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Fun FaCt: Saltzman recently bought Sheryl Crow's C'mon, C'mon, which he says "sucks."

The candidates vying for in this race could be subjects in a psychological textbook on personalities. Incumbent Dan Saltzman, an engineer and a linear thinker, forms sentences as if he were building brick walls. Green Party stalwart Peter Alexander, a nonprofit executive, makes broad, sweeping statements in an inspirational populist rhetoric. And then there's Sharon Nasset, a bubbly real-estate agent whose distinctly nonlinear thinking makes her come off as just a bit wacky.

We like Nassett and share many of Alexander's ideals, but we're sticking with the guy who's got the job.

Endorsing Saltzman four years ago, we ticked off the criticisms he'd faced as a county commissioner: He's too narrowly focused and too cozy with downtown developers, and he has "the charisma of oatmeal."

Over the past four years, we've learned that, like certain hot breakfast cereals, Saltzman's reliability is both comforting and sustaining. To be sure, his engineer's obsession with efficiency can backfire, as when he touched off a near-rebellion by proposing that the city's neighborhood coalitions bid for the services they provide. But that same mindset can also lead to refreshing independence, as last March, when he essentially called for an outside agency to take over investigations of police misconduct.

Saltzman may not be flashy nor exhibit the kind of leadership we'd expect from, say, a mayor (he's the only commissioner not angling for that job), but he has emerged as an important voice for common sense on the council who consistently puts policy before politics.

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Fun FaCt: Linn's worst high-school subject was Phys Ed ("I was kind of a klutz").

It's the government nobody knows about. And yet, in many ways, Multnomah County is more firmly woven into the fabric of urban life than any other public body, responsible for libraries, jails, public health, mental health, the elderly, the disabled, and the bridges over the Willamette River.

Overseeing this 4,946-employee organization with an annual budget of $1.174 billion is the county chair. In the 11 months since Diane Linn ascended to the helm, she has presided over wrenching budget cuts and inherited a mental-health system on the verge of a plunge into the abyss.

Overall, we think Linn has risen to the challenge. The budget cuts, while painful, have been conducted fairly and with a minimum of fuss. Unlike her predecessor, Bev Stein, Linn faced up to the crisis in mental health and took courageous steps to improve it--including the removal of the politically popular Lolenzo Poe from his satrapy at the Department of Community and Family Services. Linn has not always been the most decisive leader, but she has generally chosen the sensible course in the end, and the interminable game of musical chairs in the mental-health system appears to be entering its final chapter. We are happy to endorse her.

Of her two opponents, Jada Mae Langloss is the more attractive choice. Although poor health prevented Langloss from coming to the interview, we respect her record as a salty and vocal advocate for the homeless who stirs up more trouble from her wheelchair than most citizens manage in a lifetime. The other candidate, electrician John Kelley, is a likable fellow who appears to have little idea why he is running. He walked in with a blank notepad; he walked out with a blank notepad. He made about the same impression on us.

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Fun FaCt: Giusto's latest CD collar was Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits.

Last December, while seeking the support of the corrections officers' union, would-be sheriff Bernie Giusto told his potential future employees that he would place their jobs and families above the public interest (see "Gunning for the Union Vote," WW, Jan. 23, 2002). That pandering got Giusto the endorsement of the Multnomah County Corrections Officers Association, but nearly cost him ours.

Longtime corrections workers who are supporting him assure us the comments were just a poor choice of words. But the union backing and a big fundraising advantage prompted two legitimate contenders, retired Undersheriff Mel Hedgpeth and state Sen. John Minnis, a Portland police officer, to drop out of the race, leaving Giusto with only token challengers.

To be fair, Giusto clearly has some brains and leadership skills. The former state police spokesman was hired as Gresham's police chief in 1996. Since then, he's been a popular and activist chief in the eastern 'burb. He oversees a $217 million budget and 111 sworn officers.

Giusto will need all his skills at the county, where retiring Sheriff Dan Noelle is leaving him crowded jails and a divided group of employees.

The two candidates still in the race are former Sheriff's Lt. Kirby Brouillard and current Lt. Vera Pool. Brouillard is an ethical, affable guy but lacks the credentials necessary to lead the Sheriff's Office. Pool was unqualified for the job eight years ago when she ran against Noelle and has only raised more doubts about her competence since then.

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