March 12, 2002 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

John Lamoreau, the administrator of La Grandes largest retirement center, has filed as a Republican candidate for the county commissioner position held by Democrat John Howard.

The administrator of Grande Ronde Retirement Residence, Lamoreau filed Tuesday afternoon for the May 21 primary.

The two will face each other in the Nov. 12 general election. Only registered Republicans will be able to vote for Lamoreau and only registered Democrats will be able to vote for Howard in the primary.

Republican Steve McClure is the only candidate for another position on the three-member commissioner. Republican Colleen MacLeod was elected to the third position in 2000 and is not up for re-election.

Lamoreau said he does not plan to give up his job at the retirement center, and he said that his employers, La Grande Investors Group, are supporting him in his efforts.

I have their support, he said. I wouldnt be able to do this without it.

Lamoreau said that he had been asked recently by several people to run for the county commission.

Today, I had quite a few more calls, he said Tuesday afternoon. I felt honored.

Lamoreau and his wife, Nena Jones, a registered nurse at Grande Ronde Hospital, have lived in La Grande since 1987. The couple have two sons, Garron, 18, a student in the Clark Honor College at the University of Oregon, and Kyson, 13, an eighth grader at La Grande Middle School.

Lamoreau began the geriatric mental health program at the Center For Human Development, where he worked for three years, before moving to the retirement center. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the commission a little more than 10 years ago, he said.

As to his hopes as a commissioner, he said, senior issues are close to my heart, especially with statewide funding under attack.

Economic and agricultural issues are also important, Lamoreau said.

We do need air service at Union County Airport. If were going to attract any type of industry, its important that we do have air service, he said.

Lamoreau said he is concerned about continued irrigation.

I am a huge supporter of farmers rights. If we have a scenario like Southern Oregon, we have to be in a position where that doesnt happen, he said about last summers situation in the Klamath Basin, when low water in the Klamath River forced a closure of irrigation gates to preserve fish.

Lamoreau said he will address other issues as his campaign develops. He said he believes contested elections are beneficial. They bring out the best, he said.

Lamoreau is a member of the Salvation Army Board and will be the volunteer emcee for the CASA Gala in April. He has been a member of the Governors Conference on the Elderly and is a member on a task force appointed by House Speaker Mark Simmons to study elderly issues.