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Our Opinion: Return Smith, Saltzman and Fish to office

People often run for public office for the wrong reasons: to bolster their egos or to acquire power for the sake of power.

Voters, however, should look for evidence that candidates are capable of more noble motivations. And we think they can find just such evidence in the case of three incumbent politicians seeking re-election in the May 20 primary.

Portland Commissioners Dan Saltzman and Nick Fish and Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith all have quiet opposition in this election, but none of the three incumbents has given voters a reason to turn him or her out of office. Saltzman, Fish and Smith have taken their public duties seriously and have pushed the community forward on issues such as homelessness, mental health and essential city and county services.

Here’s a brief look at the races:

Portland Commissioner Position 2: Nick Fish

Fish, a civil rights attorney who was first elected to the City Council in 2008, was initially assigned to the parks and housing bureaus and he kept his focus on those areas until he was given the water and sewer bureaus last year. He has proven to be a hard worker and policy wonk who can discuss city issues in sometimes excruciating detail.

Fish also brings passion to his role. He demonstrates a true desire to make city government a vehicle for assisting vulnerable populations and for bringing equity to neglected areas, such as outer East Portland. After being assigned the Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, Fish has become a target for those who advocate creation of a water district. However, those criticisms should not distract from Fish's record as a principled leader. Voters should support him for another term.

Fish is challenged in this election by activist Michael Durrow and general contractor Sharon Maxwell.

Portland Commissioner Position 3: Dan Saltzman

Saltzman has been a reserved but effective force on the City Council since 1998. His tenure in office has provided him a tour of duty through 10 city bureaus. His institutional knowledge is vast, but he also can point to specific accomplishments, most notably the Portland Children’s Levy and reform of the Fire & Police Disability and Retirement System.

Saltzman’s current assignments include the Housing Bureau and Portland Fire & Rescue. It would be hard to find an elected official more qualified to help guide city policy. Voters should retain Saltzman as city commissioner.

Saltzman faces ballot competition from professor Nicholas Caleb and KBOO radio reporter Joe Meyer.

Multnomah County Commissioner District 2: Loretta Smith

Smith, who has represented North and Northeast Portland since winning election in 2010, is another quietly effective public official.

She understands Multnomah County’s function as a social service provider. She has carved out a leadership role in addressing homelessness, gangs and mental health.

A former aide to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, Smith has proven to be an asset for the county as it works with the federal government. She also shows a willingness to address problems at the front end — before they become even more expensive matters for government to contend with.

Smith is opposed by business consultants Bruce Broussard and Teressa Raiford. Under county term limits, she can serve another four years. Voters should give her that opportunity.

Editor's note: This editorial has been corrected to reflect that Dan Saltzman has been a city commissioner for 16 years.