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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Hard Working and Effective, Ken Humberston, Should Be Re-elected

 By Peter Toll

County commissioners have one of the most difficult elected positions in Oregon. They are rarely seen or heard. When one rises above typical business-as-usual levels, they deserve acknowledgement as true servants of the people.


Ken Humberston is such a person. He is one of the best county commissioners in Oregon and has distinguished himself in several ways. Humberston should be re-elected Clackamas Commissioner for several reasons. 


Commissioners are responsible for a wide range of public services, most of which are little known. Some programs are state-funded, but many are not. County road building and maintenance are crucial. Many of the hundreds of miles of county roads are crumbling, often leading to more expensive replacement. 

We got into this fix due to the narrow-thinking “no new taxes” crowd who ran the county until a new, more conscientious team gained office.  Enough is enough, the new board said. We’re not getting piles of money from the fed or from the state to fix our roads; we must do it ourselves. Our roads are the arteries of commerce and eventful everyday life.


Humberston was a quiet leader in this moment of meaningful public service. This year commissioners adopted a $30 per year fee to be tacked onto vehicles in the county at registration time. Those who use the roads, the argument goes, should pay for them.


This was necessary as our county is $300 million behind in badly needed maintenance costs. The longer we wait, that number increases as roads get beyond repair and must be replaced. Humberston grabs the bull by the horns when tough decisions need to be made.  


“This must be done” if we are to live up to our oath of service, he said. “We cannot shirk our responsibility to make our community better, to keep taxes reasonably low and help everyone county-wide,” he would explain in 14 subsequent community meetings. That tax is the only one commissioners raised in three years.


Humberston feels strongly that “our roads are our biggest capital improvement.” Today there are 25 added maintenance and improvement projects under way. Some of that money collected by the counties goes to local cities, where local leaders decide how to best use the funds in their own hometowns.


Where we do not see Humberston may count even more. Day after day he is at numerous county food banks and distribution sites helping the less fortunate. No headlines, no hoopla; just stepping up as a neighbor, as a citizen. 


A former US Marine, he leads the county’s successful efforts at creating housing for homeless veterans. He is also on the County Fair board and numerous other unsung posts of service.


For Clackamas County to keep moving forward, it needs Ken Humberston in office. He is a quiet fighter who is there when you need him. And we need him now more than ever.


Peter Toll is a 31-year resident, participant and observer of civic activities in Clackamas County.  He lives in Lake Oswego.