Q: What makes you qualified for this position and why are you running?
A: I have a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and a bachelor's degree in Social Science, but I was not a traditional student. I didn’t start college at 18 or 21; instead, I was raising my first child. During my studies, I enlisted in the military, putting my education and career on hold to serve my country. I’m sharing this with you because I want you to know that I have lived experience of the challenges faced by working students and parents today.
I am a conflict resolution expert and I know this type of expertise is sorely needed in county leadership. As far as fair and collaborative government goes, we have lost our way. It’s not just the lack of professionalism that I find unacceptable, but the devastating loss of excellent employees as a result of our current commissions inability to protect them. We deserve better.
I run a Veterans nonprofit and work locally as a public law librarian, providing our community with access to justice, regardless of ability to pay. If I learned anything during my time serving as a medic, it’s how to serve the most people with the fewest resources. I am qualified, highly motivated, and ready to work tirelessly for all of you.
Q: If elected, what will be your top 3 priorities?
A: My top three priorities are accountability, livability, and our youth.
One of the best parts of living in a small community is the ability to know your neighbors, be involved in your community, and participate in local government in a way that might not be possible in a larger metropolitan area. I believe that access to public meetings and our elected officials must not only be protected, but greatly expanded upon. Columbia County is wonderfully diverse, and successful leaders include everyone in their plans; that is why I am going to rotate our weekly commissioner board meetings to ensure that every single person has the chance to be heard in their own town. I also commit to making my work calendar a public document, easily accessible by anyone, anytime, so you know exactly where I am, what I am working on, and how I am fighting for you. This is transparency in action.
Livability is much more than just access to utilities and infrastructure; it is about our quality of life. I care about your capacity for homeownership or ability to find an affordable rental that doesn’t cost a disproportionate amount of your take home pay. I am concerned about the long commutes that many of us make in order to find work in our chosen fields; I believe people should be able to live where they work. In order for Columbia County to be an attractive place for more employers (who pay a living wage and provide benefits), we must invest in our schools, our towns, our local farms, and the arts. We must prioritize protecting and maintaining our land and river so that it may benefit generations to come and continue to support growth.
Lastly, I believe our most vital and precious natural resource is our youth. Today's children are tomorrow's leaders and we owe it to them to invest in their future. As a parent to three school aged kids, I know what a struggle it is to find resources to support working families and children. I will work hard to ensure that every child has access to quality childcare and preschool. I will continue to push for the creation of a youth drop-in center so that our young adults have a safe place to spend their time, get peer support, and work on vital life skills, like making and keeping friends. By prioritizing our youth today, we guarantee a future for our county tomorrow.
Q: What is your vision for Columbia County?
A: I envision Columbia County as a diverse array of thriving communities. We will have a robust farming community that provides our towns with locally sourced foods. Our downtowns are brimming with restaurants, independent coffee shops, storefronts, including artists and florists, and even a few breweries. Our river will attract visitors from all over the country who kayak, fish, and kitesurf, and infuse our economy with their spending. My vision is for us to thrive economically without sacrificing our identity.
Under my leadership, Columbia County is a safe and inclusive place for all. With input from community-led discussion, we can create a strategic plan to accommodate our expanding community needs without cutting services or leaving anyone out. I believe in a Columbia County where we have it all: economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, accountable leaders, and a transparent government. My vision for our future is that we are led by people who really care, not by politicians with deep pockets and a few good connections. The most important thing I can do as commissioner to support this vision is to do my job and do it well. Focusing on the health and welfare of my community is always the correct answer.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
Author: Sergeant First Class Eddie Black
"I remember watching the movie Captain America for the first time. It was hilarious seeing the scrawny Steve Rogers try to keep up with the soldiers around him. They were bigger and faster. Yet Rogers had deep reserves of something that the others had only portions of; heart.
For over twenty years I’ve given sweat and blood and time to the military. I joined the US Marines in 1989. After 9-11 I joined the Oregon Army National Guard and dropped out of college so that I could deploy to Iraq. For ten years I was assigned as an infantry instructor, teaching young soldiers the basic skills to be qualified as infantry. Now ask yourself, what are those skills? In the infantry we distill this down to simply ‘shoot, move, and communicate’. Yet you are sorely mistaken if you think that this is the basics of infantry. In the world of organizational psychology, these are called ‘hard skills’ and you see this on any job posting. Items such as ‘be able to lift fifty pounds’ or ‘type 60 words per minute’ or ‘show proficiency with desktop publishing programs’ or the like. We seem to want to hire based on how many hard skills we have. And if one were keeping up with organizational psychology, they’d see that there has been much attention over the past couple of decades in moving beyond this. Why? Because hard skills do not predict job performance or organizational fit. This should come as no shock to anyone that’s worked with someone who possessed all of the requisite skills, but showed little initiative or trustworthiness. During my ten years of training infantry soldiers, one of the hardest soft skills to seek out and train for was heart. You can’t just ask for a show of hands who has it. You have to put people into gut-wrenching chaos and see who quits and who continues. Twelve mile ruck marches with 90 pounds and a time hack serve a double purpose; physical training and building ‘intestinal fortitude’. I’ve seen soldiers quit and whine before they pass their first mile of a ruck. I’ve also seen soldiers fall down, HARD, multiple times while struggling with a busted knee trying to pass a ruck. Which soldier do you want by your side if you were tasked to assault Omaha Beach? The importance of heart, or what psychology today calls ‘grit’, cannot be overstated. It is the central characteristic of the infantry soldier. The Army puts on a contest every year called ‘Best Warrior’ and each unit submits a lower enlisted and an NCO to compete. The winners then go to regionals, and then to national competition, where at the end of the year a soldier and an NCO is crowned Best Warrior in the Army. It is grueling. For years I volunteered as a judge over an event for the Oregon Army National Guard’s yearly competition, held over a weekend on the coast. During the weekend, soldiers are kept up with little sleep, and compete in a variety of areas, pushing themselves to exhaustion. During these years I’ve seen a great difference in the level of grit displayed by various soldiers. One lane had a .50 cal shooting loudly, creating audible chaos, and the soldier was to merely assess a casualty and quickly move on to the next lane. This is a simple lane that could be expected on any battlefield. Yet the lack of sleep over three days, the time pressure of the event, the noise, the uncertainty what is next, the weariness of the soldier’s body, the poor nutrition of the weekend, all take a toll on the soldier. All they have to run off of is grit. I remember distinctly the great disgust that I felt at an NCO, a Sergeant of soldiers, who approached this very lane, looked at the difficulty ahead of him, and said he would take the dock in points. He was out of steam. Again, let me state the supreme importance of grit for the soldier, for without it you are left with something indistinguishable from a coward, for both will not act when action is needed. In combat it doesn’t matter what you want to do, it matters what you do. Period.
It was during this weekend of Best Warrior training that I met Brandee Dudzic. I observed her tenacity at every event she participated in. It did not matter that the 240 pound sled pull was much heavier proportionately for her than the 6 foot 2 soldier that just did this very lane. Combat doesn’t make excuses for body size, age, or gender. You either do it or you don’t. Brandee never once backed down from a challenge, often made more difficult by her size. She, like Steve Rogers, simply wouldn’t hesitate in getting back into the fight. I saw her lean into every challenge, every weight, every grueling test, and never once saw pity for herself, or ‘woe is me’, or ‘why should I have to lift the same amount as a guy twice my size’. I simply saw heart. I saw Steve Rogers. Given the choice of soldier to accompany me into combat, I would take Brandee in a heartbeat over ten soldiers like the larger and stronger NCO that gave up on the casualty treatment lane. When the Best Warrior weekend was over, I walked up to Brandee and gave her my card. I told her that I was greatly impressed by her tenacity and heart and wanted to be friends. I saw in her a rising star and if I could be of service in her advancement in the military, I wouldn’t hesitate to assist. People will talk a big game, men especially. It’s part of our culture to ‘talk trash’. Rarely does someone have to put up or shut up. Over the years I’ve become friends with Brandee and watched her tackle more challenges, one of which is the accomplishment of a post graduate degree as working mother (while also working in one of the most challenging fields out there). That she is running for office of no surprise to me. She’s the type of person that sees a problem and goes after a solution. Leaders don’t wait for someone else to handle it, but step up themselves. I could not be more proud of Brandee Dudzic as a former soldier, or a friend."
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” -MLK Jr.
It’s been exactly 57 years since Rev. Martin Luther King gave his historic “I have a dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. In an era without today’s social media megaphone to promote the event, more than a quarter of a million Americans were in attendance that day. It was sheer conviction and urgent desire for change that drew people from all over the country to Washington D.C. for that historic moment in 1963.
Today, Aug. 28th, 2020, a “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” March is taking place, in Washington D.C. and across the country. The disproportionate killing of Black people in the United States must end. When I was in graduate school, earning my master’s degree in Conflict Resolution, I took several courses on genocide. One course that will stay with me forever was the study of the Rwandan Civil War in 1990 and the truth and reconciliation commission that began nearly a decade later in order for Rwanda to heal. A truth commission is a government's way of owning up to its human rights violations, systemic abuse, racism, and any other serious abuses that have occurred. The commission’s objective is to identify the causes and consequences of the harm and provide a clear path to ensure it is never repeated. I believe the United States of America needs to hold a truth and reconciliation commission over the enslavement and disproportionate killing of Black people. The fight for racial equality and justice matters now more than ever. We need criminal justice reform now. We need police accountability now. To be clear, I am not a police abolitionist. There will always be crime that necessitates the use of trained police officers and I am grateful to the folks everyday who respond to those calls. However, responding to homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health crises requires a different skill set. Police are not social workers and they cannot replace the sorely needed investments in our community. We need to put our community first and we need leaders who are ready to meet this moment head on.
Friends! We made it to the general election and I want to thank each and every one of you for believing in me and SHOWING UP in all the many ways you have. I really don't know how to thank you all enough.
My fundraising strategy moving into the general election is to collect as many small, recurring monthly donations as possible from individual people to demonstrate our collective people power. You already know that I don't accept corporate dollars, timber dollars, or money from the fossil fuel industry. Small donations from real people is what I stand for.
Will you please invest in me and the systemic shift I am fighting for by logging on to ActBlue and becoming a monthly, recurring donor? The target monthly donation is $25, but please choose an amount that best reflects your individual situation. Some of us are really hurting right now due to layoffs and furloughs; I know. :( I would much rather have someone making a monthly $2 donation than not doing it at all--I can't emphasize that enough. Even the smallest donations help galvanize! (Or, if you can give more to cover the difference for someone else, that is great too!)
In order to meet my goal to be a competitive candidate, I need to secure recurring, monthly donations from 164 individuals in the amount of $25. It's a lofty goal, but I know we can do this together. Will you log into my ActBlue account today and sign up for a recurring, monthly donation? If you do not want to use ActBlue, please feel free to reach out and we will find whatever avenue works best for you. ActBlue makes it easy to sign up for recurring, monthly donations. Thank you so much for investing in me and sharing my values by respecting and prioritizing human dignity, investing in our youth, and protecting our environment. We can disrupt the status quo by standing together.
A few folks are upset with the fact that in early 2019, I flipped the bird to the GEO Group sign and used the hashtag “#fuckice, so let’s talk about it?
Last year, I visited my brother-in-arms Jose Segovia-Benitez three times in ICE Custody. Jose is a United States Marine Corps Veteran who served two combat tours and ultimately suffered a traumatic brain injury due to an IED blast in Iraq. Jose has also been diagnosed with severe PTSD. I worked tirelessly to keep Jose from being deported to El Salvador, a country he left with his mother when he was just 3 years old. I worked closely with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D-CA) office, but they did not act in time. Last fall, I even flew to El Salvador for the purpose of getting Jose settled into a safe place since he is in great danger as a U.S. Veteran in El Salvador.
Currently, the United States has deported more than 3,000 U.S. Veterans. It is predatory recruiting promise to offer citizenship for service—rarely does that process work the way it is supposed to. You can read more about that on my website. The U.S. Military has no business making promises about citizenship to recruits, since they are not the governing body over naturalization in the first place.
Jose suffered greatly in ICE custody for those two years. They refused to allow the VA to enter to treat him. In fact, Jose was downright tortured in ICE custody due to extreme neglect. If you are not horrified by this kind of treatment to a disabled combat veteran, then we have a different value system.
I am also disgusted by the family separations at our border. The primary purpose of detaining children in ICE detention centers was to act as a deterrent to keep people from coming to the U.S. to seek asylum, which is a lawful process here in the U.S. To me, when someone comes up with the idea of snatching a child out of its mother's arms, you need to go back to the drawing board. That is not what the U.S. stands for.
I watched Jose suffer for too long. If you saw what I saw inside that facility, you would be outraged too. Deporting U.S. Veterans is the most unpatriotic thing I have ever heard of. It’s immoral.
Here is what I believe:
Brandee Dudzic, Candidate for Columbia County Commissioner, Position 1
The following is a questionnaire presented to me by the Columbia County Republican Party. As always, I appreciate your feedback. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me at 503-928-2151 to schedule a phone call.
Columbia County Republicans 2020 Primary County Commissioner Questionnaire
Candidate Name: Brandee Dudzic
Candidate Email: email@example.com
1. Port Westward Rezone - What is your position on the Port of Columbia County's application to rezone unused agricultural land in Port Westward?
A message that I have asserted in my campaign is that a good Commissioner doesn’t just make decisions for today; they make them with the next 3 generations in mind too.
If governmental agencies across the country continue to allow industry to take over our precious, limited farmland, our future ability to feed ourselves will change in permanent ways. I cannot, in good conscious, support this rezone and still be able to look myself in the mirror, believing that I am a good steward of this land. Once this land is rezoned, it is gone forever, and it cannot be reversed. I will not sell Columbia County out to enrich a corporation.
Covid-19 is a jolting reminder that our food supply chain can unravel very quickly, especially if due to a natural disaster where our road systems could be rendered totally unusable. We must preserve the ability to feed ourselves. It is too big of a risk not to and that is not a political position.
“Only when the last tree has died, and the last river been poisoned, and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” -Cree Indian Prophesy
2. Use of County funds - List three areas that you believe the County could make fiscal improvements?
One of the most important actions we could take to save tax-payer dollars is to adopt an energy plan similar to the one that Hood River County has. Hood River County has recognized that by being forward-thinking in terms of energy usage at the county level, they can save taxpayers nearly $9 million dollars every ten years. (Lake County, Oregon, has done this too.) County Commissioners have a responsibility to look at our energy use with an eye towards weeding out waste and inefficiency. An added bonus of this endeavor is local job creation; someone has to make these updates, and I commit to hiring local contractors to keep dollars in our own community, not to mention the benefits of creating a resilient community while reducing our carbon emissions.
According to the Fiscal Sustainability Report, there are no other areas of trimming waste—only methods of generating more revenue. In order to know if more things could be streamlined or consolidated down further, we must first conduct a full analysis of how other counties similar to ours in size and population operate fiscally and compare that to what we are doing. I think this is a sound idea either way.
3. County Administrator - Some people have called for hiring a County Administrator and then having volunteer or lower paid Commissioners. Are you for or against this idea and why?
Yes, I am supportive of hiring a County Administrator. I am not in favor of having volunteer Commissioners; however, I would be supportive of lowering the Commissioners salaries if that would be a sustainable way for us to fund an administrator salary. I value the investment I have made in my education and all the other skills and talents I bring to the table and while I wish to be compensated accordingly, I also would emphasize those of us called to public service typically have a pretty clear understanding that we will not be earning what we would be if we had chosen the private sector instead.
As elected officials, we come to the table with our own unique subject matter expertise. Mine is conflict management and community-based education, just to name a few. We are also elected by a body of our peers, and not necessarily upon competence. Having a county administrator is an added layer of accountability to the commissioners and department heads. Having our department heads report directly to commissioners is unwise and was complained about in great detail in the county employee survey last year.
4. Second Amendment - There will be a local measure on the fall ballot that prevents Columbia County from passing any ordinances that interfere with our 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution. What is your position on the Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance?
By definition, an ordinance can only be enacted if it is not in conflict with any higher form of law, such a state statute. So, even if this ordinance passes, it will not hold up in court. The SASO misunderstands the power the county has to override our state’s gun laws. Columbia County would have to declare our state laws unconstitutional and fight it out in the courts.
My observation is that backers of the sanctuary ordinance insist that any gun-control legislation unconstitutional. Instead, what is needed is thoughtful dialogue with many community members over proposed legislation, bill by bill.
On a personal note, I would like to add that I served as a Medic in the Oregon ARMY National Guard. During a competition I participated in that had many events over the course of 3 days, I was the winner of an event called “Pandora’s Box.” In Pandora’s Box, the contents of a dissembled M249, an M4, and an M9 were dumped together and mixed up. It was my job to reassemble them, blindfolded and timed, and perform a functions check on all 3. I share this because I understand weapons systems well and I respect them.
5. Top priorities for Columbia County - What will be your three top priorities for the county will be if elected and how you would implement them?
My top priorities are:
6. What does the County do now to support small business and what could they do better? Same question for large business.
Columbia County receives lottery funds from the State of Oregon in order to pay its share of funds to the Columbia County Economic Team (CCET). CCET’s primary function is to seek out opportunities for economic and infrastructure development, but it also strives to retain the businesses we already have. In terms of big business, Columbia County is an essential stakeholder with OMIC R&D. I am excited to watch the growth of this partnership and fully support manufacturing being a foundational economic catalyst for South County.
CCET is also the fiscal sponsor of Keep it Local Columbia County whose main message to residents is to shop local and reminds us of the assets we have. There are multiple organizations in our county whose function it is to support small business and I think that while the county is involved in an indirect way, there is more they could be doing. For example, the county needs to take a leadership role in forging better working partnerships based on trust and mutual respect. Currently, these groups are operating as individuals, not partnerships. It is my observation that there is a culture of scarcity here where it is every man for themselves. In the same token, I have nothing but positive things to say about all of our Chambers, CCET, and Keep it Local Columbia County, but stronger leadership from the county could really tie it all together. I believe that small business is an engine of growth and as a county, we should do more to help entrepreneurs access startup capital.
An offering of constructive criticism is that Columbia County is economically repressed and embodies so much small-town politicking that we have gotten stuck. We need to let go of the past and let go of our egos. It is important to hear I do not say this about any particular group of people, and I am not insulting anyone—we have all participated in this in one way or another. What I believe most is that this community needs to heal. The losses of certain industries here run deep and until we find closure and work together on a shared vision for our future, we will struggle to move forward.
7. Next Renewables - There is a potential billion dollar investment in a renewable diesel facility at Port Westward. Where is your position on this?
Let me start with the good news…I think renewable diesel is a promising step in the right direction, but NEXT Renewables and their President, Lou Soumas, is NOT. I am honestly having a hard time believing why I have to explain why he cannot be trusted after the mess he left in Odessa. (Backstory: Soumas tried this same thing in Washington State. He lasted less than a year and left more than $400,000 in clean-up costs that were paid by WA taxpayers through the EPA’s superfund program) Not only that, but they owe thousands in unpaid taxes and $1.6 million in unpaid canola seeds.
Allowing Soumas to come to Port Westward sounds like a relationship built in hell. I mean, talk about red flags. It does not compute that someone can have a track record like that and be welcomed here with open arms and practically a red carpet.
What happens if/when this all fails again, this time, in our backyard? I can tell you what will happen. NEXT Renewables will adapt in order to survive. And that likely means switching back to crude oil. We cannot do this again. This is all a resounding no from me.
8. There is much talk about affordable housing in Columbia County as of late. What does that mean to you? Is it a problem and what remedies would you recommend if so?
First off, let’s define “affordable housing” so that we are all working with the same understanding; affordable housing means that no more than 30% of a household’s income goes towards housing.
Yes, lack of affordable housing is a serious problem in Columbia County. In 2017, the county had a deficit of 1,900 housing units for low-income families. Additionally, more than 50% of all renters and 25% of homeowners were paying more than they can afford. Personally, I know many people in Columbia County who are forced to make a choice between paying rent and paying for prescriptions, food, and daycare.
Our county is growing and the need for more affordable housing is growing with it. Between OMIC and the opening of the new PCC campus, there is going to be an urgent need for more options to be available than what we currently have.
We need to use our authority as County Commissioners to change the codes that allow for a wider variety of housing types. Single family detached homes account for over 80% of our housing structure and for most, those are the most out of reach. It is time to turn our attention to more mixed-use development.
9. There is a lot of talk and several initiatives regarding tourism in Columbia County. What is your vision of tourism in Columbia County?
The capacity for growth with tourism in Columbia County is just extraordinary. According to a recent study, the data shows that “Columbia County has one of the lowest rates in visitor spending per capita in the state.” That is really disappointing, considering what we have to offer. We need to be doing a much better job reaching potential visitors to come see what gem we actually have here, especially outdoor enthusiasts.
My vision is that Columbia County gets the recognition it deserves. I have several friends who commute here to exercise since it’s not as crowded as the Columbia River Gorge or even Portland’s Forest Park. It is by sheer word of mouth that they decided to stay after their workout for a hard-earned beer and meal.
I believe the biggest deterrent that keeps us from reaching our potential is that we are getting in our own way. For one, there is the perpetuation of the myth that tourism yields minimum wage jobs. Then, are some who simply do not want visitors. Interestingly enough, those are also usually the people who do not want to pay more taxes, and I would advocate that you cannot have it both ways.
10. Last November the County adopted a study called "Fiscal Sustainability in Columbia Count: A Path Forward." This study projects a budget shortfall of approximately $30 million for basic services for the County over 5 year beginning in FY 2021 and an additional $42 million for high priority projects over the same period. The document also suggests various funding sources for this projected shortfalls. Could you please comment on these projected shortfalls?
I think the Fiscal Sustainability Report was thoughtfully written and provided an accurate (albeit grim) landscape of all the ways we are chronically underfunded as a county. I do not have problems with the report itself, other than grave concern over why we are only learning about a $30M+ funding gap now?
The biggest problem I have is what has been done with the report since its creation: Nothing. Zero. Zilch. On page 2, it reads “Because the community must choose this path, this report provides a framework to an improved fiscal situation while describing the tradeoffs it requires. County Commissioners look forward to vetting this product with the rest of the community.” When was “community vetting” going to happen, considering this report came out 6 months ago? When a finished product like this is not taken into the community, it becomes an empty investment, something that sits on a shelf while the window of meaningful collaboration with residents passes us right on by. Taxpayers deserve better.
I believe that Covid-19 is teaching us some remarkable things that have taken some recommendations in this report and pushed them straight to the front of the line: Broadband and Public Health.
Campaigning, just like everything else, is shifting and changing by the hour, it seems. Each day, I come up with a strategy on how to best focus my on-the-ground efforts to reach voters, and each day, it seems that my contingency plan has a contingency plan.
All six of my house parties have been canceled, which is where a bulk of fundraising is done. Canvassing is out. Not doing these things has been the hardest choice to make as a candidate, but my health and the health of my community is far more important.
At this time, putting up yard signs and dropping off flyers on porches is the strategy. If you live in Columbia County and would like one of my yard signs, please text me at 503-928-2151. I do all of the work for you and I do not need to knock on your door or disturb you in any way.
If you have not donated to my campaign yet and you eagerly look towards the future with me, please consider chipping in today. You can do that here: www.brandee2020.com/contribute.html
Today, I had the pleasure of being a panelist for “Mock Congressional Hearings” at Scappoose High School for the seniors’ Civics class! Students were in groups of 3 and 4 and presented a 4-minute presentation on a topic they researched all semester. Other panelists and I then had a Q&A opportunity. I cannot express how THRILLED I am to have seen the passion that our teens have! The topics I heard about today were:
Did you make it to any of the public forums on the potential service cuts to the CC Rider? I went to the Senior Center in Rainier this morning and listened to an informative presentation by Todd Wood. The CC Rider must trim the fat to the tune of $313,943. Here are the lines up for discussion:
I took home a copy of the January 2020 service reduction survey that we are all supposed to fill out. Do you need a copy? If you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I can email you the forms.