Oliver Tatom, a registered nurse who runs the urgent care clinic in La Pine, has announced his candidacy for Deschutes County Commissioner, Position 1.
The seat is currently held by Tony DeBone, who was first elected in 2010.
Tatom serves on the Central Oregon Community College board of directors and the Deschutes Rural Fire District #2 board of directors.
He grew up in rural Deschutes County, graduating from Bend High before going on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from the University of Southern California.
He returned home in 2014 with his wife, Amy, to raise their kids on the same property where he grew up (the original house burned in the 1996 Skeleton Fire).
“As a nurse leading an urgent care in La Pine for the past year, I have seen firsthand the devastating impact of this pandemic, and I know what it will take to lead us out of it.” Tatom said in a release. “Last month Commissioner DeBone had the chance to slow the COVID surge and save lives. He blew it. Now we’re experiencing the worst surge of the pandemic.”
Tatom referenced an August county commissioners meeting in which the county’s COVID-19 response and recovery supervisor, Emily Freeland, warned the board of commissioners that community spread was then at a substantial level.
“We would really encourage community leaders like yourselves,” Freeland said, “to encourage vaccination and masking to help prevent further outbreaks, especially while we have substantial transmission.”
DeBone dismissed the warning, Tatom said.
“If there’s zero deaths, or minimal deaths,” said DeBone, “with people with underlying conditions, do we panic because of that, or do we say oh it’s a shame somebody passed away, they had underlying conditions and they tested positive for COVID?”
Tatom points to DeBone’s refusal to recommend masks and vaccines as the reason we now have a refrigerated truck at St. Charles in Bend.
“The mobile morgue represents a profound failure by the elected leaders entrusted to lead our public health authority,” Tatom said.
“Beyond COVID,” said Tatom, “the county faces several overlapping crises: Poor access to behavioral health services, dangerously unhealthy air quality, and an exploding population of unhoused neighbors. These problems require compassion and vision. As commissioner, I will lead Deschutes County toward a brighter future of healthy families and safe communities.”