Barring a strong write-in campaign to the contrary, Dan DeBoie of Joseph will replace Darrell McFetridge as a county commissioner on Jan. 1, 2003. DeBoie out polled McFetridge and Ken Wick in the Republican primary last May and, with no Democratic names listed on the ballot, won the Democratic primary via write-ins as well. The latter fact precludes the Democrats from putting someone on the general election ballot in November.
DeBoie, a very large man who says he is in good health, is a 52-year-old native of Wallowa County. Like many residents he left the county for several years, then came back to settle locally on property resting both inside and outside the city limits of Joseph.
He says his interests in county government are in the fields of economic development and computer upgrades, but will not know how his talents will mesh with those of commissioners Mike Hayward and Ben Boswell until they get together to discuss such issues, probably between the Nov. 5 general election and Jan. 1, 2003.
A 1968 graduate of Joseph High School and 1974 graduate of Oregon State University in animal science, DeBoie has volunteered seven years to Little League baseball and t-ball, and is a member of the Joseph School Board. He has also volunteered many hours serving on the budget committees of the Joseph school system, Wallowa County Education Service District and the Wallowa County Health Care District.
Part of his platform to become a county commissioner is to improve the economic climate of Wallowa County. He says that economic woes are directly impacting the schools through a loss of student enrollment. He says also that the demographic change toward a more elderly population is placing additional demand on the available resources at the county's hospital. Older people are more likely to be on Medicare, and Medicare only reimburses a percentage of the billed costs, he says.
"We need to make sure Wallowa County is open for business," says DeBoie.
Making an inventory of available industrial sites is an obvious first step that has been partially addressed in past studies, but not acted upon. "There is very little industrial land available and ready to go," he says.
DeBoie has already huddled with Oregon Rep. Greg Smith and is excited about tapping into Smith's expertise in the area of economic development. Smith is on the November ballot as a second term representative for a reconstituted district that now includes Wallowa County. One Smith idea that has worked in other Oregon communities such as in Grant County, says DeBoie, is to determine just what type of industry the county wants, then hiring a specialist to attract such an industry to the specific community. The specialist is not paid unless the recruitment is successful.
An example shared by DeBoie for Grant County is a new business that employs six people making quality bow & arrow strings.
Locally, DeBoie is a big fan of Myron Kirkpatrick and the Wallowa County Business Facilitation program.
From 1974 to 1977 the animal science major worked for a cattle investment company in Idaho and as a ranch manager in Montana. From 1977 to 1986 he returned to the Joseph area to farm and ranch. He then went to Portland to work on a Masters degree that he has yet to finish.
Five years ago tragedy struck home when DeBoie's wife Mary was killed in a freak tubing accident at Ferguson Ridge. From that marriage he has two children: Jacob, age 13, and Caleb, 11. In 1999, thanks to an Internet connection, he remarried a woman from North Carolina named Elizabeth, a widow from the Gulf War who brought into the marriage two children of her own, Nicole (22) and Joe (19).
Since returning to the county to stay DeBoie has been involved in farming, ranching and working with family real estate matters. Land for the Joseph High School baseball field was donated from the family estate's in the name of grandparents Roy and Emily Daggett.
Because DeBoie has leased out much of the family property and is no longer farming he anticipates having ample time to dedicate to the county commissioner position.
"I have known Mike (Hayward) and Ben (Boswell) for a lot of years and am looking forward to working with them," said DeBoie. "They both have a heart for Wallowa County and a lot of energy. There are enough issues to keep us going."