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Benton County Commissioners of the home rule charter period 1972 – present

Note: The dates contained in the parenthesis are the dates of service in office.

Jeanette Simerville (1974 1977; 1986 – 1988)

A Seattle native, Simerville was born in 1915 and remained in Seattle until the late 1940’s when a teaching offer brought her and her husband to Oregon Agricultural College. In 1960, she took a job with the Benton County Board of Commissioner’s Office as an administrative secretary and later as a Certified Public Accountant for the agency that conducted the County’s audits. 

Simmerville was the first woman to be elected as Benton County Commissioner in 1970 and served one term, during which the Law Enforcement Building, the current home of the Sheriff’s Office, was constructed and the first statewide land use planning measures were enacted. She also served on the Board of Directors of the Benton County Foundation for two and a partial terms beginning in 1977. 

In 1986, Simmerville was appointed to complete the term of office vacated by Barbara Ross’s resignation. She also worked with the Hospital Auxiliary, and an organization called “REEF” which provided support for people who suffered from brain trauma. After her passing, Simerville’s family donated an oil painting of the Benton County Courthouse which now hangs in the Board of Commissioner’s Office.

Dale Schrock (1974 – 1990)

Schrock was born in 1929 in Tangent Oregon, the youngest of six children. He attended McFarland Elementary School, Greenberry School, and Corvallis High School. When his brother served in World War II, Schrock was called back home to help on the family farm.

In the mid-1950’s, Schrock operated his own farm raising pole beans, strawberries, and various row crops. To help supplement the farm and support the family, Schrock worked various jobs including; managing a logging crew in Mapleton, clearing sage brush in eastern Oregon, and running heavy equipment in Washington, and for a time, selling cars in Corvallis.

During the 1970’s, Schrock became involved in the Benton County Planning Commission. During his time on the board he was instrumental in bringing Hewlett-Packard to Corvallis. He then moved on to serve as a commissioner for 16 years. While in office he made a special point to personally meet and get to know all County employees. Some of his key focuses were inspection of improvements to County roads, remodeling of the Benton County Courthouse, and construction of the new Law Enforcement Building and jail. Schrock was also involved with the Association of O&C Counties from 1975-1990 and served as president for several years.

Upon his retirement as commissioner, he received from his co-workers a Black Labrador puppy named B.C., which stood for Benton County. During Schrock’s last few years he was involved in the Greenberry Irrigation District as part of his constant effort to improve farm ground.

Larry E. Calahan (1975 – 1979)

No information found.

Barbara Ross (1977 – 1985)

Ross attended the University of Texas and earned her Bachelor’s of Science in 1956 followed by a Master’s of Social Work in 1966. She worked as a social security administrator, college instructor, and teacher prior to her election as County Commissioner in 1977. In addition to her service as a commissioner, Ross served as a state representative from 1993 to 2001. She continued to work with Corvallis Independent Business Association, Corvallis Homeless Shelter Coalition, Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, and served on the board of directors of the Corvallis Neighborhood Housing Services until she relocated to Portland, Oregon in 2012.

Charline Carr (now King) (1979 – 1987)

Carr was the President of the local Arby’s restaurant franchise and served as the first mayor of Adair Village in 1976. Carr also served as a city councilor for Adair Village.

John Dilworth (1987 – 1995)

Dilworth served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force and remains a pilot with an aircraft at Corvallis Airport. He served on the Corvallis Senior Services Advisory Committee, was a faculty member of Oregon State University (OSU) from 1968-1978, and owned a tree farm from 1978 onward. Dilworth was also active in the Kiwanis Club and Boy Scouts and received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from OSU.

Pam Folts (1987 – 1995)

Folts served the community as president of the board at the Corvallis Caring Place in 2005; was a member of the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission in 1998 and Middle-Fork Willamette Watershed Council in 2001; and also served as a speech instructor at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany.

Kent Daniels (1990 – 1997)

Daniels received his Bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University, and retired in 2001 from Oregon State University, where he served as the co-director of the Office of International Research and Development. Prior to his election as commissioner, Daniels served on the Corvallis City Council from 1987-1990. He continued to be involved in the community by serving on the Majestic Theatre Board of Directors, as the chair of the Corvallis Parks, Natural Areas & Recreation Board, and on the Corvallis Civic Beautification and Urban Forestry Commission.

Orville “Bob” Adams (1996 – 2000)

Adams was born on August 3, 1925 and died on November 4, 2003. During World War II he served as a Navy Seabee constructing various facilities in the Pacific. When he returned from service he earned his Bachelor’s degree from Oregon State College in 1950. He and his wife taught school in California and owned one of the first stores to sell Baskin Robbins’ ice cream. They returned to Oregon to operate a family-owned resort and teach near Reedsport in 1957. Adams was a board member of Southwestern Oregon College before receiving his PhD from the University of Oregon and relocating to Albany, Oregon to take a position with Linn-Benton Community College in 1968. Over the next twenty-two years he would hold various positions including dean of instruction, vice president, and interim president of the institution. Outside of his teaching work Adams and his wife were partners in the Inkwell Home Store in Corvallis, served on boards of the YMCA, Lions, Willamette Council of Campfire, and as a trustee of the Corvallis First United Presbyterian Church.

Robert “Bob” Speaker (1996 – 2000)

Speaker worked as a planner for the Benton County Community Development Department, and conducted ecological research at both Oregon State University (OSU) and Michigan State prior to being elected County Commissioner. He also served on the Corvallis Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Speaker received his Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State and his Master’s degree from OSU.

Patsy Morrow-Miller (1998)

No information found.

Linda Modrell (1999 – 2014)

Before running for elective office, Modrell worked several years in the health policy field and was part of the team that helped develop the Oregon Health Plan. Her health-related work included the Family Health Insurance Assistance Program to help low-income working Oregonians gain access to health care; Oregon Health Plan’s prioritization of health services; and research and planning for an employer health insurance mandate.

Prior to her work in health care, Modrell was a long-term employee of Oregon State University (OSU), working her way from secretary to become OSU Extension Service’s business services manager and then the College of Agricultural Science’s director of the administrative computing system. At OSU, Modrell earned a Master of Business Administration and a Bachelor’s of Science in accounting.

Active in the community, Modrell was awarded the Philomath Samaritan Award in 2002 and in 2005 was named Distinguished Alumna of Linn-Benton Community College, where she earned an Associate of Arts degree. Also in 2005, Modrell delivered a paper at Oxford University in England regarding the same sex marriage issue in Oregon.

At Benton County, Modrell’s areas of major focus included water, transportation (Oregon Freight Plan Steering Committee), health and governance issues – especially the transfer of service responsibility and funding from state to county levels, and the attendant policy and program issues (Government Effectiveness and Efficiency Taskforce). In addition, Modrell served in many roles with the Association of Oregon Counties, including past president. Modrell also served on the Governor’s Comprehensive Revenue Restructuring Taskforce and the Metropolitan Planning Organization Greenhouse Gas Emissions Taskforce.

Jay Dixon (2000 – 2016)

Prior to being an elected official, Dixon led a highly successful career in banking that culminated in the senior vice-president position at Ford Motor Company’s First Nationwide Bank in San Francisco.

Dixon and his family moved to Corvallis, Oregon and established Corvallis Hardware in 1992. Dixon was elected to the Corvallis School Board in 1999, and in November 2000 he was elected Benton County Commissioner. Dixon championed multiple issues as commissioner and had a particular focus on the youth of Benton County. Dixon’s longtime history of serving Oregon’s children and families began in 1999 when he chaired the first successful local option school levy campaign in Oregon, called “Corvallis Kids Count!”

Dixon has chaired the Cascades West Council of Governments, Willamette Criminal Justice Council, City of Corvallis Budget Commission and is a past president of the Corvallis Area Chamber of Commerce. Active in community affairs, Dixon held leadership positions in a number of government, education, industry and civic organizations. He is a published author, has taught and lectured at several colleges, and earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco and is a graduate of the University of Oregon’s Pacific Program.

At the 69th annual Celebrate Corvallis event, Dixon was awarded the Jim and Ruth Howland Award for special achievement. Dixon left office in 2016 and continues impacting the local community through his work as vice-chair of Oregon’s Youth Development Council, president of the ABC House Board of Directors, and other local and regional boards. 

Annabelle Jaramillo (2001 – 2020)

Jaramillo was first elected to the Benton County Board of Commissioners in November of 2000, and dedicated her life to the service of others. Jaramillo has both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees of Science from Portland State University and has authored numerous scientific papers in professional journals. She is also a Senior Fellow with the American Leadership Forum.

As a child in Colorado and the daughter of a farm laborer, she grew up on a farm at a time when Latino families were “segregated” to the east side of town. Jaramillo was enrolled in a segregated grade school; her mother pushed the school to integrate and she became the first student of color in her classroom, becoming a “change agent” throughout grammar, junior high, and high school in her Colorado school system.

An advocate for human rights, Hispanic and other minorities nationwide, Jaramillo served as president of National Image, Inc., a national Hispanic civil rights organization. She served on the Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs, Governor Atiyeh’s Education Mission and as president of the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus. In 1991 in Corvallis, she managed a successful campaign to defeat a discriminatory charter amendment promoted by the Oregon Citizen’s Alliance.

Pivot to legacy In 2004 as a Benton County Commissioner, Jaramillo again found herself on the front lines of the struggle for LGBTQI+ rights. The Benton County Commission decided to stop issuing all marriage licenses—to straight and gay couples—in response to a demand by Attorney General Hardy Myers that they not issue licenses to same-sex couples. Jaramillo stated that, “If we were going to end up with discrimination, we weren’t going to issue marriage licenses to anyone.”

Another tough decision occurred more recently in 2017. On March 10, 2016, Linn County filed a class action lawsuit against the state claiming that the Oregon Department of Forestry breached its contract with 15 counties, including Benton County, by failing to appropriately conduct timber harvests on state forest trust lands. The Board voted (2-1) to remain in the lawsuit, with Commissioner Jaramillo dissenting. Jaramillo expressed that she was part of a governor-appointed stakeholders’ group that endorsed the plan to manage 70 percent of those lands for timber production and just 30 percent for other uses. She supported the 70/30 plan and was really frustrated by the fact that some people wanted to balance budgets through lawsuits.

Jaramillo championed the County’s efforts towards authentic and meaningful outreach. When a health navigator had an idea for community engagement around physical activity, Jaramillo supported the seed funding request for this idea. This $1,000 eventually led to a decade-long annual event called Campeones De Salud (Champions of Health) and paved the way for Benton County to equitably engage all communities. Jaramillo was known for always standing firm in her values, being an authentic leader, and genuine.  

Anne Schuster (2015 – 2019)

An effective community leader championing education, the environment, and effective mental health strategies, among other priorities, Schuster was elected to the Board of Commissioners in November 2014 and took office in January 2015.

Beginning her career as a research plant scientist, after the birth of her children Schuster turned her attention to volunteer efforts locally and statewide. Her focus was directed toward education and sustainability, merging the two when possible. She focused on tackling several community issues from homelessness to working with Benton County Mental Health and the Sheriff’s Office on collaboration to address how the County dealt with mental health issues and interactions with law enforcement.

She co-founded the Youth Mental Health Coalition, along with Dr. Caroline Fisher. Schuster was involved locally on the Cascades West Council of Governments Board, the Homeless Oversight Committee, and Rotary Club. Regionally, Schuster was active on the Workforce Investment Board, working to create job training opportunities that benefit local businesses, as well as, employees and job seekers to create a workforce necessary to support a thriving 21st-century economy. Complementing those efforts, she helped create an Education Workforce Pipeline with local educational institutions and business leaders.

With a constant focus on learning and a strong desire to hear and incorporate diverse community voices to solve complex problems, she also brought a rural perspective to the job. Schuster was interested in succession of family farms as some operators reach retirement age while balancing that development with an eye toward a healthy future with fresh local foods, and combating climate change locally.

To promote safety in rural areas of Benton County, Schuster worked to address the lack of fire department services in the Greenberry Gap, an area without fire coverage located between properties covered by Monroe, Philomath, and Corvallis fire departments. She supported emergency preparedness for a potential Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and other natural disasters.

Schuster was a longtime community leader and served in numerous roles before being elected to the County’s highest elected office. Locally, on the Corvallis School Board, she reached the position of Chair. Regionally and statewide, Schuster held positions on the Oregon School Board Association, Benton County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Oregon Green Schools, and the Sustainable Oregon Schools Initiative.

As a program host and on the board of Leadership Corvallis, she experienced the ins-and-outs of Corvallis and Benton County and said she felt fortunate to become familiar with the community’s up-and-coming community leaders. She also participated in the Local Benton Advisory Committee for the InterCommunity Health Network Coordinated Care Organization acquainting herself with the new local health system.

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