The Mt. Hood Community College board member who was reprimanded over his comments on immigrants and social media post portraying President Barack Obama with a noose around his neck will run for reelection.
George "Sonny" Yellott ran unopposed in 2013 and won a four-year term on the board of Oregon's fourth-largest community college. "I think that it's important that somebody who is not subject to the whims of the administration be present," Yellott said.
At a July board meeting, the 76-year-old ranted about undocumented immigrants during a discussion about next steps after voters rejected a $125 million bond measure. Later that month, the Obama lynching meme made national headlines and the board held an emergency meeting to discuss Yellott's conduct.
Yellott deleted the offensive photo shortly after a story in The Oregonian/OregonLive. He subsequently told KATU-TV he didn't know how the photo appeared on his Facebook wall and repeated that position this week.
With limited options, the college board voted to censure Yellott last July, formally denouncing his comments and conduct.
Yellott was also the Republican nominee for Oregon's 48th District House of Representative seat. House Republicans asked him to withdraw from the campaign, but he didn't and ended up drawing 28 percent of the vote.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's water under the bridge," said Yellott, who is from East Portland.
"The whole thing was manufactured," Yellott said. His Facebook page largely consists of political memes, but Yellott maintains he didn't knowingly share the edited picture that depicted Obama with a noose around his neck. "I was not a Barack Obama fan," he said.
"I have no idea how it got there," he said.
Following the controversy, college officials' hands were tied. Yellott refused to step down from the board and efforts to recall him from the elected - and unpaid - position didn't materialize
Yellott has not filed his election paperwork yet and he has until March 16 to do so.
His name will appear on the May ballot as the college seeks a $75 million bond to build a new technology center in east Multnomah County and seismically retrofit buildings on campus. Last year, voters rejected a $125 million bond, the fifth failed bond effort since 1974.
He will face at least one challenger with an extensive background in public education in the metro area.
Annette Mattson, a longtime east Multnomah County resident and Portland General Electric government affairs staffer, filed election paperwork this month. The mother of four said she spent 18 years on the David Douglas School District's board and was also president of the Oregon School Boards Association's board.
In an interview, Mattson said she thinks Mt. Hood needs to work on its relationship with east Multnomah County. "I believe that that relationship is broken," she said. "I want to restore that relationship."
Mattson, 59, said she doesn't think Yellott has represented the college or community well.
"I don't believe he reflects the priorities of the citizens of the area, or the school," she said. Yellott, meanwhile, argues he has been a "strong advocate" for students."
Mattson said she first considered running for the position last May after the college's $125 million bond measure failed. She met with Board Chair Susie Jones and President Debra Derr and discussed becoming more involved with the school. Mattson has since spent eight months on the college's audit committee.
Mattson said she hasn't made her mind up about the $75 million bond expected to appear on the May ballot, but she does believe the school needs more money to repair its facilities. Yellott said he plans to support the bond measure.
Diane McKeel, a former Multnomah County commissioner, filed paperwork for a separate seat on Mt. Hood's board.
-- Andrew Theen
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