ELECTION 2020: County candidates want your vote

Jim Mendiola, candidate for Malheur County commissioner on the GOP ticket. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

Ballots for the May 19 primary election are in the voters’ hands, and this time they need only to decide one local contested race.

On the Republican ballot, Jim Mendiola and Ron Jacobs are challenging incumbent Larry Wilson for Malheur County commissioner position No. 2.

The Republican winner will face Democrat Byron Shock in the general election. He is unopposed in his party’s primary.

We asked the GOP hopefuls about their background and the issues. Here are the responses from Wilson and Mendiola. Jacobs did not respond to our requests for comment.

Work history: Owner of Jim Mendiola Gravel Products since 1988

Civic involvement: involved with the Vale 4th of July Rodeo Board since 1986 and past president of the rodeo board and the Vale Lions Club.


• Installing safer bleachers at the rodeo grounds arena.

“It was important because we had to get it done in a certain time frame and we were able to get everybody together and get stuff going especially in the spring when everybody is busy and has a project that time of year.”

Leadership failure?

Not campaigning enough in Ontario.

“I don’t know anything about (campaigning) and I’m trying to learn on the go.”

“This is my first time trying to get out and do something different. It’s a little nerve wracking.”

“I figured I’m at the age where I might as well jump in and help because 20 years ago I was hoping someone my age would do it. So I guess it’s my turn.”

“There’s a few people who don’t have a clue what the commissioners do.

Priorities for Malheur County:

A. Ensure that the reload center is a doable project and not a “pipe dream.”

“There’s a lot of questions about what’s going on with the reload center and the way they’ve been handling all that and why it’s taken so long. There’s some questions that I had and a lot of people had and we didn’t have any way for anybody to get the answers unless somebody is on the commission. I think that’s about the only way we’re going to get the truth is by being transparent. It’s taxpayer money.”

“There are so many questions about that whole thing and I don’t know why they’re not answering the questions.”

B. Bring more affordable housing into the county, particularly rentals.

“It seems like it’s pretty tough to find rentals here. To buy a house people shouldn’t have to go into major debt.”

C. Bring more and better paying jobs to the area.  

“I’d like to see this gold mine project take off a little bit better. It would be a nice shot in the arm for some housing and some better paying jobs for folks around here.”

“We’ve got some really smart, hard-working people here. It would be really handy to have them stay here instead of going someplace else to find a job.”

Identify three steps to improve, change or adapt the county operations.

“I’d like to be more involved with all of the department heads to make it a little easier for them to voice their opinions than it is right now. I’d just like to give county residents a better bang for their buck on the rail reload center. And make it a little more smooth for the people who work here and the people who live here to be able to talk to the commissioners and the county court.”

Summing up:

“I grew up on a little farm outside of town, we milked cows, and a lot of people here did the same thing. I can relate to a lot of people – ranchers, farmers – from rural areas, Jordan Valley, Juntura. I think I can relate to a lot of people in the county.

“A lot of times change doesn’t hurt anything. A new look on something is going to make a big difference.”

Larry Wilson, candidate for Malheur County commissioner on the GOP ticket. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

Work history: Broker/Owner Malheur Reality, Ontario, since 1986. From 1977 to 1986, worked in mortgage lending and real estate.

Civic involvement: Member of the Ontario Area and Nyssa Chambers of Commerce. Past president of the Nyssa Chamber of Commerce.

Public service: Served as Malheur County Commissioner since January 2013. Currently on the board of directors for the Malheur Memorial Health District in Nyssa. Served approximately 12 years on the county planning commission.


• Played an active role in redefining the operation of the Malheur County Economic Development Department.

“Development was stagnant here for many years so the new approach was to be more proactive and aggressive in answering and recruiting employers to the county. So far this outcome has been much better than in the past.”

• Combining the county and Ontario 911 systems.

“Worked along with a group of county and city officials and our sheriff, Brian Wolfe, to get this accomplished. The outcome has been good for all entities. Saved Ontario quite a bit of money and the county some. Reduced a lot of unnecessary duplications or services and I worked as the liaison for the county.”

• Treasure Valley Reload Facility.

“I have taken the lead from the county court on this project since day one. Along with the help of Cliff Bentz, Lynn Findley and the seven-member Malheur County Development Corp., board we have secured a grant from the state for $26 million. It is still a work in progress but is moving along towards completion.”

Leadership Failure?

“Myself and others over the years have gone before the LCDC (Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission) in attempts to change land use laws that are set up for more local control and decision making.

“So far, we haven’t been very successful but you learn – after being angry, frustrated, confused, etc. – that you just can’t give up. You dust yourself off and try a different approach.”

Priorities for Malheur County:

A. Complete the Treasure Valley Reload project.

“Completion of the Treasure Valley Reload Facility project. Utilizing the $26 million grant. There are many opportunities to attract new business to the county and allow existing businesses to expand there. It will provide jobs and dollars to our tax base.”

B. Continue to work with the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board and Poverty to Prosperity.

“To provide incentives to help our students hone their job skills and education as well as provide incentives to small businesses and residential housing starts. More jobs with family wages, more skilled and educated workforce and new housing starts all should offer strong benefits for Malheur County Residents.”

C. Mental Health issues, addictions and homelessness.

“These issues are intertwined and need the support of the county. These lead to a lot of the problems we now face in the county and our towns. It will take a lot of cooperation and communication between the county, cities, schools, TVCC (Treasure Valley Community College), state and federal agencies to put positive changes in place.”

Identify three steps to improve, change or adapt the county operations.

“We now have three county departments with new directors: Adeline Schaffeld, building department; Erick Evans, planning department and Sarah Poe, county health department. They are all doing very well in their positions. All are relatively young, well-educated and very energetic. I believe we just need to support them as they grow into their positions.”

Summing up:

“I’ve lived in Malheur County all my life except for time serving in the U.S. Navy Seabees and graduating from Oregon State University. My family and I love it here. We own Malheur Reality and an 80-acre farm. We are here to stay. I would like to be re-elected so I can help finish the TVRC (Treasure Valley Reload Center) project. We are an ag-based economy and this is very crucial to the success of our ag community and will provide much-needed jobs for our cities.”

CORRECTION: Ballots are due by Tuesday, May 19. An earlier version incorrectly said ballots were due May 20.


As long as we can, the Malheur Enterprise will provide free access to all stories related to COVID-19. With businesses closed and not advertising, community support for this service is vital. Help one of two ways:

SUBSCRIBE – $5 a month, automatically.

DONATE – to provide additional support. You can also mail a check: Malheur Enterprise, PO Box 310 Vale OR 97918. Donor identities are confidential unless the donor specifies otherwise. Thank you!