In a matter of hours with the arrival of Election Day, Philomath will have a more clear picture about its next couple of years with voters making decisions on who sits on the City Council, including the mayor’s seat, along with measures on renewing a five-year school district local operating levy and whether to place a moratorium on psilocybin facilities in the city limits.

Also on the ballot is a contested race for a Benton County Board of Commissioners position along with the state representative in the 10th District and state senator in the Eighth District. Statewide measures include constitutional amendments related to affordable health-care access, slavery and involuntary servitude language, and legislators with excessive unexcused absences. Requiring a permit to acquire firearms is another decision at hand.

U.S. senator, U.S. representative and governor appear on the ballot as well.

The Philomath News plans to publish results on Tuesday evening soon after they are released by the Benton County Elections office. The county typically posts initial results at around 8 p.m. with an update at around 11 p.m.

Incumbent Chas Jones and challenger Lawrence E. Johnson would like to serve as Philomath’s mayor for the next two years. Jones has served in that role since January 2021.

“As an elected official, it is important that we attempt to represent the diverse opinions and viewpoints of the Philomath voters,” Jones said. “We were elected by the voters to make decisions on their behalf, when appropriate.”

Johnson is a first-time mayor candidate after running for the City Council in 2020.

“My vision as mayor is one of trust and stewardship,” Johnson said. “I believe that the city needs to ensure that every tax dollar collected is used for the benefit of the city, the best value, the best services, the best facilities, the best planning and the best advice.”

Nine candidates are looking to serve the city as a city councilor — all six incumbents plus three challenges. Jessica Andrade, Catherine Biscoe, Ruth Causey, Matt Lehman, David Low and Teresa Nielson are currently sitting on the council. Diane Crocker, Christopher McMorran and Peggy Yoder are hoping to win one of those positions.

In 2020, voters approved a change to the city charter to begin staggering terms for city councilors. Three positions will be for a term of four years and the other three will be for two years.

Andrade has served since January 2021 when she was sworn-in after finishing among the top six in the 2020 election.

“Appropriate and effective representation of our community is rooted in providing opportunities for community involvement and feedback,” Andrade said. “Every voice in our community matters and it is the city’s responsibility to eliminate barriers to community participation.”

Biscoe was also elected to the council for the first time in the November 2020 election.

“Citizen representation does not occur simply because a councilor holds an elected title,” Biscoe said. “It occurs through actively pursuing the interests of all stakeholders, thoughtful listening and authentic public engagement.”

Causey was appointed to the council in 2019 and then won a seat in the 2020 election.

“Mutual trust and respect are essential for a highly functioning council,” Causey said. “Appropriate and effective citizen representation requires a balance of these — effective listening leading to thoughtful and collaborative solutions guided by the best interests of the community and governing documents.”

Lehman had served since 2019 when he was appointed and he followed up in the 2020 election by winning a seat.

“Effective citizen representation involves balancing the long-term goals outlined in the comprehensive plan and the strategic plan with the day-to-day operations of the city and the changing circumstances and perspectives of our community,” Lehman said.

Low has seniority on the council with successful runs in 2016, 2018 and 2020.

“Councilors use their voice and body language to express positions and must work effectively with other councilors and mayor to reach a council decision in an efficient manner,” Low said. “Implicit to success is the need to follow rules of order, maintain decorum and respect the process.”

Nielson attracted the most votes of any council candidates in the November 2020 election.

“Utilizing common sense in decision making, consistently maintaining mutual respect, honesty and integrity, partnered with empathy and compassion, are critical to the success of our city government,” Nielson said. “Effective and appropriate citizen representation requires that city councilors adequately prepare for council meetings and responsibly make decisions for the well-being of our city.”

Crocker is a first-time candidate for the council.

“As a city councilor, I will work to represent not only the people of Philomath, but their hard-working, family values and community-minded volunteerism,” Crocker said.

McMorran is another first-time candidate for the position.

“The role of the City Council is to govern our city through policymaking and budgeting that delivers efficient city services, spends taxpayer money responsibly, thinks about the big picture and long-term implications, and holds city staff accountable while giving them the tools they need to successfully execute the council’s vision,” McMorran said.

Yoder ran for one of the six council seats in 2020 and finished a very close seventh.

“Effective citizen representation can be achieved with a diverse council and by a council that is willing to listen to community members,” Yoder said. “Community members that take the time to write a letter or speak during a council meeting must be heard.”

As for the local measures, citizens will decide whether they should renew a five-year local operating levy for the Philomath School District (Measure 2-137). A yes vote approves of a renewal of the tax that’s already in place. The K-12 operating levy carries a tax rate of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value.

On the psilocybin issue (Measure 2-138), voters will make a decision about prohibiting certain psilocybin activities in Philomath until Dec. 31, 2024.

Other races involving local candidates include incumbent Pat Malone and challenger William Kughn for Benton County commissioner, incumbent David Gomberg and challenger Celeste McEntee for state representative in the 10th district and incumbent Sara Gelser Blouin and challenger Valerie Draper Woldeit for state senator in the eighth district.

Jef Van Arsdall is running unopposed for Benton County sheriff.

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.