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Possible Change Coming To The Columbia County Commission With May Election Ahead

Possible Change Coming To The Columbia County Commission With May Election Ahead

The May election ballot for Columbia County will not only feature a sheriff’s office jail levy and a levy supporting the Columbia 911 Communications District, it will also include a race for Position 1 on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, a seat currently held by Margaret Magruder.

Brian Brust, Alex Tardif and Magruder will be running for a new 4-year Position 1 term, which would begin Jan. 1, 2025.

Magruder is in the last year of her second term on the commission.

In seeking a third term, Magruder told Pamplin Media Group, “I think that providing good governance to the citizens of Columbia County is my first mission and goal … It doesn’t necessarily have to be what my opinion is. I try and research all the issues and make decisions that are in the best interest of our citizens.”

Magruder said it can be a challenge to govern, since the county does not have a county manager.

“The three commissioners act as a county manager, as one,” she said. “We don’t have liaisons to different departments either. We make decisions jointly about what is the best path forward for the county. Sometimes, those decisions are difficult to make.”

Looking ahead to a possible third term on the commission, Magruder said, “One of the things that I have been continually interested in is creating new jobs in Columbia County, whether it’s large industry or a small business … More than 70% of our working population works out of the county, they commute out of the county.”

Magruder added, “I think that we need to be continuing to look for additional industry and taxing income to keep all of our services going.”

Public safety is on Magruder’s radar.

“I think that our sheriff’s department is doing a good job and I appreciate that citizens were supportive of the law enforcement levy,” Magruder said. “I think that has been a very positive thing and we will be looking forward to the jail levy coming up.”

Alex Tardif, who is executive director of the Columbia Pacific Food Bank, is challenging Magruder for the Position 1 seat.

“I believe that we need to establish some pretty strong fiscal policies, and implement those in order to create sustainable and long-lasting infrastructure for our community,” Tardif said.

Speaking of county goals he would like to see, Tardif said, “I would love to continue to collaborate to create a strong business community in Columbia County, one that has agriculture, small business and industry working together to lift our community up.”

Tardif has served numerous positions in Columbia County, including on the Scappoose School District board of directors. He has also served as board president of the South Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Columbia Community Mental Health board of directors.

Also seeking Magruder’s seat is Brian Brust, who has served as a member of the county’s planning commission since September 2022.

As for jobs coming to Columbia County, Brust said he would like to spread the word about the county’s amenities.

“People who live here can brag about it,” Brust said. “We have so many natural resources of beauty. We have the river, the mountains. It’s absolutely gorgeous in Columbia County, and we don’t advertise what we have.”

Describing jobs he would like to see, Brust said, “I’m not big on businesses that take a lot of risk on the environment. I like the idea of not harming the environment we live in. I don’t want to put a battery factory out here.”

When it comes to public safety, Brust said, “We don’t fund our sheriff enough. Percentage wise, if you look at the amount of money that goes to the sheriff’s office for most counties, in comparison with what we do in Columbia County, (Sheriff Brian Pixley) does not get enough money.”

The one county commission seat that is not being contested is Position 3, held by Casey Garrett.

Seeking another 4-year term, that would also begin Jan. 1, 2025, Garrett said in an email to Pamplin Media Group, “In my upcoming term as Columbia County Commissioner, my focus remains on delivering tangible results for our community. Leveraging my positions on various regional and state-level boards, I’ll continue to advocate for more resources to better serve our residents.”

His key priorities include “overseeing the completion of substantial county facility improvements, enhancing public works, particularly county road maintenance, by prioritizing funding and seeking innovative ways to increase staffing and continued investment in an adequate fleet and equipment.”

Garrett said he also supports initiatives that attract industry and create local jobs.

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