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May Elections 

Our endorsements for parks, school board races in Bend, Redmond and Sisters

Election Day is May 18!

While it seems like we've barely caught our collective breath since the raucous November 2020 election season, it's time once again to vote. By the time you read this, ballots will already be on their way to registered voters across Oregon—and inside these pages, you'll find our endorsements for local races in Bend, Redmond and Sisters, plus our support for a levy in La Pine.

ILLUSTRATION BY BRIDGETTE COYNE
  • Illustration by Bridgette Coyne

Voter engagement is key—but candidate engagement is paramount

"Civility costs nothing and buys everything."
— Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1756

During this election season, we've extended invitations to candidates in all contested school board and parks board races. Unfortunately, not every candidate chose to take part in our interviews, nor the forums conducted by the League of Women Voters and The Bulletin. In some cases, the candidates chose not to respond at all or to disparage this newspaper in their refusal to participate.

Democracy (and political candidacy) is not an armchair sport.

For voters to fully understand who they're voting for, it's paramount for candidates to take part in forums that introduce ideas, and yes, sometimes even controversial topics. Ultimately, our editorial board makes a call in each race, but the video interviews we conduct in the races offer an unbiased and raw look into candidates' personalities, backgrounds and outlooks. Candidates in nearly every election tell us that interviewing in this fashion opens up their own perspectives, making them think about issues they have not yet considered. In sum, the process may be more valuable than the end result.

We hope you use our videos—available at the "Elections" tab on the home page of our website, bendsource.com, along with these endorsements as some of the many tools available to you as you make your decision this May 18.

"As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the lawgivers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end."
—Adlai Stevenson

Bend La Pine School Board

Vote Carrie McPherson Douglass for Administrative School District 1 - Bend-La Pine School Board Zone 1

click to enlarge CARRIE MCPHERSON DOUGLASS
  • Carrie McPherson Douglass

Carrie McPherson Douglass currently serves as the chair of the Bend-La Pine Schools Board of Directors. Serving in this role during the pandemic has brought on a host of challenges—not the least of which has been weathering an onslaught of criticism from the many voices who took to social media to criticize schools, teachers and the board for how they handled the reopening of schools. But BLPS, if you recall, was actually one of the first to begin reopening, and we credit that at least in part to Douglass' fearless leadership and advocacy. As a former educator and an advocate for equity and inclusion in the schools, we supported Douglass' first bid for the board, and we have no qualms in supporting her again. Her opponent, meanwhile, was among those who did not even do the bare minimum of engagement with voters this election season, and thus is not equipped for public office. Vote Carrie McPherson Douglass for Bend-La Pine School Board (Administrative School District 1).

Vote Marcus LeGrand for Administrative School District 1 – Bend-La Pine School Board Zone 2

click to enlarge MARCUS LEGRAND
  • Marcus LeGrand

It is with pleasure that we offer our endorsement of Marcus LeGrand, a Navy veteran and father of two. Whether it's through his work supporting the Town Halls on Race for local students of color through the Restorative Justice and Equity Group, or his involvement in the Father's Group and the educational events that group has planned, or even through the Love Your Neighbor forums, LeGrand has proved to be a thoughtful, engaged community member whose focus remains on kids' success and empowerment. His day job as College and Career Success Coach and social science and business instructor at Central Oregon Community College, along with a master's in counseling, adds to the package, further demonstrating his understanding and background in the educational and mentorship realms. LeGrand is ready and willing to serve, and voters should support him for his experience and community spirit. Vote Marcus LeGrand for Administrative School District 1 – Bend-La Pine School Board Zone 2.

Vote Shirley Olson for Administrative School District 1 – Bend-La Pine School Board Zone 4

click to enlarge SHIRLEY OLSON
  • Shirley Olson

Voting Shirley Olson onto the Bend-La Pine School Board is a no-brainer. Olson has a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Southern California and bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Oregon. She's devoted her entire career to educating kids, having served as a teacher and administrator in Oregon, New York and California over the span of 50 years. As a member of Bend-La Pine School's budget committee, she already has some of the institutional knowledge that will allow her to hit the ground running. Olson's accolades are many—and we agree with her campaign pitch regarding the need for more representation for south Deschutes County on the school board. As a board member, she says her biggest concerns center around improving graduation rates, as well as equity and how it can impact student achievement—salient topics considering the rapid growth of our region. With her opponent being next to invisible this election season and refusing to take part in the bare minimum requirements of the democratic process, voters have only one viable choice. Vote Shirley Olson for Administrative School District 1 – Bend-La Pine School Board Zone 4.

Vote Janet Sarai Llerandi for Administrative School District 1 – Bend-La Pine School Board Zone 7

click to enlarge JANET SARAI LLERANDI
  • Janet Sarai Llerandi

Suffice it to say that Janet Sarai Llerandi knocked our socks off when she took part in the Source's video endorsement interview. Llerandi, a self-starter who founded the Latinx resource nonprofit Mecca Bend, is employed as the administrative and finance coordinator for The Early Learning Hub of Central Oregon and Better Together, two organizations centered around improving educational outcomes for local youth. As a school board member, Llerandi wants to focus on inclusion, fostering a more welcoming environment for students of color, those with disabilities and those experiencing financial hardship—as well as fostering stronger relationships with families to ensure students get the support they need both at home and school. She's also an advocate for more support around the work teachers do off the clock, including offering more financial resources for educators. Identifying as a queer indigenous person, Llerandi is in favor of a more comprehensive approach to sex ed in the district, including discussions of birth control, consent and LGBTQ+ support. As a single mother of two, Llerandi's lived experience brings a voice not currently represented on the board. Vote Janet Sarai Llerandi for Administrative School District 1 – Bend-La Pine School Board Zone 7.

Bend Park & Recreation

Vote Nathan Hovekamp for Bend Metro Park & Recreation District Position 3

click to enlarge NATHAN HOVEKAMP
  • Nathan Hovekamp

The roster of candidates in all the Bend Park and Recreation District races this season is impressive; when it comes down to it, there's not a single candidate we would have reservations about seeing placed on the board. In the race pitting incumbent Nathan Hovekamp against challenger Lauren Nowierski-Stadnick, that impressive roster is on full display. Nowierski-Stadnick is a lifelong athlete and civil litigator in the process of opening up her own firm in Bend, who attributes her experiences as camp counselor and umpire to the successes she's experienced in life. A focus of her campaign is in making recreation more available to all—a worthwhile endeavor that she believes can be supported by her skills in advocacy.

When it comes down to it, we do not see stark differences between the philosophies of the two candidates. Both understand the budget and staffing challenges ahead and both are hesitant about waiving System Development Charges for certain projects—but Hovekamp, already immersed in the workings of the parks board, likely understands them better. Hovekamp is a longtime local who's been on the board for six years, and who previously served on Bend's planning commission and the Bend-La Pine School Board. We have seen measured, competent and fair leadership from Hovekamp over the years—and we see no reason to remove him from this position now. While we hope to see Nowierski-Stadnick engaged in a leadership or committee position in the city in the near future, it is toward Hovekamp that we extend our endorsement this time around. Vote Nathan Hovekamp for Bend Metro Park & Recreation District Position 3.

Vote Zavier Borja for Bend Metro Park and Recreation District Position 4

click to enlarge ZAVIER BORJA
  • Zavier Borja

As in other races for Bend Parks, two strong candidates have emerged. Robin Vora comes from a natural resources background and wants to prioritize, among other things, adding more native vegetation to city parks. Vora has served on a number of boards in Bend and currently serves on the Deschutes Soil & Water Conservation District Board. Zavier Borja, meanwhile, has also had an esteemed career, having served on the Governor's Task Force – Roadmap to the Outdoors and having founded Latino Outdoors and subsequently, the new Vámanos Outside advocacy group. Both of these men offer impressive backgrounds, and both clearly have a passion for the outdoors and for public service. When making a call between the two, however, we believe Borja's youth and infectious enthusiasm will be an inspiration for the younger generations who may want to be called into public service in the future. Borja will bring a perspective not currently represented on the board. Vote Zavier Borja for Bend Metro Park and Recreation District Position 4.

Vote Deb Schoen for Bend Metro Park and Recreation District Position 5

click to enlarge DEB SCHOEN
  • Deb Schoen

In the race for Position 5 on the Bend Park and Recreation Board, neither candidate has technically been elected—but Deb Schoen has served in an appointed role. Both candidates are retired; Schoen from a 40-year career in parks and recreation in suburban Portland; Elizabeth Hughes Weide from a career largely based in environmental permitting and compliance. While we see promise in Hughes Weide's skills being put to use for tackling such hot-button issues as the pedestrian bridge crossing proposed over the Wild and Scenic part of the Deschutes River (a project we support), Schoen's experience in parks and recreation—and subsequent experience on the board—gives us no reason not to recommend she continue on the board now. Both candidates agree on many issues, including the need to focus on equity and accessibility at Bend parks; both have a keen interest in how the city's growth will impact levels of service for the community. Both expressed a hesitancy to waive System Development Charges for affordable housing, worrying about how it will affect BPRD's ability to build new parks to accommodate growth. With a strong incumbent already in place in this race, we'd like to see Hughes Weide's expertise put to work on a local committee at present, and to see Schoen officially elected this time around. Vote Deb Schoen for Bend Metro Park and Recreation District Position 5.

Redmond School Board

Vote Stephanie Hunter for Redmond School District 2J Position 1

click to enlarge STEPHANIE HUNTER
  • Stephanie Hunter

Winning out over an incumbent can be a challenge for any political candidate, but we believe Stephanie Hunter is a solid choice to oust Shawn Hartfield for a position on the Redmond School Board. Hunter is a mother and foster mother who has worked with families and as a disability rights advocate for over 20 years, helping families bridge the sometimes-wide gap between home and school. Her role as a disability rights advocate has taught her to be a good listener and to be visible to families—two skills that marry well with the responsibilities needed for a good school board member. As a member of Redmond School District's Equity Task Force, Hunter has taken a deep dive into discipline practices, workforce training and other issues—experience that means she's not starting from zero when it comes to serving on the board. We believe Hunter is ready and equipped to take the Redmond School Board in a more inclusive direction and promises to work with the superintendent to set more focused targets and measure student success. Vote Stephanie Hunter for Redmond School District 2J Position 1.

Vote Lavon Medlock for Redmond School District 2J Position 3

click to enlarge LAVON MEDLOCK
  • Lavon Medlock

In Ron Osmundson and Lavon Medlock, Redmond has two strong candidates running in Position 3, but it is in Medlock that we see a more focused individual who is ready to serve specifically on the school board. Osmundson is already serving on a trifecta of committees, including the City of Redmond's Planning Commission, the Housing and Community Development and Budget committees, demonstrating a commitment to public service for which we have to give credit. Ultimately, though, Medlock seems more attuned to the nuance and specifics of serving in a role geared toward education. In addition to currently serving on the district's Equity Task Force, Medlock is committed to fostering a culture in Redmond schools that prepares students for the global economy, combining the best parts of a small-town culture with the ability to prepare kids for life outside Central Oregon. Regarding the question of how to move forward after a year of lost learning, Medlock was more pointed in her responses, suggesting the district gather data about where gaps exist in learning before moving forward with a summer program that utilizes funding approved by the Oregon legislature. While we admire Osmundson's service in other arenas in Redmond, Medlock will be more focused on the topic of education as a board member. Vote Lavon Medlock for Redmond School District 2J Position 3.

Vote Oscar Gonzalez for Redmond School District 2J Position 4

click to enlarge COURTESY LATINO COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
  • Courtesy Latino Community Association

If we had to name the race that was the toughest for us to select just one candidate, it would be this one, as both Carmen Lawson and Oscar Gonzalez bring dedication and expertise to the table in this race. Gonzalez has 30 years of experience as a social worker and currently works as the Family Empowerment Programs Manager at the Latino Community Association—a position that has made him quite visible in the wider Central Oregon Community for a number of years. Carmen Lawson is a teacher, albeit in Madras, not Redmond. Both are attuned to the needs of the more than 20% of students of color in the district, and both advocate for more culturally relevant programming and curriculum in Redmond schools. Both see student and family engagement as important tools for re-engaging "lost" students who have fallen through the cracks during this pandemic year, and both view listening and overall engagement as important tools for board members. Since we must choose just one of them for this endorsement, however, it is for Gonzalez that we extend our endorsement. Gonzalez is a bridge builder and enjoys a high amount of trust among the Latinx community—qualities that can be vital during this time of community growth and change. Two other candidates threw their hats into the ring for this race—but barely, having not engaged in the dialogue that helped us make our decision. Candidate Bob Perry, formerly a chair of the Deschutes Republican Party, even went so far as to disparage this newspaper—hardly the professionalism required of leaders who will be tasked with leading the entire school community, not just "the base." Vote Oscar Gonzalez for Redmond School Board 2J Position 4.

Redmond Park & Recreation

Vote Matthew Gilman for Redmond Area Park & Recreation District Position 1

click to enlarge MATTHEW GILMAN
  • Matthew Gilman

In the race for Position 1 in the Redmond Area Parks district, incumbent Matthew Gilman should be given a chance to serve another four years. As a Master's team swim coach, Gilman sees first-hand how Redmond's pool facility sorely lacks the capacity it needs to serve the district's 45,000+ users, and how a looming loss-of-lease for the district's activity center will impact local people. After seeing the last bond measure fail, one of Gilman's goals is to listen to the community more acutely to find a way to get a parks and recreation bond passed, which could bring more activities and programs to the district. Opponent Jon Golden agreed with Gilman on a number of issues, including the need to find new revenue streams to pay for facilities, but he's less versed in the ins and outs of how to make that happen. We see no reason to oust Gilman from his position at this time. Vote Matthew Gilman for Redmond Area Park & Recreation District Position 1.

Vote Mercedes Cook for Redmond Area Park & Recreation District Position 2

click to enlarge MERCEDES COOK
  • Mercedes Cook

In the races for both Redmond parks and school boards, it's been refreshing to see most come with a host of candidates, showing the enthusiasm for public service and the community spirit of the town. In many of the races, we also observed a wide range of viewpoints—evidence, in our minds, of a robust and varied community that perhaps is wrestling with what it wants to be in the years to come. This dynamic was certainly on display in the race for Position 2 of the Redmond Area Park & Recreation District, where three distinct candidates are running. Jeremiah Pedersen is a Redmond native who works in the insurance industry, is a community wrestling coach and advocates for more support for the elder community. He wants to see Redmond kids utilizing existing parks facilities, but appeared hesitant to come out in favor of a bond that would raise taxes and improve or build new facilities, such as a new community center. Mercedes Cook, a bookkeeper for Redmond High School and a softball coach who grew up in the area, wants to see the facilities and offerings in Redmond's parks district improve so as to rival neighboring towns such as Bend. Lena Berry, a reiki professional and former PTA president at Vern Patrick Elementary, is an advocate of seeing parks grow with the community, citing the fact that the current facilities were built in the 1970s for a population tens of thousands fewer than today's. Of these three, we see Cook as most ready to hit the ground running. Throughout the pandemic, she worked with Oregon Sen. Tim Knopp on the "Let Them Play" campaign, advocating to bring back youth sports due to their many benefits for kids. With advocacy and leadership such as this, Cook pulled ahead of her opponents in her readiness and willingness to join the parks board. Vote Mercedes Cook for Redmond Area Park & Recreation District Position 2.

Sisters School Board

Vote Edie Jones for Sisters School District 6 Position 5

click to enlarge EDIE JONES
  • Edie Jones

Sisters has put forth a bond measure this May to build a new school and improve its existing facilities, and both candidates on the roster support it, which hardly sets them apart. Kevin Eckert, a high school soccer coach and parent in the district, is an architect and wants to bring a fresh perspective to the board. Incumbent Edie Jones, meanwhile, is a lifelong educator with a professed passion for early childhood. While Eckert's building experience could lend expertise to the construction of a new school, Jones' experience is more closely related to education—and with boards being tasked primarily with policy and steering the superintendent, we believe Jones is a better fit. Vote Edie Jones for Sisters School District Position 5.

Measures

Measure 9-141 – Sisters School District 6 – Bonds to Construct, Renovate and Improve Facilities

During our endorsement interview with school board candidates Edie Jones and Kevin Eckert, Eckert referred to Sisters as something like Mayberry—the idyllic town from "The Andy Griffith Show." But even in Mayberry, issues sometimes arise—and in this Mayberry, like other Central Oregon towns, an ongoing issue is growth. Sisters may have great-performing schools right now, but it is no outlier in needing to plan and prepare for a future that will see many more school-age kids moving to town. Building a new elementary school adjacent to the town's other schools will make Sisters more prepared for the future. Vote YES on Measure 9-141.

Measure 9-143 – La Pine Park and Recreation District – Five-year local option levy for improving recreation and facilities

As all of Central Oregon grows, La Pine is growing, too. To prep for the future and to foster a spirit of equity among the towns of Central Oregon, La Pine residents deserve parks and recreation facilities that are on par with other locales in the region. This measure levies roughly $54 in additional annual tax dollars for people owning homes worth $200,000. It's worth the extra pocket change. Vote YES on Measure 9-143.

Important dates:

April 28 – Ballots mailed
April 30 – Drop sites open
May 11 – Last day to mail in your ballot (postage is free!)
May 18 @ 8pm – Deadline to drop your ballot at designated drop site

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