Business & economy

Seat open on local board to help Malheur County’s economy

Shawna Peterson, left, is executive director of the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board. (Enterprise/File)

The Malheur County Court is seeking candidates to fill Ralph Poole’s seat on the Eastern Oregon Border Economic Development Board.

The board, created in 2017, focuses on economic development in the border region of Malheur County along the Idaho border. Most recently the board won approval of Senate Bill 16, which allows for the construction of houses on low-grade farmland in Malheur County.

Poole submitted his letter of resignation to Governor Kate Brown on May 24, and he and his brother Ken recently retired and sold their Ontario business, Campo and Poole Distributing.

“I decided I needed to go fishing, to go hiking in the hills and spend some more time with my family,” Poole said. “I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the board, even with some of the frustrations caused by the state. All the people on the board are dedicated to making eastern Oregon a better place.”

He expressed some of those frustrations in his resignation letter, excerpts of which were read aloud on the floor of the Oregon House by House Speaker Tina Kotek.

“I told the governor I was disappointed in the partisanship, and the way the eastern side of the state wasn’t being heard,” Poole said. “I was tired of seeing my friends move to Idaho because they felt Idaho was a better place to live or retire.”

Poole said that he hopes his replacement will come from the business sector, but added that the board is already in good hands with Shawna Peterson, now its executive director, and Tiffany Cruickshank, board chair. Others on the board include Stuart Reitz, Dana Young, Roberto Gamboa, Bill Johnson, Priscilla Valero and Melisa Drugge.

The county is seeking candidates with a knowledge of the region, integrity, independent business judgment and demonstrated commitment to the community, according to its press release.

“We’re looking for a wide pool of candidates of interested parties,” said Cruickshank.

She encouraged potential candidates to prepare by visiting the Oregon Community Foundation website,, and read through the minutes of recent board meetings. 

She said the new hire will be joining plans reframed and delayed by the Covid pandemic.

“The first three years of our board was a lot of planning, preparation and listening,” Cruickshank said. “I think one of the first things they would potentially be involved with is reviewing those projects.”

Candidates can submit a letter of interest to Kim Ross at the Malheur County Court at [email protected]. The Court will review submissions and send a list of recommendations to the governor, who has the final say in the appointment.

News tip? Contact reporter Abbey McDonald at [email protected]


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