By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
March 22, 2006
Hood River County Commission Chair Rodger Schock resigned on Monday night after apologizing to citizens for causing an “absolute breakdown in trust.”
“I wanted to tell you, if you believe anything that I have to say anymore, that the reason we’re all in this room tonight is me,” he said. “I think most of you (despite political differences) saw me as a person you could trust. I violated that and it hurts deep.”
About 50 people crowded into the county board meeting room on March 20. Most had come to demand that both Schock and District 2 Commissioner Maui Meyer resign from their elected seats.
These residents were “outraged” that Shock had withdrawn his filing for a third term in office just 45 minutes before the March 7 deadline. And Meyer, who had accompanied him to the elections office, immediately filed for the lead role.
That move led Ron Rivers, a Jordan Road orchardist, to launch a write-in campaign. He believed voter choice had been taken away since at least one other potential candidate — who had expressed interest to both Schock and Meyer — was not also alerted about the chance in circumstances.
Rivers now faces off in the May 16 primary election with Meyer and resident Paul Nevin, who also filed for candidacy.
“I think we all know there was nothing done illegally; we followed the rules. But there was an appearance of impropriety,” said Shock.
He explained that health concerns and time constraints had finally led him to decide that it would not be wise to run again. And he had “begged” Meyer to sign on for the position — without foreseeing the consequences of their methodology.
Before turning his gavel over to Vice Chair Chuck Thomsen, Schock urged citizens to heal any political division caused by his action.
“It’s critically important that all of us, as we go from this room, realize we are all part of one county,” he said.
As Schock stood to leave, the crowd rose uniformly, including Rivers, to give him a standing ovation.
District 3 Commissioner Thomsen was elected by the three remaining board members to serve as chair through the end of 2006, when Schock’s term would have ended. The county will now advertise for qualified electors within that district who are interested in filling Thomsen’s seat for the next nine months. Applicants will be interviewed at the April 17 commission meeting.
The county has a district map that delineates the boundaries of District 3 that is available for public viewing in the third-floor administration office, 601 State St.
Meyer declined to step down as requested by several public speakers. He said it was too late to withdraw his name from the ballot so that he could join Rivers in a write-in campaign. But he pledged to “stand still” and not actively campaign so that Rivers could garner enough votes in May to have his name also listed on the November ballot.
“People much wiser than I can ever be have always told me not to do something with the intent to harm people. Unfortunately, even though that was not my intent, people were hurt and I apologize,” said Meyer.
“You guys are right, having that choice matters and I want Ron Rivers in this race,” he added.
Thomsen waited until Schock had departed before airing his concerns about the situation to the assemblage.
“He was a pretty big man to be here. The thing that hurt me most was the trust issue. It’s not just you that has to trust, we have to trust our fellow commissioners,” he said.
“What you don’t want to see is collusion. Maybe if they would have talked to me first I could have told them what a stupid idea this was and none of this would have happened,” he continued.
On Tuesday morning, District 1 Commissioner Carol York also gave a statement. Although more toned down, it also expressed disagreement with the choices made by Schock and Meyer.
“A county commission seat is a serious responsibility, and we hold the trust of the people of the county. We have an obligation to do what’s most fair for the citizens of Hood River County, and not what’s best for our own personal interests,” she said.