Voters will be given a clear choice when they cast their ballots for Wallowa County commissioner at this November 2 election.
Marc Stauffer, unaffiliated candidate, Enterprise resident and furniture refinishing business owner, promotes small business, supports effective management of wolves in the county and believes that a commissioner should have the flexibility to represent all the people rather than adhering to a strict political party association.
His opponent, Republican Paul Castilleja, a gas station owner and farmer from Joseph describes himself as "wholeheartedly conservative," supports the local agriculture industry as his top economic priority and looks to eradicate wolves from the county.
"Most importantly, we need to protect and help the agriculture industry," said Castilleja warning of future state and federal legislation that could further restrict those producing from the land. Castilleja blames much of the economic hardship in the farm and timber lands on the environmental movement.
"Wallowa County has been under stress for a long time, ever since the environmentalists took away the timber industry 30 years ago. We need to pursue them and show them the devastation they've caused to the economy and the timber outlook," he said.
When talking local economics, Stauffer places economic focus on small business, recognizing the primary roles of tourism, the agriculture industry and the importance of the locally grown entrepreneur in the county. He vows to assist and advocate on the part of the local business community and to help provide the tools for businesses to grow and expand.
"The most important part of the local economy is small business, in manufacturing, retail and service. The natural resources and agriculture industry is one of the strong legs of our economy and we need to invest in them. As such, I'd advocate for more local control and help federal and state legislators recognize that one size doesn't fit all and to take into account the rural communities of Wallowa County," stated Stauffer.
He has served as the small business director for the Chamber of Commerce and on the board of the Wallowa County Business Facilitation helping provide a free program to help people starting businesses.
On the subject of the arrival of the wolf on the northeast Oregon landscape, Stauffer voices support for the Wallowa County Stock Growers Association's efforts to adjust ODFW's wolf plan.
"It is very important that local cattlemen have the ability to protect their property, and that there is some form of compensation whether tax payer driven or through an organization for just compensation for depredation," he said.
He looks to bring about mutual agreement between local livestock producers and those working toward sustainable wolf populations in this region. "I know that's not going to be easy, but it can be done," believes Stauffer.
Castilleja views the wolf in Wallowa County as one of the biggest threats to the agriculture industry and blames their local residency on the whims of the political attitude from those in western Oregon.
"This is one of the questions we need to be addressing. I honestly don't believe that we needed the wolf. People can co-mingle with wolves, but not livestock. If elected I'll pursue every means and effort to eradicate the wolves," vowed Castilleja.
Water users in the western United States are facing the possibility of further restriction from the Clean Water Act and other current federal legislation under consideration that places water management more into state and federal control and further away from the control of the local people.
"I'm concerned about issues that are surfacing about water and federal legislation, and especially the state teaming up with the federal government to take control of water," said Castilleja.
"As a commissioner, it would be my responsibility to pursue legislation that places water resources under local control. The local people have done a great job with the water resources we have, and we can continue without the federal government controlling the water, the land and the air."
When speaking about water resources and the threat to local control, Stauffer points out the importance of a county commissioner being the watchdog for the community and advocating for the local people.
"It's important to be knowledgeable on the subject and to establish good working relationships at the state and federal level both with legislators and agencies and to be in good communication with them so they understand the rural point of view," he said.
Stauffer mentioned concerns due to recent federal agency and judicial decisions that threaten private property rights and impact access to forest roads.
"It's important to research the issue thoroughly to understand why and how they've come to these decisions. And then hopefully to be a part of the process and to advocate for the rural viewpoint," added Stauffer.
On the local waterfront, Stauffer voices support for the Wallowa Lake dam improvements, the coalition that helped facilitate the project and stressed the benefits the improvements will provide to Wallowa County agriculture.
One of the main reasons Stauffer has filed to run as an unaffiliated candidate is to be able to remain flexible and not to be tied to the platform of any one particular political party. "As a commissioner, it's my responsibility and duty to represent all the people and to have the flexibility to do that," states Stauffer.
Castilleja explained his political affiliation and core beliefs, "as a Republican, I've seen things happen that have made America weak, where right is wrong and wrong is right. We need to go back to our founding fathers and the Constitution."