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'One-Woman-County' Judge Retires


A long-time fixture in Central Oregon government is retiring at the end of the year. Congressman Greg Walden has called Judge Jeanne Burch a “one-woman county.” April Baer reports on the change of leadership in Wheeler County, which is the least populous in the state.

As County Judge, Burch is also the chief executive officer for this community of fewer than 1,500 people. In terms of area, it’s bigger than the state of Rhode Island.

Judge Jeanne Burch

Judge Jeanne Burch

April Baer/OPB

Burch tackled tough budget battles early in her tenure. And over the years, she thought hard about expanding economic opportunity for young people, who had to leave Wheeler County to make a living. She started lobbying for modern cell and broadband service. Telecom firms bypassed the area for years.

Burch said, “I went everywhere, I drove everybody crazy. We got real close twice.”

Eventually, with influence from Congressman Walden, and state representative John Huffman, Frontier Telenet stepped in with coverage.

She said, “We have a first-class broadband system. Most people don’t realize we have this. It’s state of the art.”

Burch says she’ll stay put for retirement.

Commissioner Chris Perry was elected to succeed Burch as Judge. He’s taking over as of the end of the year.

Wheeler County Fossil Oregon Jeanne Burch

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