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Hyde takes gavel as new Columbia County board chair

Position rotates among three county commissioners


by: FILE PHOTO - Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde, new chairman of the Board of County Commissioners. Hyde took over the gavel from Commissioner Henry Heimuller Monday, Jan. 6.Columbia County Commissioner Tony Hyde will be this year’s chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, a position that traditionally rotates among the board’s three members, following a board action Monday, Jan. 6.

Hyde, a former mayor of Vernonia, last served as board chairman in 2011. He is the longest-serving member of the board, having first been elected in 1996.

Last year’s board chairman was Commissioner Henry Heimuller, who is up for reelection this year.

Hyde had little to say Tuesday about taking another turn as the county’s titular leader.

“In Columbia County, we three commissioners are a team,” Hyde said. “The chair doesn’t set priorities. We do it collectively.”

Hyde described himself as an “incurable optimist” in his outlook for 2014. He said the county will continue working on its top priorities of fostering job creation and funding an “adequate” system for public safety.

“We’re really going to be working on that issue,” said Hyde of keeping law enforcement in the county funded.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has reduced staffing to cope with county budget cuts, and Sheriff Jeff Dickerson and Undersheriff Andy Moyer have warned it may have to close the Columbia County Jail due to lack of operating funds as soon as this year. Voters rejected a ballot levy last November that county commissioners proposed to keep the jail funded for four more years.

Hyde, who serves on the board of directors for the Association of O&C Counties — a coalition of Oregon counties that contain federal timberlands — reiterated his desire for a stable revenue stream from Columbia County’s 10,960 acres of federally managed forests. But he suggested that Columbia County, like many other counties in western Oregon, will continue having to make do with less revenue than it used to receive.

“I believe we have to find a new paradigm when it comes to how we operate,” Hyde said.

Hyde will preside over all board meetings for which he is present this year. The board meets regularly at 10 a.m. Wednesdays in the Columbia County Courthouse, as well as at 1 p.m. Wednesdays in the commissioners’ office for staff meetings. Both meetings are open to the public.