J. Freilinger

Jason Freilinger, a Silverton-area Democrat is seeking the county commission seat currently held by Patti Milne, a two-term Republican from Woodburn.

The Keizertimes sat down with Freilinger to find out why he’s challenging Milne and what his vision for Marion County is.

Q: Why challenge Commissioner Milne? (Editor’s note: Commissioner Janet Carlson is also up for re-election this year. She is running unopposed.)

A: “There were a couple of different reasons. One was purely logistical with the charter that was on the ballot the last time a ound. It made things very confusing as to how to structure a campaign. … I was in the same district as she would have been if it would have passed.

“And I have to honestly say I have a good deal of respect for Janet Carlson and I feel she brings a lot to the county. She’s highy intelligent, very inquisitive. When I look at striking a balance, which is very important to me as far as what we need in the county, we need a more balanced approach to land use and finance, I think my addition to the board working with Janet Carlson would be much more conducive than running against Janet.”

Q: You say you want a more balanced approach, but what does that mean to a Marion County resident?

A: “I think we are really out of balance in is how we approach our land use issues. … The commissioners have a very build-at-any-cost, move forward (approach) without thinking of do you have the infrastructure in place, are we destroying prime farmland in the process? And I feel that’s why we’re out of balance.

“I’m not a person that says all growth is bad. I definitely believe we need to have economic development and growth, in the commercial, residential and industrial sectors. But I think we can be much more thoughtful in how we do that. Now we wait for a developer to come to us and say, that’s what we want to see, and the move forward instead of creating a vision of what we want to see.”

“An example is the Mill Creek project. We said this is going to be industrial land and we’ll have the infrastructure in place … It has to be living wage jobs. Now we’re seeing companies move in there – Sanyo came in, Home Depot came in – that’s structured, it’s where we want it, it’s not next to a residential community that’s going to be damaged by it.”

Q: What’s your position on a potential Keizer urban growth boundary expansion?

A: “Once again it has to be very detailed and very thoughtful. We have to look at the land around Keizer and population growth, and ask, what is not prime farmland or not part of the park system, and say that’s where we need to expand. We need to let developers know in advance. … Keizer’s kind of bursting at the seams, but I look at the flip side, in Silverton there’s 500 vacant lots approved and inside their UGB, and no one’s moving there. …”

“The French Prairie soils north of Keizer were the whole reason the Oregon Trail existed, to come to this prime farmland. I think we do have to draw a line on our growth as far as thinking we’re going to build on the top of prime farmland. Keizer is not 100 percent butted up against prime soils, and that’s where we should be looking at expanding the urban growth boundary.”

Q: How much of that debate is emotional versus economic?

A: “Agriculture is still the number one industry in Marion County. So it is very much tied, I think, to the economics and success of Marion County. I tell people when I make decisions I make them for the next 100 years. I think that land will be much more valuable as farmland in 100 years than a residential community … You can’t go backwards. You can’t take a residential community and turn it into farmland. Is there some emotion to it? Sure. I also want to have good quality of life.”

Q: What industries would the county be poised to attract?

“I think we could be better poised for supporting high-tech and green jobs. We have the Mill Creek project, which is the biggest shovel-ready portion of land along the I-5 corridor. That makes us very marketable to various industries.”