Lane Co. Commission: Springfield race pits Leiken against Riggs-Henson

Lane Co. Commission: Springfield race pits Leiken against Riggs-Henson
Sid Leiken and Pat Riggs-Henson

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - One candidate has a background in helping workers who have lost their jobs, including a decade on the board of Lane Community College.

The other has been mayor of Springfield for 10 and took a stab at running for Congress as a Republican before shifting gears and jumping in the race for the Lane County Commission representing Springfield.

Voters in Springfield have a choice to make this November: Do they want Pat Riggs-Henson or Sid Leiken to represent them on the Lane County Commission?


Heavy on the schmooze, light on the stump: it's a campaign style fitting the well-known mayor of Springfield.

Leiken, 48, has been mayor for the past 10 years. He owns a consulting business, and as mayor has served on a host of local boards.

The candidate sids he wants to bring his pro-business, can-do agenda to Lane County.

"I just point to our success in Springfield," he said. "We just kind of took the bull by the horns."

From Sacred Heart Hospital at RiverBend to Royal Caribbean to new Gateway area motels, Leiken takes some credit for one billion dollars of private/public investment over the past decade.

One issue all the candidates for commissioner agree on, including Sid Leiken, is the lightning rod issue of county jail funding and the 84 beds.

"To me it's a no brainer in my perspective," he said. "I mean the 84 beds are an important aspect of it."

Leiken said the county should look to Springfield on how to pass a public safety measure. "You can't put forth a knee jerk reaction; you do that and you're going to fail again," he said.

But there has been trouble. The state Election Division fined leiken $2,200 for illegally converting some of his campaign money to personal use. He later dropped out of a race for Congress.

"I mean, you learn a lot," he said. "We made some mistakes; we moved past it. As far as the credibility with the voters, I've said all along, I know Springfield. Springfield knows me."

By next month, he'll know if voters give him that job promotion.


Pat Riggs-Henson wants to be the first woman elected to the Springfield seat on the Lane County Commission.

This is not the first time she's tried.

Riggs-Henson ran for the same Springfield post in 1990, finishing second to Steve Cornachia. Twenty years later, she said the top issue from voters is clear.

"The economic recovery comes down to one thing," she said. "They're saying they need jobs, and they need jobs today."

Riggs-Henson's background is deep on job training. She retired in 2009 as a career advisor for dislocated workers. She's also retired from the Lane County Labor Council in union work and spent over a decade on the Lane Community College board.

She is worried about the future of public safety funding going into next year.

"Because it's not just the jail beds. They do so much more," she said. "What they also do is they do the services that keep people out of jail."

Riggs-Henson said that to solve the county's budget dilemma, voters will face a tough question.

"What it is you're willing to pay, because right now they're not willing to raise taxes," she said.

Her idea on growing jobs is different: Offer affordable health insurance for county workers when they reach 62, before Medicare, so more could retire early and "open thousands of jobs immediately."

In Oregon's public sector alone, she said early retirment could open up 60,000 government jobs.

So does she just represent union labor?

"No," she said. "When you take that oath of office, I take that oath very seriously - so you're there for all segments of the population, not just one."

And to restore public trust in the county board hit by accusations of secret meetings and a lawsuit, Riggs-Henson said commissioners have to start with themselves.

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