Jackson County was established in 1852, when it included what are currently Josephine and Curry counties. When the first officials, including three commissioners, were appointed in 1853, the population was fewer than 4,000. We still have the same number of commissioners today although the county has grown to well over 200,000 residents, more than a 50-fold increase. The current population is not only far greater, but far more diverse, a feature not reflected in the composition of the commission.
Given the current partisan nature of the election of commissioners, nonaligned voters (often incorrectly identified in Oregon as independent) have no input into whom the candidates will be since that is determined during the May elections, when registered Democrats and Republicans select their party nominees. In contrast, nonpartisan races are determined in those May elections, as all registered voters may participate.
The current salary of Jackson County commissioners is more than $140,000 a year while that of the governor is $93,600. This seems unreasonable. By dividing the combined salary of the commissioners by 5 instead of 3, bringing it more in line with other Oregon counties, an increase in commission members would not result in increased cost to the county treasury.
For these reasons, Jackson County for All of Us is seeking signatures to place three initiatives on the 2024 county ballot:
1. Jackson County commissioners to be nonpartisan
2. Increase the number of commissioners
3. Decrease the salaries of county commissioners
Residents interested in supporting this effort should visit Jackson County for All of Us, www.jacksoncountyforall.org.