Steele retires as treasurer, former commissioner appointed through 2022

Marion County Commissioner Danielle Bethell swears in Sam Brentano as county treasurer on March 30. (Facebook/Marion County)

When Sam Brentano decided he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2020 after 17 years as a Marion County commissioner, he thought his days running for public office were over.

But when he learned Laurie Steele was soon retiring as county treasurer and commissioners told him they thought he could serve the rest of her term if interested, he filed Feb. 4 to run for the job in the May primary. He is unopposed.

The commissioners appointed Brentano to the job and Commissioner Danielle Bethell on March 30 swore him in, the county announced April 4. He will serve as treasurer through 2022.

Steele left office March 31. If there is a vacancy in the treasurer’s office, it falls to county commissioners to appoint someone to fill the position until the next general election.

Commissioner Kevin Cameron told Salem Reporter it made sense to have Brentano fill in as treasurer because he was the only name on the ballot.

“Had there been other candidates, it’s a whole other situation,” he said.

Brentano will start a four-year term in January 2023 if he is elected.

His temporary appointment is a weight off Marion County officials who otherwise may have been left looking to find another county resident willing and qualified to fill the role. For all county offices except appraiser and surveyor, Cameron said the only eligibility restriction is being a Marion County resident.

Had there been other candidates, Cameron said his preferred action since treasurer is a nonpartisan office would have been to temporarily appoint a county finance director until someone else is elected.

Brentano will be paid $27,000 in annual salary as treasurer, according to the county Finance Department.

The treasurer “controls the flow of money to and from the county” and keeps record of county funds that are received, invested and paid.

Brentano previously worked in his family’s garbage business, United Disposal Service, and was president and general manager when they sold the company in 2000.

“He understands business,” Cameron said. “He’s a man of high integrity, a hard worker and will fulfill his responsibilities.”

Bethell and Commissioner Colm Willis didn’t respond to questions from Salem Reporter Thursday about the appointment of the former commissioner.

Brentano for ten years was also the mayor of Sublimity, where he currently lives.

He started serving on the board of commissioners in 2003.

Brentano said he specialized in public works and spent time on timber issues as a commissioner.

“I’ve got a pretty well-balanced idea what it takes to operate the county,” he said.

The day before his retirement party, Brentano said he was diagnosed with breast cancer. He had a successful operation and fully recovered after about three months.

He said he looks forward to potentially another four-plus years working with his former colleagues at Marion County – “being back involved with a great bunch of people.”

“I had an opportunity to serve the county that I know and love,” he said.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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