Lyle Mordhorst is running to keep his seat on the Polk County Board of Commissioners in the November election. (Courtesy/ Lyle Mordhorst)
Name: Lyle Mordhorst
Home: west Salem
Lyle Mordhorst’s biggest concern is the traffic in Polk County, especially at dangerous intersections.
At the time Mordhorst was appointed Polk County commissioner in 2019, he said the county and the Oregon Department of Transportation were at an impasse over improving the intersection of Oregon Highway 99 and Clow Corner Road.
He said they couldn’t find common ground, so he set up a meeting and “asked them point blank: ‘What do you need from us to get these intersections and projects moving forward?’”
Mordhorst said that meeting opened fresh talks between the two groups and Polk County came around to the idea of a roundabout instead of a signaled intersection. Now, the Transportation Department has seven projects underway in Polk County.
He points to his ability to walk into situations with an open mind as an asset on the Polk County Board of Commissioners. He’s running against retired U.S. Navy officer Danny Jaffer for the nonpartisan position paid $75,192 a year.
Mordhorst has been endorsed by Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton, Polk County District Attorney Aaron Felton, State senators Denyc Boles and Brian Boquist and Polk County commissioner Craig Pope.
Felton said he’s known Mordhorst a long time and he’s a strong supporter of public safety.
“I really, really value his thorough interest in public safety in Polk County,” Felton said.
When asked to identify three things he would like to improve, change or adapt to county operations, Mordhorst said doesn’t see anything he wants to change.
“Polk County runs amazingly well,” he said.
Mordhorst said addressing the homelessness crisis needs to start with housing.
“Right now, it’s just literally we don’t have the money in our budget to put into it, but we file for a lot of grants,” he said.
He said he wants to see more money put toward preventative measures before people become homeless. Mordhorst sits on the board of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency and said he can lobby with the staff of the social service agency to get more money for Polk County residents on the verge of homelessness.
“It’s up to me to be the voice and to bring attention to it and bring more money and funding,” he said.
Mordhorst said to help businesses recover from the pandemic, he invited all the chambers and downtown associations in the area together to create a coalition that posts to different social media accounts, like the West Salem Neighborhood Association or Dallas Chamber of Commerce.
He said rather than trying to market the region to tourists, Polk County should capitalize on the 88,000 residents already living in the county. He wants to figure out how to get residents to start going out to dinner 10 to 15 miles from their home.
Mordhorst said he has an idea to start a gnome scavenger hunt that gets people into businesses in different communities.
Mordhorst said he hasn’t seen or experienced racism in Polk County, but said he knows it happens.
He said he hasn’t done anything specifically to address racial equity issues in his time as commissioner, but as a leader he said he can set an example that racism isn’t tolerated.
“When I do see it, hopefully I can step up and calm it down,” he said.
Mordhorst said he doesn’t condone the racial justice protests that have been going on in Portland for months.
“I don’t consider that racism, I consider that a riot,” he said.
Working with others
Mordhorst, who used to manage the west Salem Les Schwab, said he always had angry customers in the tire store.
He said to work with those who don’t agree, he talks to them in an adult and respectful way.
“Everybody has the right to believe like they do. We need to embrace that and honor that for everybody,” Mordhorst said.
When asked for an example of his ability to resolve conflict, Mordhorst pointed to a disagreement in the West Salem High School Booster Club between fundraisers for band and sports. The two groups didn’t feel they were getting their fair share of funds, he said.
He said he was able to point out that all the money raised went to a useful cause that benefited kids, whether it was for sports or band. Mordhorst said once they realized that, they were able to come to a resolution.
Total raised: $14,675
Total spent: $20,340
Top donors: Oregon Realtors Political Action Committee, $2,000; JB Wood Recyclers, $2,000; Hampton Affiliates, a lumber company, $1,000; Boquist Leadership Fund, $1,000.
Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected] or @daisysaphara.