Byron Shock. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ONTARIO – Byron Shock says he wants to bring a new vision to Malheur County.

That’s one of the central reasons the longtime Ontario resident decided to run for county commissioner on the Democratic ticket. So far, Shock is unopposed on the Democratic ticket in the May 19 primary election. The last day for candidates to file for the primary was Tuesday.

On the GOP side in the primary, incumbent commissioner Larry Wilson faces challengers Jim Mendiola and Ron Jacobs.

Shock, who works in adult mental health in Ontario, said economic development remains a big challenge for the county.

“It impacts what we do for the homeless, our quality of life, our ability to take care of the land around us,” he said.

Shock envisions several initiatives to help the county. He said he is a big supporter of the $26 million reload center north of Nyssa, just not in its current configuration.

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“I think we have opportunities with what is called the reload center. There is unrealized potential there,” said Shock.

At the reload center, farm products – especially onions – would be trucked in and loaded onto trains for shipment across the country.

Shock said the emphasis of the center should change.

“I’ve talked to growers and producers. One idea that has come up would be the center could be a dry container port. It would be a little bit of a rethink and a slowdown but I’d like to conceptualize it as a container port,” he said.

Shock said the potential for containers is “they could be used by more industries we don’t have in Malheur County.”

Now he said there is the potential for wasted time and money.

“As it currently stands, packers load onions on a truck and ship it to the reload facility. Then the products are loaded at the reload facility and then, at their destination, unloaded. That’s a lot of loading and unloading and there is a cost accrued with all that handling,” said Shock.

 Shock said his political platform rests on transparency, accountability and sustainability.

Shock said good government begins with transparency. That’s why he said he will add to the county’s administration budget to create what he called a “public information library.” He said he would use county contingency funds to create this library and hire a full-time librarian. The position will ensure public information is easily accessible to all residents, he said.

“As it currently stands the county is focusing on providing direct services and has a lean administration budget. I am a fiscal conservative. I believe lean is good. But we’ve made administration too lean and that is affecting transparency,” he said.

Shock pledges to embrace accountability by seeking new ideas, gathering input and creating an open-door policy. He said his cell phone number will be public.

“I will be accountable to the people of Malheur County. Together we are a great team. We have such tremendous resources in the people of Malheur County,” said Shock.

He said the way forward for the county must be an inclusive one. He said he wants to promote a philosophy where residents feel “county government is a participatory process and everyone is welcome on the team.”

He said he wants to hear from constituents and will listen to their ideas.

“No one has a monopoly of good ideas. And I don’t have all the ideas. I want to open up input so the whole county is working as a team,” he said.

Shock said he decided to run for county commissioner because he felt it “was time for a change.”

“There is an opportunity to bring more energy and credibility to the court,” he said.

He said he also wants to implement a plan to create an eastern Oregon hemp development center in Malheur County to help boost economic development.

“We have a massive hemp industry here with a lot of expertise,” he said.

Malheur County is a Republican stronghold but Shock said he doesn’t believe running as a Democrat hampers his chances. Local political problems, he said, usually fall outside partisan politics.

“We are talking about much more tangible problems that don’t really have a party identity. The role of a commissioner is not to represent that commissioner’s political stance but to solve problems at a local level,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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