VOTE 2024: Commissioner Mordhorst, Monmouth Councilor Beltz vie for Polk County seat

CORRECTION: An earlier version erroneously included donations from an earlier campaign in a list of Lyle Mordhorst’s top five donors. It also incorrectly listed the cash on hand for his campaign. Salem Reporter apologizes for the errors.

A Monmouth city councilor, Roxanne Beltz, wants to unseat Commissioner Lyle Mordhorst from the Polk County Board of Commissioners in the race for Position 1. 

Mordhorst has been a Polk County commissioner for five years and is running for reelection in the May 21 primary. 

He is seeking to finish the work he started in his first term, with a focus on transportation and public safety services.

After more than two decades working in transportation planning and other public service, Beltz said she believes she has a broader skill set for the job.

Commissioners are nonpartisan and serve a four-year term. They are paid a salary of about $83,000. 

This is your guide to the race for the one open seat on the Polk County board.


Name: Lyle Mordhorst

Age: 66

Education: Grangeville High School (Idaho) – 1975

Occupation: Co-owner of All Through The Night, retired Les Schwab manager

Previous governmental experience: Polk County Commissioner (2019-2024), Polk County Budget Committee, Salem Keizer Area Transportation Study, Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation and executive committee

Total contributions: $20,526

Cash on hand: -$17,988

Top five donors: Friends of Denyc Boles, $2,000; Dick Withnell, $1,000; Wilgrich Farms, $1,000 (tie); Jeff Havlin, $300; Nathan Wuerch, $200; Jim Shelton, $200 ; and Maiden Marketing, $200 (tie)

Name: Roxanne Beltz

Age: 62

Education: Marylhurst University (Oregon), BA in Interdisciplinary Studies – 2014 

Occupation: Owner of Robixy Creative Services

Earlier civic experience: Monmouth City Council, vice board chair of the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments, Strategic Economic Development Corporation board, League of Oregon Cities Women’s Caucus Board

Total contributions: $8,811

Cash on hand: -$449

Top five donors: Karen Frascone, $500; Polk County Democratic Central Committee, $450 in-kind; Robixy, $264 in-kind; Jacqueline Loomis, $250; and Judith Audin, $200

Mordhorst worked for Les Schwab Tires for 35 years, starting in Ontario, Oregon in 1983. He was selected in 1986 to open a new Les Schwab location in west Salem. 

He was appointed to the board in 2019 and elected to a full term a year later.

Morhorst and his wife, Belinda, also own  “All Through The Night,” an online retail and wholesale shop for wool applique and quilt designs. 

Mordhorst said he is proud of his work successfully pushing for the passage of Polk County’s 2019 and 2024 public safety levies, which paid to keep 14 sheriff’s patrol deputies, four corrections deputies and three prosecutors. 

He said one of the county’s biggest challenges during the pandemic was that while residents were stuck at home, over half the county lacked internet access. 

Due to the county’s investment in broadband, he said about 90% of residents now have access to adequate broadband internet. He hopes to continue closing that gap with four more years on the board.

“I really appreciate the opportunity to have done and accomplished what I have, and I still have work to do,” Mordhorst said.

A self-described “recovering Californian,” Beltz has lived in Polk County for nearly 20 years and has a background in transportation planning.

She’s worked at the Oregon Department of Transportation and spent 16 years at the Salem Area Mass Transit District, also known as Cherriots, primarily as the Transportation Options Program coordinator.

She has served on the Monmouth City Council since 2017 and is the board vice chair of the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments.

Beltz retired from Cherriots in April 2022 to start Robixy Creative Services, a marketing, graphic design and promotional products company which she still manages.

If elected, Beltz hopes to streamline how the county serves and communicates with the public.

She said she would hire a communication professional to inform people about the county’s work through newsletters, social media and an updated website.

“I don’t think people know what’s going on, not because anything’s being hidden, but because there’s nobody communicating it,” she said. “You can’t depend on everybody to go look at the agenda or read the minutes.”

Beltz described her own experience with the “cumbersome” process of mailing a check and paperwork to the county for something as simple as a dog license. She hopes to have the opportunity to modernize such services and make them available online. 

She hopes to reinvigorate a local tourism bureau. “We’re not just a bypass on the way to the casino,” she said. “We have all these events, we have the fairgrounds, we have Western Oregon University, we have businesses and restaurants and music and movies and arts and culture.”

Beltz also said she hopes to become just the second woman to serve as a Polk County commissioner.

“I believe that there is an opportunity for some more gender balance on the commission,” she said. “Last time I checked, half of our population was female.”


A top priority for Mordhorst when he came to the board was making the intersection of state Highways 22 and 51 safer. The interchange is at the heart of the mid-Willamette Valley with Salem to the east, Dallas to the west and Independence to the south. It’s both a popular route to the coast for tourism and freight, as well as a vital route from Polk County to Salem Hospital.

The intersection has also been one of the most dangerous in the state for over 10 years, Mordhorst said.

Shortly after he was appointed, a 21-year-old woman was killed in a collision at the nearby intersection of state Highway 99 and Clow Corner Road, north of Monmouth. Morhorst said that motivated him to push for construction that would curb the number of people dying on highways in the county.

Now, Highway 99 and Clow is under construction, and improvements are being designed for Highways 22 and 51. “We’ve got seven years’ worth of work done in the last four years,” he said. “It’s amazing how fast it’s been moving.”

Beltz said she sees opportunities to broaden the work that Mordhorst has already done.

She said the commissioner has focused transportation efforts on working with the state Department of Transportation to fix roads, bridges and highways. “That is not serving everybody,” she said.

Keeping in mind that some people don’t drive, can’t drive or are concerned about saving money and the environment, Beltz said the county needs to expand its view of mobility and transportation to all modes. That means driving, transit, carpools, vanpools, biking and walking.

Beltz said she wants to create a commission dedicated to transportation planning. She said there is no group that gets together tribes, seniors, students and people with disabilities to discuss what transportation services they need. “There are people that are paying for services, basically, through their taxes, and they’re not getting anything for it in Polk County,” she said.

She said she envisions the commission providing education and outreach to local employers to set up programs such as carpool services, which went away during the pandemic. “That reduces greenhouse gas emissions, it reduces congestion on the road, it also really improves employee retention and employee absenteeism.”

Beltz said the commission would also work with Cherriots to make use of available state money, such as expanding the Monmouth-Independence trolley or operating a couple of days a week out of Falls City.

“It’s crazy that it hasn’t been done, because it’s free,” she said of the commission. “There’s no taxpayer dollars associated with this. We just need to get the people together to talk about it.”

Housing, homelessness and treatment

Both candidates said they want to continue the homeless services that the county already provides.

Mordhorst said Polk County has been proactive in taking preventative measures to keep people housed and address underlying issues such as addiction and mental illness before people become homeless.

He said those include a crisis team that visits people at their homes and a rental assistance program. Another outreach team addresses families’ needs such as food and clothing.

Mordhorst said he has been lobbying legislators to open a few secure facilities throughout the state where people who are routinely arrested for low-level crimes like shoplifting can receive the addiction or mental health treatment they need. 

Both candidates also said that prevention starts with youth.

Mordhorst said that schools need to focus more on teaching the dangers of using drugs. “We  don’t teach that very much in the schools anymore,” he said.

Beltz said it is important for the county to build more partnerships with organizations like Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Polk County which work with children to prevent serious issues later in life. 

Both candidates said Polk County is suffering from a lack of housing development, and that they would continue to keep the costs of building permits low.

“The state is so restrictive. And I’m a huge advocate of protecting our farmland, that’s food we need. But yet at the same time, there is farmland or land that is very poor, and there’s no reason that we can’t put housing on it,” Mordhorst said.

“As a county, we fight and we go through the planning, zoning with a fine-tooth comb, and we try and do our best job to find the ‘yes’ answer so you can get something built,” he said.

Beltz said that county officials need to take a “smart growth approach to housing” by seeking opportunities for incentives for developers, grant funding, subsidies and new public-private partnerships.

Beltz also said county officials need to consider how they can build more housing that’s more compact, such as accessory dwelling units, townhouses and cottage clusters. She pointed to a survey that the city of Dallas sent out to residents asking if it should build businesses with apartments on top of them at an old mill site.

“That’s what we need to be doing,” she said. “Finding those sites and then working with the community, working with the stakeholders.”

She said it is critical that the county focus on developing long-term systems for sewer, water and electricity, especially in rural areas.

“We need to prepare now for the infrastructure that we’re going to need in 2050,” she said. “People can’t afford homes up in Portland, so they’re looking for the more rural communities. Polk County is the second-fastest growing county in the state of Oregon right now. We have to take control of our growth. We can’t just let it happen to us.”

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

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.