“I’ve gotten better and better in the role of watchdog,” says Commissioner Pete Sorenson of his decision to run again for his long-time South Eugene seat on Lane County’s Board of Commissioners in the May 2016 primary.
The election might be more than a year away, but Sorenson has already begun lining up endorsements, from local politicians — Mayor Kitty Piercy — to legislators in Salem — Rep. Phil Barnhart.
Despite not getting endorsements from state legislators in the May 2012 election, Sorenson beat opponent Andy Stahl 58 to 42 percent. Sorenson has held the commission seat since 1996.
In recent years, Sorenson as a liberal and progressive has found himself in the minority, but he says that as a “seasoned watchdog” he still has a role to play. “The issues don’t go away because of gerrymandering or campaign spending,” he says.
One issue that arose around the previous election was allegations that conservative Commissioner Jay Bozievich had pushed a redistricting plan that gerrymandered commission districts — altered the district boundaries to change their makeup and thus affect who is elected to represent those areas.
As a watchdog, Sorenson points to his criticisms of the way the conservative majority hired the county’s former, controversial administrator Liane (Richardson) Inkster without a search, in comparison to the open process that resulted in the hire of current Administrator Steve Mokrohisky, calling Mokrohisky a “consummate professional.”
In contrast, Inkster was fired after an investigation into unauthorized changes she made to her take-home pay.
Sorenson says, “I like my job,” and that he and Peter DeFazio are the only people being paid a “living wage” to help constituents in south Eugene as a full-time job. In addition to his roles in county governance and leadership, Sorenson says his constituent services have included working to increase pedestrian safety at crosswalks, dealing with garbage on 30th Avenue and helping a couple with their overseas adoption.
Looking ahead to the May 2015 election, Sorenson says if it passes, the proposed county vehicle tax would pay for road maintenance, not new construction, thanks to his watchdog role.
Sorenson will participate in two panels at the March 5-8 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference, on legal ethics and on working with elected officials. More info at PIELC.org.