Tucker to retire from County Commission

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Will Tucker has decided not to run again for his seat on the County Commission in the 2020 election.

But he emphasizes he’s not “calling it quits.”

“That’s not quite what I want to call it,” said Tucker, 67, who was elected to the commission in 2008.

“I have no reason to leave. I’m quite well loved and respected. I have no ethics violations. I can’t say the public’s not following my lead.

“It’s sort of time.”

His younger brother is having health problems, he said, which has prompted him to think about his future.

Of course, there’s the family – wife Lynne and three grown children, and seven grandchildren, whom he plans to spend time with.

He has other plans as well.

A longtime Red Cross volunteer and current Southwest Oregon regional representative, Tucker says heplans to step up his involvement in the organization. He said he’s particularly interested in disaster relief.

“The Red Cross has always come when the Sheriff or the fire departments call,” he said. “I want to be the one who goes and pays back.”

Then there’s that restoration project.

“I have an old RV I’ve been fixing up. We plan to drive Highway 20 from end to end, from Oregon to Maine. There’s 22 states I haven’t seen yet with my RV, though most of them I’ve seen with the military.”

Tucker came to the Board of Commissioners after stints at Hewlett-Packard and various sales and marketing positions. He also served in the U.S. Navy Reserves. In the public arena, he served on a range of local public and private boards and commissions.

He said he’s enjoyed his time on the board and looks back at a number of achievements that he’s particularly proud of.

One is the Oregon Veterans Home, which he credits to foresight by the City of Lebanon and individual county officials.

“That’s one of the things I led, that I started and the ball was picked up by many others and run for a touchdown,” he said, noting that he convinced fellow Commissioner John Lindsey to support it. “It’s probably the biggest thing I’ve led the charge on.”

Tucker recalled that when Department of Veterans’ Affairs officials visited the site, they saw infrastructure already in place and a site ready for construction.

“That work is so impressive, that when the people got off that bus we rented to drive them around Lebanon, they were amazed at what they saw.”

He credits Lebanon’s canny use of urban renewal district funds for the medical campus that now surrounds the Veterans Home and helped bring it there, he said.

“It’s pretty amazing, what’s happening because of city folks in Lebanon having the desire to do something. They didn’t build fancy stuff downtown. They didn’t build a carousel. They built roads and streets, water mains, sewers.”

Tucker is also pleased with the “good” relationship the county has with local state and federal agencies that manage natural resources within the county.

Although he said he’s frustrated that Oregon Department of Transportation hasn’t approved a transfer facility that the county wants to see located in Millersburg, he said the county has worked hard to establish good working relationships with ODOT, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Bureau of Land Management.

Relationships with those agencies are important to residents’ use and access to water resources, forestry, public safety and recreation, he noted.

He said he has a “great” working relationship with Erik Petersen, operations project manager for the Corps of Engineers’ Portland District.

“I don’t know if Erik Petersen would answer every phone call like he does mine.”

He’s particularly satisfied with the county Parks Department, which operates in the black, totally independent of the General Fund.

The goal, Tucker said, is not to be “profit-making,” but “What can we do so we can serve the community better in the future?”

Tucker said he’s also proud of leading the charge on the Transient Lodging Tax approved last year, which has provided funding for needed equipment at the County Fair and Expo Center and for county Parks Department projects.

“The people who pay this tax aren’t our citizens,” he said. “It’s already doing things in Linn county. It’s not one of my proudest moments as a Republican, but I had to do it. We couldn’t let the fairgrounds continue sliding downhill in maintenance and improvements, because the City of Albany reneged on an agreement.”

Of all three county commissioners, Tucker has been the most visible in Sweet Home in recent years.

He and his wife followed the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree to Washington D.C. last November in their RV and got to participate in the festivities at the Capitol.

Tucker’s also been involved in other Sweet Home activities, including speaking to teens from around the region at a 2017 summer leadership day camp the Sweet Home Youth Advisory Committee hosted at Foster Lake.

It hasn’t all been a bed of roses, Tucker noted.

He’s been frustrated, he said, with the slow progress in developing the 380-some acres of former Western States Land Reliance Trust property, which was foreclosed by the county at the end of 2010.

Then there are unhappy residents whom he can’t help.

“A couple times a week, someone is angry at the county and I can’t always fix it,” he said.

A common issue is county easements that landowners want to cash out, but the county won’t pay them anything.

“Sometimes they say, ‘Will, if you were a good man, you’d do it,’” Tucker said. “The law says if they buy the property with the road what it is, sorry. I can’t make everybody happy.”

Similarly, he said, he can’t make county building officials do what people want.

“Guess what, she’s taken the coursework and she’s got the authority to sign. I don’t.”

But overall, he said, it’s been a great run.

“Almost every day someone thanks me. I had not expected that type of positive response.”