing I will need to do is prioritize our highest needs — everything is important right now. As commissioner, I think a huge general concern is representing and advocating for services in rural areas. We continue to pay taxes, yet our services have decreased in the rural parts over the years. It’s time to support the outskirts of Lane County.
I see lack of rural police accessibility a growing problem. How can we support all the needs of Dunes City, Deadwood and Walton every day, with what we currently have? Access to crisis response and support for mental health is a struggle for our county, especially in the rural areas. The housing crunch needs to be addressed and land use laws could be a good place to start exploring. Our sanitation collection sites need to be maintained and operated efficiently.
We can begin to support our elderly and marginalized residents by increasing the ways we provide access to services.
I think there is work to be done and Lane County should be a leader in these efforts.
Fox: My priorities are to get a complete audit of lanes county's finances. There is a $800 million budget, and — I along with many others — want to know where our money is being spent while services like our law enforcement agencies, mental health and addiction facilities are suffering. I would find and direct funds to get more sheriff deputies on to patrol our rural parts of our county; three for 4,600 square miles is absurd and dangerous. I would direct funds to get our mental health hospital up and running to its full potential and start addressing the mental health and addiction issues that account for nearly 80% of the homeless population.
a) Climate action. As a mother, I am deeply concerned about our children’s future. Our children need us to address the climate emergency we are facing, both by creating effective policies to curb greenhouse emissions and by being much better prepared for disasters like the Holiday Farm Fires and the 13-year drought that is harming our farms and forests.
b) Affordable housing. We have been underbuilding houses in Lane County for decades and we must take bold steps to ensure more housing of all types. This includes shelter beds, low-income and middle housing. We need to do this while protecting our agricultural lands, particularly our Class 1 and Class 2 soil. That means we need to get creative with where and how we build — and we need to use policy to meet needs instead of create barriers.
c) Representation of rural West Lane. It’s also my priority that the rural residents of Lane County are better represented by their local government. Lane County is not just Eugene and Springfield, and we need to find ways to partner with our small towns and rural areas to expedite permitting and provide better county services.
d) Public safety. Long delays on rural 9-1-1 response are unacceptable and must be reduced.
5. What do you anticipate as being your biggest challenges if elected?
Ceniga: This position will deal with a wide array of issues and action items; trying to make the best decisions for your constituents won’t be popular with everyone. I think finding the line between staying business-friendly and eco-friendly is going to continue to be a challenge. I agree we need to look out for our environment, but not at the detriment of our local economy.
Duman: I think my biggest challenge will be prioritizing our many needs in the rural areas. As stated previously, everything is important to us right now. Being one of five commissioners, it is crucial for me to speak up for my constituents. Working to get our needs identified, acknowledged and met is going to be a major challenge.
I will find ways to hear your voice so I can get to work for you. There are committees and work groups within our government that need to hear our voice. I am ready for this challenge and prepared to make forward progress with the commission.
Fox: I feel the biggest challenge is the politicians and companies who control our county and its money. They are not going to give up control easily. Let's face it — they have a LOT to lose when I am elected. The back-scratching, pocket-filling favoritism ends with me! I am built to hammer it out with these people, stand my ground and do what's right for our county and the people who live here.
Lesley: The biggest challenge we face in our current political climate is divisiveness — promoted by elected leaders and the media — that keeps us fearing and demonizing each other and hampers our ability to work together across social and political "divides."
I have spent hundreds of hours knocking on doors across Lane County this year. What I have found is that we agree more than we disagree. We all want affordable housing for ourselves and our children, we all want to solve the homelessness crisis, we all want clean water and air and we all want to keep our families safe.
We need leaders like myself who are focused on areas of agreement, because that is where real progress happens and where people actually benefit from local government.
We have to stop the divisive rhetoric, look each other in the eye and listen for what we have in common. The urban parts of Lane County can only thrive when the rural areas are thriving and vice versa. We all need each other and it can be tough to remember this when elected leaders are working hard to pit us against each other.
The Voters’ Pamphlet contains additional information on state-wide elections, as well as the other elections in Lane County.
If you haven’t registered to vote or need to make changes to your registration, the deadline to register to vote or change your voter registration information for the May 17 Primary Election is Tuesday, April 26.
Voter registration is available through sos.oregon.gov/voting-elections/.
Ballots will be mailed beginning April 28 and are due back on Election Day. Recent changes to Oregon Elections law allow ballots post-marked on Election Day to be counted as long as they are received by the elections office within seven days.
In Florence, ballots can be dropped off at the Florence Justice Center, 900 Greenwood St.
For additional information, visit oregonvotes.gov, and lanecounty.org/elections.