Ontario mayoral and city council races draw flock of candidates

ONTARIO — With two months to go for the Nov. 6 elections, the ballot for Ontario’s mayoral and city council races is set.

Voters will decide between four candidates for mayor and seven candidates for three city council seats. People may have already seen campaign signs posted around town.

Ontario’s current mayor, Ron Verini, isn’t seeking reelection, ending his 10-year political career after spending six years as a city councilor and four years as mayor.

Frank Griffith, Billy Carter, Marty Justus, and Riley Hill are running to take Verini’s place.

City Councilor Tessa Winebarger has stepped off the council and Councilor Betty Carter has decided against another term. Councilor Dan Capron is running to keep his seat.

Others seeking a council seat are Eddy Thiel, Cydney Cooke, Thomas Jost Jr., Freddy Rodriguez, Kylee Aguiar, and Michael Braden.

The winners will have to face old challenges such as how to balance an increasingly tight budget and new challenges, such as possible local marijuana retailing.

Among the candidates for mayor:

Griffith is a retired U.S. Navy veteran. He has also worked as a care provider at a group home. Griffith has a real estate certificate from Boise State University and has not held political office before.

Carter has had a long career in law enforcement as a captain at the Snake River Correctional Institution. For the last three years he served as a part-time code enforcement officer for Ontario. Budget constraints forced the city to cut his job earlier this summer. Carter has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Prairie View University and is currently pursuing a master’s in business administration from the University of Phoenix. He has never held political office. Carter’s spouse is the departing councilor, Betty Carter.

Justus is an Ontario Realtor who has served as a city councilor since 2015, when he was appointed to fill a seat vacated by Jost. Justus won election to the council in 2016.

Hill is a building developer who has lived in Ontario since 1972. Hill is the president of Malheur County Poverty to Prosperity, a group that works to provide job training in the region. He was a founding member and chair of the city Public Works Committee and has served on the city Budget Committee.

The top three voter getters among seven candidates will go on to serve on the city council starting in January. The candidates:

Capron was appointed to city council in 2017 after Jost resigned for service with the Navy Reserve.

Jost wants to return to the city council for the third time. He has been a captain at Snake River Correctional Institution for 19 years. He resigned his council seat in 2015 for military duty, returned to the council, and resigned again in 2017.

Rodriguez is a personal support worker with Eastern Oregon Support Services Brokerage, which serves people with disabilities. He serves on the Ontario Parks and Recreation Committee, Ontario Diversity Advisory Council, and the city Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee. He is also on Friends of the Aquatic Center.

Aguiar has been a clerk and cook at Mallard Grocery in Ontario for 14 years.

Braden is an accountant who has served on the city Budget Committee since 2014. He has a master’s in accountancy from Boise State University.

Cooke has run for the boards of Treasure Valley Community College and the Ontario Public Library and currently serves on the Ontario Diversity Board.

Reporter Max Egener: [email protected] or 503-853-6476. Twitter: @maxegener