Candidates seek to serve Sisters


Last updated 4/2/2024 at 11:48am

The primary election is May 21 and ballots will be mailed May 1. There are only two races. One for County Commissioner Position #2, and the other for Deschutes County Sheriff. Both are four-year terms.

There are eight measures on the ballot, none affecting Sisters nor which Sisters voters can vote.

This is the first commissioner election since voters approved a measure to make such races non-partisan. Thus the top two vote getters will appear on the November ballot. Phil Chang is the incumbent for Position 2 and is seeking re-election. Judy Trego, executive director of Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce, and Rob Imhoff of Bend, owner of Broken Top Window Coverings, filed to run against Chang.

Samuel Facey of La Pine filed and then withdrew. Thirty minutes before the filing closing deadline, Brian Huntamer of Bend added his name to the race. Huntamer is currently unemployed but lists real estate, construction, and drug and alcohol counseling in his background statement.

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More details of the candidates will be found in the voters pamphlet to be mailed prior to the election.

The Nugget asked each candidate a set of questions and their responses are as follows:

What strengths/assets do you bring to voters in Sisters Country (boundaries of Sisters School District)?

Imhoff: My focus is on "getting things done" to improve the lives of all citizens of Deschutes County. I have a proven track record of doing hard work and utilizing all of my relationships to get things accomplished. I will continually learn and grow from people around me, this includes everyone in Sisters Country. I think folks living in and around Sisters will find me to be approachable, honest, and focused.

Trego: I am running for Deschutes County Commissioner because I have the skills, experience, and temperament to do the job.

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Huntamer: I am honest, a good communicator, empathetic, and experienced in working in collaboration with others in problem solving. I am a U.S. Army veteran with an extensive background in real estate and construction, and experience as an alcohol and drug counselor.

Chang: I know Sisters Country and many community leaders well because I have worked to improve public safety and maintain quality of life in the Sisters area for 20 years. I helped plan and implement hazardous fuels reduction projects on the Deschutes National Forest that helped prevent the Pole Creek Fire (2012) and the Milli Fire (2017) from burning into the City of Sisters, Tollgate, Crossroads, and Black Butte Ranch. I have helped to steward Whychus and Indian Ford Creeks so they provide better fish and wildlife habitat, run clean and cold, and pose less flood risk to nearby residences.

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I learned a great deal about the hopes and concerns of Sisters Country residents when I staffed the first Sisters visioning project in 2006-2007. I've been involved in efforts to transfer portions of the Sisters Ranger District administrative site to City or private ownership since 2005 – efforts that are now providing land for homes, businesses, and public spaces right in the center of the City.

Why should a Sisters Country citizen vote for you?

Imhoff: If we specifically focus on things that matter to Sisters, then traffic, wildfire, managed growth, and homelessness would require the most attention from our county leaders. I will work hard to listen and provide a voice for those citizens who are the most affected by each of these issues.

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Trego: The Sisters community should vote for me because qualifications matter. I bring a breadth of knowledge and experience that includes my current position working for a small business association, as the founder and president for the Sisters Community Foundation, whose mission is to help people of limited means in the community, and I previously served as a community advocate in Sisters working to reduce the root causes of poverty for the Central Oregon Partnership.

My government experience includes: serving as chief of staff for an Oregon state senator, a constituent services manager for the U.S. House of Representatives, and as an elected Sisters city councilor and council president.

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I currently serve on the Deschutes County budget committee and previously on the Deschutes County commission on Children and Families and the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council.

Huntamer: My bond with Sisters Country and Deschutes County is not just professional; it's profoundly personal. Since 1978, it has been my home, a place where I've raised my family and witnessed generations thrive. My children and grandchildren have been nurtured by the schools here, with some having graduated from Sisters High School and others currently pursuing their education in Bend. I personally received my higher education from COCC and OSU.

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Chang: In my first term as Deschutes County Commissioner, I voted to allocate millions of the County's American Rescue Plan funds to affordable housing and child care projects in Sisters. I represented Sisters Country concerns about community wildfire protection to Salem, and helped get legislation, state agency support, and funding to help reduce risk to Sisters area homes. I've supported the City in thinking growth management and meeting state requirements for buildable land supply. I successfully advocated to expand County Homeless Outreach Service Team staffing in Sisters Country to help unhoused people with behavioral health take steps out of homelessness. I helped establish a partnership with the Deschutes Trails Coalition to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in County Transient Room Tax revenue in trails projects in Sisters Country and beyond. In a second term I will keep focusing on making sure Sisters Country continues to be a great place to live, work, play, and raise a family.

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I'm a pragmatic problem solver who uses input from community members and real data and analysis to tackle problems instead of partisan political ideology. I know how to bring people with diverse perspectives together to collaboratively develop solutions and then build public-public and public-private partnerships to implement solutions. I show up for Sisters City Council meetings, Citizens4Community forums, and major community events like the Folk Festival, and I offer Coffee with a Commissioner events and online Town Halls so that I can listen to the hopes and concerns of Sisters Country residents and answer County-related j19 questions.

What do you see as the biggest concerns facing citizens of Sisters Country?

Imhoff: I have heard from many Sisters Country residents who feel wildfire resilience is their biggest concern. I would agree, as we have seen in years past. This is specific to acquiring and maintaining insurance on their homes and property. We must have proper forest land management coupled with wildfire mitigation techniques, all while maintaining a strong level of access to the forests.

Trego: The largest concern facing Sisters is growth and the challenges that come with growth including workforce, affordable housing, infrastructure, and traffic. Homelessness has also been at the forefront of community discussions.

Huntamer: Sisters Country has grown a lot over the past several years, but is still a very desirable community; however, it faces several challenges including affordable housing, homelessness, traffic concerns, and public safety.

Chang: Workforce and affordable housing is extremely scarce in Sisters Country. This is why so many workers need to commute to Sisters, and it also explains why a significant number of people who work in the City of Sisters live unhoused on federal lands just outside the City. The underlying reasons for this shortage of affordable and workforce housing are the cost of building housing, the scarcity of buildable lands, and the decoupling of housing prices from local salaries and wages.

How would you remedy/mitigate those concerns?

Imhoff: Deschutes County should be a leader in wildfire and natural resource policies in Oregon. Resilience, working with federal and state partners, and mitigating wildfire risk to levels as low as possible, will be major tasks to focus on for our commission. To this end, all this comes with prioritizing our resources, including our firefighters. I get things done and will work hard to get this done for our friends and neighbors.

Trego: I will work with the city to support workforce, affordable housing, and infrastructure improvements, and continue to advocate for funding from the county, state, and federal government, as well as the private sector to develop sustainable workforce, affordable housing, and infrastructure. Sisters is a successful community built with innovation and a pioneering spirit. There are solutions to the homeless crisis facing our community.

I have been working in the area of homelessness prevention, reducing poverty, and substance abuse prevention for many years. I will partner with the Homeless Leadership Council, the Coordinated Office of Homelessness, the county and the private sector to address the serious challenges facing our homeless population and our community.

Huntamer: My strategy begins with listening-genuinely understanding the diverse needs of our citizens. I believe in fostering a collaborative effort between the community and government to tackle our challenges head-on. Homelessness, a particularly contentious issue, demands a balanced approach. My empathy for individuals seeking temporary shelter and food does not overlook the broader implications for public safety, community well-being, and the rights of landowners, schools, and the use of public lands.

Chang: In my time on the Board of Commissioners, the County has helped to address the cost of building housing by contributing funds to land purchases and construction costs for development of deed-restricted affordable housing with Habitat for Humanity and the City of Sisters. The County needs to help create long term local sources of public financing for affordable housing projects. In 2023 the County authorized development of Accessory Dwelling Units on rural residential properties outside incorporated cities in order to produce more workforce and affordable housing. The County can support the City of Sisters with increasing the supply of buildable lands by providing community development expertise and analysis as the City evaluates expanding its Urban Growth Boundary.


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