Three candidates for a seat on the Jackson County Library District Board say they'll work to stabilize services after a decade of major change.
Steve Richie, an Ashland-based fire sprinkler design consultant, former Ashland Mayor Cathy Shaw and Hart Wilson, an Eagle Point resident and an instruction designer for Southern Oregon University, are vying for Position 2. Library district Budget Committee member George Prokop is running unopposed for Position 1. Both seats are four-year terms.
The Library District Board was created in May 2014 when voters approved a tax levy to fund 15 branches. The winners in the May 16 election will help the board decide whether to renew an agreement with third-party library service provider LS&S that expires in 2020.
Richie, who lost to Pam Marsh in November for a state House seat, said his campaign for the library district is focused on ensuring the library system functions within its existing budget or even at the same level of service for fewer tax dollars.
"My thing is that I do not want to see our taxes raised any further," Richie said. "Like most government programs, I feel like if they're looked at with an outside eye, they can be run more efficiently and possibly provide even better service for even fewer dollars."
Richie said increasing taxes could prove harmful to vulnerable community members.
"It kind of comes down to guns and butter. Do you want to be able to go to a library, or do you want to be able to afford groceries?"
Shaw, a longtime library advocate and retired legal assistant and campaign manager, voiced concerns over third-party management of county library services and said careful planning was key to moving the district toward autonomy.
"We have two years to develop a hypothetical service plan," said Shaw.
"We need to develop a parallel plan that allows us to seamlessly move away from a third-party vendor and allows us to manage libraries on our own to free up money for additional staff and other essential resources."
Shaw also voiced concerns over the current library district board serving as both a managing and governing board.
"A governing board takes strategic approaches to issues, whereas management focuses in on operational issues," she said. "One contributing factor to a board straying away from policy and into operations is a loss of faith in a CEO, and indeed, this is what has happened with our board." The district replaced its executive director last November.
"Our first objective must be to bring library management back to Jackson County," Shaw said. "However, given the money involved, we can be assured that the third-party vendor currently managing our libraries will not leave the contract early."
Wilson said her focus would be to optimize relationships with LS&S to ensure residents see the most benefit from tax dollars and noted that the LS&S contract renewal is the district's biggest challenge.
Wilson said her experience in collaboration and project management, along with a variety of professional roles, would be an asset.
"I’ve been a teacher, a special events coordinator, a grape grower, and a small business owner," Wilson said. "My professional life has depended on being able to build and maintain collaborative relationships. Along the way, I’ve earned a reputation for having excellent analytical and project management skills. I’m really good at asking questions that get right to the heart of the matter at hand.
"The library board will be making some big decisions in the next few years that will have long-ranging effects," she said. "Ideally, the people making those decisions will have a big-picture perspective of the system as a whole. And they shouldn’t all be from Medford and Ashland. Our rural communities need to be represented, as well."
— Reach Medford freelance writer firstname.lastname@example.org.