Oroville candidates come together at forum

Running for city  council, school board

OROVILLE – The Oroville Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate’s forum last Thursday evening at Vicki’s Backdoor Club that was well attended by those wanting to get to know a little something about who is seeking to represent them on the Oroville City Council and the School Board.

While the call went out to all candidates for Oroville offices some of the candidates were unable to attend due to other obligations. Neysa Roley, looking for a return to the city council, for example, was out of town attending the birth of her first grandchild. Kolo Moser and Becky Lewis, each seeking the same seat on the school board, were also unable to attend. The candidates who did make it were Chris Allen, David “Mac” MacElherhan, Robert Fuchs, Rocky DeVon and Ryan Frazier.

Chamber President Clyde Andrews, served as the night’s moderator and timer and gave each candidate 12 minutes for introductions and questions. Minutes not used could be banked to respond to statements by other candidates or to elaborate on questions from the audience.

Chris Allen

Chris Allen
Chris Allen

Going in alphabetical order, Chris Allen, who is challenging Roley for Council Position 5, was the first to speak. Describing himself as the “public safety” candidate, began by saying he was disgruntled by the way the president of the Senior Center was treated at a recent council meeting when trying to ask about the ambulance service.

“He was hushed and very quickly told to ‘sit down,” said Allen, “That would never happen with me on the council.”

Allen, who has started his own ambulance service, said his “best guess” was using volunteer EMTs would save the EMS District $300,000 a year over using Lifeline Ambulance Services.

He said he lived most of his early life in Oroville, moved out of the area during his middle school years and came back in his twenties. He is a mechanic and owns North Star Ambulance Services, one of two services that responded to the city and county’s request for qualifications after the volunteer EMTs submitted their resignation letters.

Oroville Councilman Tony Koepke, who serves on the city’s Ambulance Committee, asked Allen if he knew the volunteers were paid between $14 and $19 an hour when they are on a call (while they are paid something on standby, it is not the same as when on a call). Allen replied that he did not know that, but still felt contracting with Lifeline would be more than the EMS District could afford.

Koepke also questioned Allen about North Starts qualifications, whether the company’s insurance and licensing was up to date. Allen said they were.

Tamara Porter, a real estate broker, asked him how the town could be revitalized.

“My top goal is to save money on the ambulance service. I’d also like to get an assisted living here,” he said. “I am asking to be your voice.”

Robert Fuchs

Robert Fuchs
Robert Fuchs

Robert Fuchs, who is running for Council Position 3, said he was 51-years-old and had moved to this country from Germany 20 years ago. He became a citizen has lived in Oroville for 15 years.

“I believe there is no place for kids to go and I think they need a place to go where they can be supervised by adults. We have a Senior Center, we should have something similar for the kids,” said Fuchs, who adds that he has a 16-year-old daughter who expresses her feelings over the lack of things to do.

“I also believe the ambulance situation needs to be resolved in the best way for the community. As it is now it is too much money,” he said.

Jeff Burnell, a local businessman, asked, “Looking 10 years down what would you do to make Oroville a viable community.”

Fuchs said he would look to the city’s parks.

“We have a nice view, nice lake. We have to find ways to bring more people here. Things like a skate park, mini golf, a climbing wall. There is no place to dance, no theater. We have to start small and build up.”

David ‘Mac’ McElheran

David "Mac" McElheran
David “Mac” McElheran

David “Mac” McElheran, who is also running for Council Position 3, said he was born in Canada, south of Vancouver, BC. His family moved to the U.S. and he grew up in the Portland, Ore. area and he became a U.S. citizen. After working at Les Schwab Tire Center he became a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. After working on the southern border for awhile he was transferred to Oroville where he has been working just under eight years.

“I’d like to do something for Oroville… as you know I like to do charity work and have done so both in my capacity with the Border Patrol and on my own,” he said.

He feels Oroville is a good place for youth, as well as adults, including visitors from Canada.

“I think it is a good place for small businesses, but I’d like to see Oroville do something to help them out. Like Robert said a skate park would be great, but how you find the money to build one I don’t know.”

However, McElheran said getting funding for revitalizing Main Street, may come to grant writing. He said he personally didn’t have those skills, but knew people who did who might be able to help him learn.

About the Ambulance Service he said, “I’ve worked with the EMTs, the crew is very professional. In Oroville we have a moral obligation to find a balance between what we can afford and what we can professionally provide.

“I am very open to suggestions and feel along the same lines about police and fire services. I’ve worked with those guys every day and they are real professional guys and gals.”

Clayton Emry, a retired businessman, said the city had a lot of empty warehouse buildings and he felt they should be utilized.

“I always felt the city could do a little advertising and say, ‘hey, they’re here,'” Emry said.

“That depends on if they’re public or private…. The city could tak with the owners and put together some sort of exploratory commission,” the candidate said.

Rocky DeVon

Rocky DeVon
Rocky DeVon

Rocky DeVon is running for School Director Position 5. He said his family had lived in Oroville for almost 130 years. He has served on the city planning commission and has been a Boy Scout Leader and Cub Scout Master. He also said on a committee to help bring the Agricultural Housing to Oroville. He is currently president of the Oroville School Board.

“One of our goals has been to bring one-to-one computing to the district so that every student has access to an iPad or to a computer. We have reached that goal. Another thing is to make sure the curriculum reflects that and we’ve done that at the elementary and are implementing it at the high school,” DeVon said.

The candidate also said he was proud of the district’s anti-bullying program and that has been brought in since he was on the board. He described “Challenge Day” and how he participated with the students to get a better understanding of what students are going through.

“It brings to reality what some kids deal with on a day to day basis,” he said.

Another accomplishment of the board was the new roof at the elementary school, according to DeVon. District voter approved a three-year special bond to pay for it, but the original bid came in at $1.2 million. After looking at option, the district was able to get the work done for just over $600,000.

“I wanted to return the extra money to the taxpayers, but we couldn’t by law,” he said.

The board looked at making repairs to bathrooms at the elementary school and found the costs of going to bid were very high – as much as $7500 per toilet, according to the candidate.

“We felt we could have our maintenance staff do the work for far less. We are doing everything to stretch out your dollars and keep the buildings maintained,” he said, adding that some of the left over bond money was used to complete the elementary’s H/VAC system which is lowering monthly utility bills by a great deal.

“I’ve always been involved in the community, as a realtor I brought the disaster relief fund for people whose homes were lost or damaged in the recent fires,” he said.

Anne Marie Ricevuto, a teacher, asked what the candidate’s feelings were about bringing an Alternative High School to Oroville. She said it had been among the Oroville School Boards list of goals last year.

“At last count there were 60 kids from Oroville going to Tonasket, some of them because of the Alternative High School there,” said Ricevuto.

“I don’t think the numbers are that high. We sent out letters to the parents with all the kids in the 98844 zip code and only got three back,” said DeVon, who said many of the students who originally went from the Oroville District to Tonasket did so because of the Gates Grant which promised to pay for four years of college.

Allen asked if there was anything Oroville did to attract students to come back or come here from Tonasket.

“Oroville has more College in the Classroom than all of Okanogan County combined,” he said. “That is a big incentive for students who want to get college credits before they graduate and to save money on college,” he said.

“My two older kids went to Tonasket. I find Oroville is much more friendly and there is much less bullying… it is also less cliquish.”

Ryan Frazier

Ryan Frazier
Ryan Frazier

Ryan Frazier, a former Oroville teacher, is running to unseat DeVon.

He started by saying, “This statement offended me, ‘I’m sorry this field trip is for someone who is going to go on to do something with their lives.'”

Frazier went on to go to Wenatchee Valley College, then on to Eastern Washington University where he was told he was one of the best Social Studies students. He then became a teacher and taught at an Alternative High School in the Spokane Valley before returning to Oroville to teach.

“My family has also been here since the 1800s,” he said.

“I learned a lot at the Alterantive High School in the Spokane Valley. It was amazing to come back to Oroville. I got into teaching to make a difference. My job on the board is to hear your voice and to get it in front of the board,” he said.

Frazier, whose teaching contract was not renewed last year said he is currently working at Sun Lakes Realty.

There were some heated exchange between Frazier and DeVon when DeVon, who said the candidate is suing both the superintendent and the board, started questioning Frazier about his teaching practices.

DeVon asked why he heard from parents of Frazier’s students that he had refused to make his class recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Frazier said this was a lie.

“I do not ban the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said.

DeVon also asked if Frazier had sent home an assignment that said, “Why are white people racist.”

Frazier also denied he had ever done this and said the class had been studying an issue in the press about team mascots depicting Native Americans that some people thought were racist.

Lastly, DeVon asked him why he refused to give information to his principal on students in his classroom who had special needs.

Frazier said he felt that there was not only bullying among the students, but also among the staff.

Robert Fuchs

Rocky DeVon

Ryan Frazier