I’m Oliver Tatom, a registered nurse and licensed paramedic running to bring my experience as a healthcare leader to the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners.
I grew up in rural Deschutes County southeast of Bend and experienced first-hand the profound change brought by rapid regional growth.
Much of that change has been good: A more robust economy with opportunities to find meaningful work and a richer diversity of people with a varied experiences and abilities. This is why my wife Amy and I chose to return to Central Oregon in 2014 and raise our children here.
However, not all change is progress. In my professional and volunteer work, I bear daily witness to the suffering of those left behind by our county’s growth. We can – and must – grow together to promote healthy families and safe communities.
This is why I am running for Deschutes County Commissioner.
Oliver is a proven leader with experience in management and governance focused on what he believes are the three pillars of a thriving community: Health, Safety, and Education.
Oliver began his career in healthcare as an ambulance-based paramedic, where he responded to people in crisis due to disease and trauma.
That experience continues to drive his passion for preventive healthcare as the manager of a family medicine clinic in Bend, overseeing a team of clinical and non-clinical caregivers to support physicians and advanced practice providers in their delivery of high-quality, compassionate care to a diverse patient population.
Some of his accomplishments include securing a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation to provide free car seats to low-income families, and developing procedures to improve blood pressure control in patients diagnosed with hypertension.
The 1996 Skeleton Fire destroyed 19 houses in the Sundance neighborhood southeast of Bend, Oliver’s childhood home among them. That loss fuels his volunteer work to mitigate the destructive force of wildfires.
He currently serves on the Deschutes County Project Wildfire steering committee and the Deschutes Rural Fire Protection District Board of Directors, collaborating with diverse community stakeholders to promote fire risk reduction and resiliency.
25 years after the Skeleton Fire, Oliver organized his neighbors in a successful effort to earn national recognition for Sundance as a Firewise community.
Find resources to protect your own home against the threat of wildfire here.
As president of his nursing class, Oliver advocated for COCC to provide childcare for students, reducing barriers to student parents seeking higher education while simultaneously providing meaningful education to our next generation of citizens.
He continued pushing COCC leadership after his election to the college’s Board of Directors, and with funding support from the federal, state, and county governments, COCC and OSU Cascades are now finalizing plans to open a childcare center for their students and staff.
Building upon his experience as a healthcare leader and elected official, Oliver has a vision for leading the county out of the COVID-19 pandemic and into a brighter future.
As the county’s own budget document acknowledges, “COVID 19 highlighted Public Health’s lack of resilience and redundancy in addressing protracted crises and shocks.”
The pandemic also radically accelerated several preexisting crises in our communities, from a lack of behavioral health services (especially pediatric residential treatment) to the structural racism that continues to inflict profound harm on our non-white residents.
It is time we move past the partisan attacks on public health and invest fully in an equitable system of healthcare that adequately serves all residents of Deschutes County. That requires us to go beyond our current reliance on state and federal funding and to commit to stable and sustainable local financing.
While Deschutes County has long been a leader in wildfire prevention, megafires that have burned the American West in recent years should serve as a warning to vulnerable communities to remain vigilant.
Oliver supports an expansion of the county’s Natural Resources Department, giving our county forester the tools to be more proactive in fuels reduction and community education. The city of Flagstaff provides a model of what that could look like.
Moreover, the county must do more to reduce the risk of fire from dispersed camping on our public lands. Those experiencing homelessness cannot simply be swept away, but the county can engage more meaningfully with our municipal partners and provide robust wraparound services to help get our unhoused neighbors into permanent stable housing.
While education is not directly a function of the county, through his volunteer work in early childhood education and higher education (as well as Amy’s work on the school board on behalf of K12 students) he has seen the greatest obstacles to education are social problems – food, housing, and transportation.
Deschutes County has the ability – indeed, the responsibility – to address these social problems through greater investment in its health services department.
By collaborating with partners like NeighborImpact, the Central Oregon Early Learning Hub, and the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, the county can help residents keep a roof over their head, food on the table, and means of getting from one place to another safely and reliably.