Joe Berney. Photo by Todd Cooper.

Burnin’ Love

Incumbent Joe Berney and political newbie David Loveall spar for Springfield’s Lane County commission seat

Tensions have been high during public debates for the position representing Springfield on the Lane County Board of County Commissioners. 

That was on display at a Zoom April 14 Springfield City Club forum. David Loveall, a conservative developer who has taken a lot of credit for Main Street’s success, rolled his eyes, shrugged and mouthed comments as incumbent Commissioner Joe Berney spoke. 

Berney’s own closing arguments targeted Loveall’s religious fundamentalism and campaign theme of “skin in the game.” Berney said, “Use of this phrase demonstrates no understanding of private interests, the public interests, which county commissioners are supposed to represent and conflicts of interest.”

With the May 17 primary election days away, the two candidates are sparring for Position 2. Although county commission seats are nonpartisan, it’s a race between the conservative Loveall and liberal leaning Berney. 

Berney tells Eugene Weekly that in his first term, he worked to address climate change and encourage working wages and benefits for local construction workers in Lane County — all while dealing with the Holiday Farm Fire, rebuilding the McKenzie River community and the pandemic. And if re-elected he wants to protect Lane County’s mobile home residents and re-invent Short Mountain Landfill. 

Enlisted by retiring Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich, Loveall would not comment to EW on his campaign, but he did talk about his and other Main Street business owners’ role in “defending” Springfield from an early Black Lives Matter-related event in 2020. On various podcast programs and debate forums he has claimed the county is providing “toxic charity” to the homeless and has proposed that if elected, he would call for nonprofits to gather at the fairgrounds and pitch to commissioners why they should receive county money. 

Joe Berney

Campaigning in his first election in 2018, Berney told EW that he would serve only one term. In a recent interview with EW, he says the county’s role as the public health agency for managing COVID-19 and responding to the Holiday Farm Fire showed him the commission’s importance. “During that time, I saw how critical a steady hand at the wheel is especially at a time of uncertainty,” Berney says. “I see my opponent as the opposite of a steady hand.” 

During his first term, Berney worked to create a county-wide community benefits agreement protocol, which means the county is committed to taking bids larger than $500,000 only from construction firms that provide employees living wages, full time health insurance and apprenticeships. Berney then worked with state Sen. James Manning to introduce and pass legislation — Senate Bill 420 — that has created a legal framework to make it easier for other government agencies to adopt a community benefits agreement protocol. 

The community benefits agreement preferential language is in the county’s strategic plan, Berney says. If re-elected he says he’ll work to expand it beyond construction bids.

During his first term, Berney says he helped save the Patrician Mobile Home in Springfield, which in 2019 was going to be rezoned to be multi-use so someone could buy it and evict residents. Berney worked with the county’s housing authority, Homes for Good, and the statewide housing nonprofit Casa of Oregon to help the residents secure the $100,000 to help the residents buy the property. 

Berney says he’ll work to create a three-prong permanent solution to avoid future evictions of low-income residents. His plan is to create permanent zoning for manufactured home parks, lobby the Legislature to provide a $100 million revolving loan fund so occupants can purchase mobile home parks to avoid eviction and offer technical assistance for mobile home residents so they can make their park a co-op.

“That will be a critical piece of housing for vulnerable Oregonians,” he says. “One piece of state legislation will solve the problem.” And as county commissioner, he says he would work with state legislators to pass it.

Another goal is to change Lane County’s Short Mountain Landfill, where all of the county’s waste ends up, into a recycling and waste to clean energy hub. “That’ll occur in a few years if I’m elected,” he adds. 

According to the Oregon Secretary of State’s OreStar database, Berney has raised $147,000 since 2021. Most of his contributions come from organized labor political action committees, such as $12,500 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 280 and $10,000 each from Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 221 and Lane County Employees Association AFSCME 2831. 

Elected officials who have endorsed Berney include two Springfield city councilors (Steve Moe and Leonard Stoehr), the majority of the Springfield School Board and Willamalane Park and Recreation Board of Directors, state Rep. John Lively, state Sen. Lee Beyer, Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Val Hoyle and Congressman Peter DeFazio. He says he has the support — but not endorsement — of Mayor Sean VanGordon and three other Springfield city councilors. 

David Loveall

Loveall would not comment on his platform to EW, but he has spoken about his candidacy at public forums and online shows, such as Bozievich’s Boze Noze. 

 Bozievich is retiring from his seat representing west Lane County in January 2023 and has recruited conservative candidates for the three commissioner seats up for an election in 2022. 

Loveall is a co-owner of Masaka Properties along with his wife Nita Loveall. Masaka Properties owns five properties on Springfield’s Main Street. He is also a pastor who’s written three self-published books about his faith and his views on mental health, and he runs a missionary organization called Three Sixteen Ministries that operates in Uganda. 

When BLM-related protests were active in Springfield, some anti-BLM counter-protesters were armed with firearms. There have been allegations that Loveall was one of those counter-protesters. Loveall tells EW that he would not comment on whether he was armed with a weapon, but said during the first two weeks of 2020’s BLM-related protests that residents and business owners on Main Street were advised by then-Springfield Police Chief Rick Lewis that “Black Lives Matter and Antifa” were going to burn the city to the ground and that he recommended them to protect their property as they saw fit. 

“The police thanked us for having their back and citizens of Springfield thwarted four credible riot events in that first weekend,” he says. “The citizens of Springfield will always stand up against those who do violence against their town, including myself.” 

During the April 14 Springfield City Club meeting, Loveall said that the county’s housing first model isn’t working, and that the only model that works is the Eugene Mission, citing its wellness model. The county and other nonprofits are creating “toxic charities,” he added, also wondering aloud why it was legal for homeless people to own a shopping cart.

Loveall has criticized the county’s approach to mental health and who it funds. In the Jan. 13 episode of the Molina Leadership Solutions podcast, Loveall evoked a Shark Tank-like proposition, saying if he’s elected he wants to have an event at the Lane County Events Center where social service nonprofits pitch why they should receive county money. 

Lane County spokesperson Devon Ashbridge said the county allocates money to nonprofits based on the requirements of the source of the funding, such as state or federal money, and a large amount of it has to go through a proposal process. 

Loveall has been endorsed by former Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg, former Lane County commissioner Steve Cornacchia and former Lane County Sheriff Byron Trapp. Timber Unity, the controversial logging organization, also endorsed him, along with law enforcement groups such as the Thin Blue Line Coalition and Lane County Peace Officers. 

According to OreStar, Loveall has raised $142,777 since filing in 2021. Among Loveall’s contributions are nearly $40,000 from the Oregon Realtors PAC, $26,667 from Community Action Network, a natural resource extraction-related PAC that supports conservative politicians, and $5,000 from Ed King of King Estate’s company Crown Properties. 

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