Colm Willis

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Friends,

I hope you have had a wonderful July. I know I haven't had the chance to send you a note since Independence Day. I took my girls on a family vacation. It was good for us to just be together as a family. I hope you also had a wonderful holiday. The Declaration of Independence has always been an incredible document. Recently, I have been meditating on the importance of our freedoms:

We hold these truths to be self-evident:  That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights — that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Especially during these times, I hope that we never forget these words.

Several weeks ago we hosted the Marion County Fair and it was the most successful fair we have had in a long time. Three times as many people attended the fair compared with two years ago. It is a reminder that our community is ready to get back to normal!

We also got the opportunity to recognize our first responders who put themselves in danger to help evacuate our neighbors from the canyon the night of the labor day fires last year. It was an incredibly moving event and I am grateful to each and every one who put their lives on the line for others that night.

Honors from the stage

There have been a number of wild fires across Oregon and after our experience last year, I am sure that you are as concerned as I am for our Santiam Canyon. So far the nearest fire has been the Bruler fire which was burning only about 8 miles south of Detroit. Fortunately, there has been a very aggressive response to this fire and it is now 53% contained. I am optimistic that this fire will be put out. However we must be very vigilant given the heat that we are seeing.

Last week the city of Salem celebrated the Grand opening of the Union Gospel Mission. This new mission has enormously expanded the homeless shelter capacity in Salem. My hope is that this new facility, right across from the police station, will help to reduce the impact of homelessness in Salem. Additionally, the state finally cleaned up the Market Street homeless camp under the I-5 overpass, which was dangerous and harmful to the surrounding community. Several people died in vehicular accidents because of the state's unwillingness to address that camp for so long. I am glad they finally put an end to that unsafe situation.

I know you are probably reading the reports of increased COVID numbers in our community. I want you to know that I am monitoring the situation but I still believe that personal responsibility is the best policy when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. Now that masks and vaccines are plentiful, people should be empowered to make their own decisions about whether to use these tools to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. It should not be the government's job to make these personal decisions for every person in our community.

As always, please don't hesitate to reach out if I can help you with anything.

It is an honor to serve you as your county commissioner.

God bless,

-- Colm

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