With business experience in Medford and neighbors from the Colestin Valley, , 44, is betting he brings the best combination of city and country to the county commission.

His neighbors are loggers and ranchers, and he interacted daily with conservationists and fishermen through his job as store manager with McKenzie Outfitters Inc. The store's recent closure was perfect timing to allow him to focus on the race for county commission, he said, and the experience has taught him to work with diverse groups of people.

"I'm more middle of the road and able to get along with a broader section of the community," he said. "I honestly believe I could do a better job than is currently being done."

Outside of attending local meetings of the Democratic Party for the past four years, Keith is new to politics. He said management experience has taught him budgeting, marketing and customer service, skills he sees as essential for a commissioner.

His biggest concern is creating jobs and keeping them local, he says, followed by solving county funding problems caused by the loss of timber revenue with strategies other than raising taxes or cutting services.

He would like the county to showcase its natural and cultural resources to attract trade shows and destination resorts and increase tourism.

He would also like to see the county actively recruiting alternative energy companies to lead the state in the goal set in April 2007 of producing 25 percent of its energy from natural sources by 2025.

"If I was on the board of commissioners, we would have had a planning meeting the next day to attract these industries," he said. "It is the perfect timing to be a businessman and a conservationist."

He would like to develop partnerships with neighboring counties in supporting biofuel and ethanol production

"I don't want to reinvent the wheel," he said. "I want to open up dialogue with all the counties in Oregon and northern California and borrow the best practices from all of us. We need to look at ourselves as a region. We're in a recession, and we're not going to fix that if we stand alone."

He applies that same concept of sharing best practices to working with diverse cities within the county as well. For example, he would like to see models like the Briscoe Art Wing expanded to other districts to support arts education without increasing taxes. But he doesn't plan on being too Ashland-centric.

"Some of the best ideas come out of Ashland, but the board of commissioners needs to represent the whole county, and that's best done by working in the heart of the county," he said. "Being a Medford businessman, I think I understand a little bit better the issues that face Eagle Point and Shady Cove and Rogue River and Medford and Jacksonville. It's just a little bit bigger view of the horizon."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .