Medford Mayor Sparacino seeks seat on county commission
By Damian Mann for the Rogue Valley Times
Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino is running for the Jackson County Commissioner seat now held by Dave Dotterrer of Ashland.
Sparacino, who is in his first term as mayor, has received an endorsement from Dotterrer, who said he will not seek a second term.
Sparacino, a Republican, is the only candidate so far in the primary race for Dotterrer’s seat. The general election for the commissioner race is in November 2024.
“To me it seemed like a great opportunity to continue my public service,” Sparacino said.
Formerly Medford’s police chief, Sparacino said he hopes his 30 years in public service will help achieve goals that will help the county as a whole, including building a jail, a mental health facility and spurring economic development.
“Public safety is always going to be near and dear to my heart,” Sparacino said. “I want to make wherever I live the best place to be.”
He said he has been working with a committee, which includes Dotterrer, Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler and Medford police Chief Justin Ivens, on ways to design a new jail and mental health facility that might bring down the cost for taxpayers.
Voters rejected a 2020 ballot measure to build a $166 million, 800-bed jail on land next to the sheriff’s office on Highway 62. The measure would have created a special jail district that would have also required taxpayers to fund the operating costs of the jail, which over time would dwarf the construction cost.
Sparacino ackowledged that even if a new jail is built, additional money would be needed to pay for ongoing operational costs. He said the county will likely have to appeal to voters at some point, but he said the jail is a necessary step in an overall plan to deal more effectively with crime in Jackson County.
“I believe it’s a cog in the machine of making our county safe,” he said.
Sparacino also wants to find ways to improve the local economy by attracting new businesses.
“I believe a vibrant and robust economy is a necessary thing,” he said.
Sparacino said he hasn’t decided whether he’s for or against an effort to increase the number of commissioners from three to five.
“It’s too early for me to weigh in,” he said. “On first blush, I’m one who believes less is more.”
Medford City Council has eight councilors and a mayor. Sparacino said the Medford council previously looked at reducing the number of councilors but abandoned the idea.
Both the mayor and councilor positions are unpaid.
Commissioners Rick Dyer and Colleen Roberts currently earn over $136,000 a year, while Dotterer earns nearly $118,000.
Jackson County for All of Us, the group backing the signature-gathering campaign to put the effort on the ballot, wants to spread existing commissioner salaries among the five commissioners, which would reduce existing commissioner salaries.
Sparacino said he didn’t necessarily think the idea of reducing commissioners’ salaries would achieve a serious reduction in county expenses. Commissioners also receive other benefits, including a retirement plan, and additional staffing would be needed to support a five-commissioner board, he said.
Dotterrer said he’s told many friends and acquaintances that he wasn’t going to run for a second term.
“It’s no secret,” he said.
Dotterrer said he’s looking forward to pursuing other interests, including the Ashland Gun and Archery Club, the Ashland Family YMCA board, and helping Logos Public Charter School in its expansion efforts.
He said there are many exciting developments with each of those organizations that will be announced over the coming months.
While he enjoyed working with the county, Dotterrer said, “I decided that I have other things I would like to do in my life.”
He said the county is well run and on a sound financial footing.
“I’m very proud of the fact that the three commissioners work together as a team,” he said.