Filing to be a county commissioner is simple. All you have to do is fill out an application. That’s the easy part. Once you’ve won the election, the real work begins.

“(Being a commissioner requires) a lot more than I thought it entailed,” said Union County Commissioner Donna Beverage, who is the newest on the board of three.

Beverage and Commissioner Steve McClure, who in 2018 is stepping down from his position after nearly 30 years, both said you must have the heart to fill the role.

“You need to like people,” McClure said. “You need to enjoy being with people. If you don’t, then your life will be miserable.”

Beverage said a good commissioner needs to look at all sides of an issue.

“You can’t have a preconceived notion going in,” she said. “You need to listen and learn. You need to know you’re not going to please everyone and be able to take the heat.”

McClure said consistency is key.

“You have to make sure that if you are faced with the same set of circumstances, you vote the same,” McClure said. “You don’t make a decision based on who is coming to you.”

Beverage said as the newest commissioner she was surprised by all the travel that is involved. When she was elected in 2016, she traveled to Eugene for a conference even before stepping into the role as commissioner.

“(Traveling) isn’t required, but if you don’t, then no one is representing your county (at the state level),” Beverage said. “And it’s not just a lack of representation for your county, but for Eastern
Oregon or the region in general, sometimes.”

McClure said although he no longer travels due to health reasons, he did hit the road for several years to represent the county. He agreed that commissioners need to be the voice of their constituency.

“You are the elected official who has to get up and speak for your community,” he said.

McClure said he’s been involved with the big projects in the county, including the airport and road projects.

“I love the intricacies of it,” he said. “I have always enjoyed doing it.”

It’s a lot of work to read up on the many different issues a county commissioner faces, Beverage said. If you are a city councilor, you deal with only the city departments. If you work in the road department, you deal with only road department issues.

“It’s a whole new ball game (as a commissioner),” she said.

Beverage said having a political background isn’t necessary, but it helps to know how to manage a business and know how a meeting is conducted. And to be a good county commissioner, you have to be ready to work.

“This is a full-time job, and you need to be willing to put full-time hours into it,” Beverage said. “It’s a big commitment.”

See complete story in Monday's Observer