Traveling way of life for WC commissioners

Dan DeBoie

The life of a Wallowa County commissioner includes a lot of hours and a lot of travel. One day trips to Salem and back are certainly not out of the norm for the three commissioners: Chairman Mike Hayward, Ben Boswell and Dan DeBoie.

At present Hayward fills a full time position, Boswell a two-thirds time position and DeBoie, who assumed the role of county commissioner Jan. 1, a half time post. DeBoie, as part of the budgetary process, is scheduled to expand his role to two-thirds time on July 1.

All three work more hours than they are paid for. And they travel more than the public generally knows.

Boswell, for one, often combines church and Grange business with his trips for the county. When he does he generally drives his own automobile and, whenever possible, stays with a son or daughter in the Portland area. But the miles pile up.

Take a recent weekend. On Friday, April 11, Boswell was scheduled to be in Salem for an Oregon Department of Human Services leadership meeting where he represents 18 eastern Oregon counties. He planned to go down Thursday night and stay with a daughter, then drive home after the meeting Friday. On Sunday afternoon Boswell planned to again drive to Portland, stay with a daughter at no expense to the county, and be in Salem at 10 a.m. Monday morning for an Oregon Association of Counties board of directors meeting. He is then set to stay in the Willamette Valley to do some county lobbying and Methodist church business until Wednesday morning when he was scheduled to meet with Governor Ted Kulongoski on business for the State Grange association. At 9 a.m. on Thursday Boswell will be back in his seat in Enterprise for a budget committee meeting.

"Driving is not my favorite thing to do," said Boswell, "But traveling is part of the job."

He says that he may have to do a considerable amount of distance driving over a short period of time, then have concerted blocks of time when he does not have to hit the road. He said, leading into the trip to Salem, that he had basically not had to travel over the previous three weeks.

He did spend an exhaustive week of lobbying in Washington, D.C., the first weekend in March.

While traveling commissioners are granted $7.50 for breakfast and noontime meals and $15 for dinners. Lodging receipts are reimbursed and mileage depends on whether or not the commissioner takes his own auto. If he does take his own car mileage is reimbursed at 30 cents per mile one way. Gas receipts are reimbursed if the commissioner takes a county vehicle.

Hayward takes fewer trips to Salem each month, but still puts on the miles. He regularly drives to an AOC meeting in Salem once each month and makes a myriad of other trips to Walla Walla, Wash., John Day, Elgin, La Grande, Pendleton and Baker City. His Walla Walla trip is for the Pacific Power/Pacific Corps. advisory committee of which he is a member. Other trips take the commissioner to meet with a four-county Pre-Disaster Mitigation group, the Hells Canyon Subgroup to the John Day/Snake River Resource Advisory Council, Tri-County Weed Management Council, Northeast Oregon Housing Authority, Eastern Oregon Rural Alliance, the Wallowa-Union Railroad Authority and the Grande Ronde Model Watershed.

The commissioners often travel separately because any two of them together can be construed as a quorum. DeBoie says that they can get together to share information, but cannot deliberate or make any decisions.

DeBoie says his travel was extensive when he first stepped into the role of county commissioner but has leveled off since mid-February.

He has spent four nights on the road in the past 3 1/2 months, including a three-day stint in Salem when he attended Rural Oregon Day at the state legislature and two days of workshops on the Resource Assistance for Rural Economics (RARE) program.

He feels that most of the meetings he attends are worthwhile. He regularly gathers new information and does a lot of personal networking which, he hopes, will benefit Wallowa County in the future.

A rough breakdown on which meetings the three commissioners attend are human services for Boswell, natural resources for Hayward and economic development for DeBoie.

DeBoie has been to the same cities as Hayward over the last 3 1/2 months, but often for different meetings. One additional destination the Joseph commissioner has commuted to has been Boardman where he attended the Eastern Oregon Telecommunications Consortium. Other meetings he has attended include the Board of Property Tax Appeals, Northeast Oregon Alliance and the Community Connection board.

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