Incumbent Melissa Cribbins, 49, wants to keep serving Coos County as its Position 3 commissioner. First elected in 2012, the attorney and Gonzaga Law School graduate has held the job for two-and-a-half terms.
She faces challengers Rod Taylor and Chase Carlson in the primary on May 17.
Cribbins said her first term wasn’t easy. She ran for office a decade ago because she cares about the county, but she entered local government when friction and disagreements hindered progress. Eventually, the commissioners turned things around by focusing on serving the public and building good relationships.
“In the last 10 years, we’ve restored a lot of civility and functionality to county government,” Cribbins told The World in an interview earlier this month. “People really deserve a county government that functions well and functions efficiently. Frankly, if you call about your pothole, you don’t want to hear me talk about partisan topics. You don’t want to hear me complain about the federal government. You want to know that your pothole is going to get fixed.”
Cribbins graduated from Coquille High School, then went on to earn a bachelor’s of science from Portland State University, followed by earning her law degree. She moved back to Coos County with her family 15 years ago when her father, a veterinarian, fell ill. She’s also served as director of the North Bend Water Board. She lives in Coos Bay with her husband and teenage son and has two adult children in college.
Cribbins said she’s seeking another term because she has more to contribute, and that important work remains.
“We’re in the middle of a housing crisis. We’re in the middle of recovery from an economic crisis. And it’s an important time to keep this work moving forward,” she said.
As commissioner, Cribbins said she is proud of her work in establishing the 30-mile Whiskey Run mountain bike trail system. She said it’s a successful example of something that both benefits residents and expands tourism. Other achievements include partnering with Curry County to hire a housing coordinator, getting the dilapidated Englewood School site in Coos Bay on track to become part of a new housing development for low-income housing, and working with Coos Bay and North Bend on how best to use $1 million in legislative funding to develop a Homeless Strategic Plan for the county.
Meanwhile, Cribbins said increased jail staffing, attainable housing, healthcare, jobs and promoting a diversified economy remain priorities. She’d like to create quality housing for a range of income levels.
And she said more needs to be done to tackle property crimes and homelessness. Alongside these priorities is promoting an economically resilient community by growing the tourism, fishing, logging and manufacturing industries.
Cribbins said the experience she brings to the role is something her challengers can’t match. Since the county doesn’t have an administrator, commissioners also perform the administrative function, she said, in addition to legislative and some judicial functions. As a result, she said being a commissioner is a complex job, one that’s larger than taking strong stands on single issues like Second Amendment rights or COVID-19 mandates. To be successful, Cribbins said commissioners need to be willing to be generalists, taking on a wide range of issues.
“You have to represent everybody,” Cribbins said. “The difficulty, I think, is realizing when the election is over, half of the people there probably didn’t vote for you. But it’s still your responsibility to represent them and hear their voice and make sure that their concerns get addressed.”
“I’m a good commissioner. I do a good job. I understand what the work is. I’m connected at the state and federal level. I make sure that Coos County’s voice is heard. I’ve testified before in the state legislature. I’ve testified in front of Congress and I work really hard for the citizens of this county,” she said.