VOTE 2020: Danny Jaffer seeks to unseat incumbent Polk County commissioner, insisting he can provide leadership during crisis

Danny Jaffer is running for Polk County commissioner against Lyle Mordhorst in the November election. (Courtesy/ Danny Jaffer)

Name: Danny Jaffer

Age: 59

Home: Independence

When Danny Jaffer was an officer in the U.S. Navy, he was tasked with a multi-million-dollar pier expansion in Okinawa, Japan.

The pier would save time that ships would spend at port, but getting the expansion required the U.S. government and Japanese government to accept the plan.

“Initially I picked up the pieces that were laying there and wrote a proposal about why the idea was a really good idea,” he said.

Jaffer, who was a Navy pilot and operations officer from 1986 to 2010, said he brought representatives of the two governments together to get the project finished, working through challenges along the way.

He points to his ability to sit down and work with people as one reason he should win a seat on the Polk County Board of Commissioners. He is running against incumbent Lyle Mordhorst, who was appointed 2019.

Jaffer ran as a Democrat for state representative in House District 23 but lost by a large margin to state Rep. Mike Nearman in 2018. He ran unsuccessfully for Polk County commissioner in 2010 and 2014.

If elected, Jaffer said the first thing he would do is initiate a search for a new county administrator, because the current one is retired and working on contract.

“The county really needs to identify someone who’s going to be there for the long term,” he said.

Jaffer has also pledged to cut his $75,192 salary by 25% if elected and give the additional $18,750 to the public health and community development departments.


Jaffer said to combat homelessness, the county can change its zoning laws to allow for smaller lots. That would make homes affordable for more people, he said.

Changing the zoning could only apply to properties within an urban growth boundary, because statewide planning limits the minimum lot size in rural areas.

Jaffer said the county needs to be proactive in finding people places to live and providing the funds necessary so that people who are willing to build affordable housing can do it at a profit.

“I would propose that we look to either creating a serial bond levy or pulling money from some other program, whether its public works, to at least create a little bit of seed money,” he said.

He said the other option would be to ask the state for money to help pay systems development fees for projects.

Economic recovery

Jaffer said the county should find federal or state funding to provide loans with low or no interest to local businesses.

He said there’s some movement on that locally, but he doesn’t believe that’s happening as robustly as it should be.

Jaffer said county and state government need to lobby Congress to make that money available for businesses.

He said he gives county commissioners credit for eliminating or reducing businesses’ permit fees during the pandemic.

“It’s not a huge amount of money but at least it makes those businesses feel like they’re still important in the county. That we will do everything we can as a county to help them succeed,” Jaffer said.


Jaffer said he believes there’s systemic racism within “pretty much governmental entity in the country.”

He said the first step to address it as a leader is to realize that it exists and to educate people about it.

Jaffer said the county can provide training and education about racial issues but said the term bias training gets a bad rap.

“Bias training is one way but that’s not all of it,” he said. “Just some training and education on what the value of everyone is. There’s a lot of pushback to things that are called bias training. You can frame it in different ways to hopefully to reach the same end result.”

Working with others

Jaffer said his entire career was based on working with people who didn’t share his ideas.

He said it takes “being willing to talk, being willing to sit down and invite people in is the big key and not to just discount someone or an organization because you don’t share their views.”


Total raised: $11,550

Total spent: $3,963

Top donors: United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555, $2,500, Ronald A. Glaus, a doctor at the Oregon State Hospital, $500; Mark A Bliven, a former judge, $500.  

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.


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