A field of nine candidates will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, which the Benton County Elections Office will begin to mail out this week, to give Philomath options when it comes to local representation.

This is the second of a five-part series of questions and answers to be published this week at PhilomathNews.com. The nine candidates running for the Philomath City Council include incumbents Jessica Andrade, Catherine Biscoe, Ruth Causey, Matt Lehman, David Low and Teresa Nielson, and challengers Diane Crocker, Christopher McMorran and Peggy Yoder.

For more information, the Benton County Elections Office uploaded each candidate’s filing form. Information on the forms include details on occupation, educational background and prior governmental experience. Click here for Andrade. Click here for Biscoe. Click here for Causey. Click here for Crocker. Click here for Lehman. Click here for Low. Click here for McMorran. Click here for Nielson. Click here for Yoder.

In addition, the Benton County Voters’ Pamphlet is available here.

This is the second of five questions asked of the candidates. Each candidate was allowed no more than 200 words for each individual answer with no exceptions. Answers were edited only for punctuation and typos and to conform to newspaper style guidelines (abbreviations, capitalization, etc.).

What is your top priority for this city over the length of your public service?

ANDRADE: The city of Philomath needs better communication with community members, more government transparency and increased community involvement opportunities. Meeting these broad needs allow the city to explore community-led solutions to our other needs over the long term, such as affordable housing, reliable infrastructure, traffic safety, environmental protections and emergency planning.

Too often the city council gets stuck in the trap of “this is how it’s always been done and it’s been fine” and “we don’t have the staff time or resources to do this.” Our community is far more creative than that. I believe that if we open wide the doors of communication between city governance and our community members that we can work together to both decide the issues we want the city to address and identify out-of-the-box solutions to create a more equitable community for everyone.

BISCOE: Better planning for Philomath.

Philomath is growing, presenting a tremendous opportunity for creating the city we want to experience for the next 20-50 years. Community-involved planning is the key. Planning is not just updating the comprehensive plan and should not be a city or council top-down process. It is an active partnership between the city and the people, to understand the people’s values, hopes and wishes for their city.

Planning means better housing developments, better transportation systems, better utility systems, better parks and park usage, and better protection of our natural and cultural resources. Does Philomath want a grocery store, a town square, a community center, more walkable and bike friendly housing developments or a dog park? Planning means safer neighborhoods, safer roads, active planning for wildfire preparedness and emergency response.

Planning affects every aspect of our community, it’s the core of a successful community and it should begin with the people in an inclusive, welcoming and open process. Better planning will remain the top priority of my public services … to serve the people first through better community-involved planning that can be reflected in all decisions of the city.

CAUSEY: My top priority has been and continues to be the safety of the community.

Community safety brings to mind an effective police force and safe streets, but it is much broader than this. Ensuring a stable water supply, securing funding to replace aging infrastructure and working with the state and county to improve our streets where jurisdictions overlap. These are obvious priorities, but we must also be prepared for the unexpected: wildfire, earthquake and other natural disasters require collaboration and preparation with regional entities to ensure that we are not only prepared for disasters, but we are prepared to accommodate those who will seek refuge here.

It is not enough to know that disaster recovery plans are in place, but our citizens need to be aware of these plans and understand their role in the process. I believe there is a gap between the plans and the knowledge base in the community. The Firewise program presents one avenue to address this, but implementation will require a community-based commitment at the neighborhood level. The City Council can and should formulate a plan and initiate an effort to educate and prepare the community before a disaster occurs.

CROCKER: My top priority is to learn the job and then successfully do it, by participating and listening to those with more experience. From there, I will work hard — coming to meetings prepared and with the values of our community in mind. I am a goal-minded, get-things-done kind of person. I believe with enough work, I can learn the job and step forward to represent our community.

I will communicate clearly with the community and other council members working cohesively to achieve the business of the city. There will be many points of view being brought to the table, but as anyone who has worked with me can attest, I will not demure, but be a strong voice for what I believe is right and right for our city. I am a reasonable person who, while treating others with respect, can stand firm in my representation of the people, many I have known over generations.

LEHMAN: Economic development has moved to the top of my priority list for Philomath. A large majority of residents in the Philomath community do not work in Philomath. There are also many folks who work in the Philomath community but do not live here. I believe that we need to create more jobs here in Philomath that pay well enough to allow employees the opportunity to live here in Philomath as well.

Whether you agree or disagree, the state of Oregon has decided that we should all drive our cars as little as possible. The idea is to rely on active transportation (walk, bike, scooter, etc.) for local trips and public transportation for regional trips. The state is actively implementing policies to make driving your car less attractive, regardless of whether you drive an electric or internal combustion vehicle.

Currently, the public transportation system in Benton County is not meeting our regional needs. Most people are driving their cars to work, to medical services, to shop and to entertainment options. We need to develop the economy of Philomath so that residents have more local options for employment, medical services, shopping and entertainment.

LOW: There are three:

Financial stability. This appears obvious, considering the city’s present healthy financial position. However, maintaining sound finances requires ongoing commitment. Philomath’s budget should remain focused on providing needed city services now and in the future. To accomplish this, we must prevent unnecessary expense and maximize revenue mindful of taxpayer support. We need to maintain reserves for future expenditures. Overall, the budget must provide for the present while limiting adverse financial consequences for coming generations. 

Strategic plan. The city’s roadmap for the near future is contained within its strategic plan. Following the plan ensures an orderly cost managed way to improve quality of life, maintain and enhance infrastructure, and retain Philomath’s unique characteristics. Revising the plan to recognize new projects or needs consistent with other priorities and variables is an important part of working the plan.

Effective City Council meetings. The public is well served when independent thinkers engage in constructive debate for the purpose of making a decision, reflecting the will of the council as a body. Councilor conduct is crucial. Combative, unfocused and grievance-oriented behavior work against the process. Following rules of order, staying focused, avoiding unnecessary repetition and refraining from monopolizing discussion enhance the process.

MCMORRAN: I’m 24 and was raised here in Philomath. Growing up, I saw the best of what Philomath can be: our incredible community spirit, our volunteerism and our care for one another. I also saw some of our challenges: declining forestry and natural resource jobs, economic inequality, increasing housing prices and cost of living, and the growing pains that come along with a changing population (traffic and traffic safety issues, water resource issues, and more).

I also experienced firsthand the struggles that far too many of our young people face with loneliness and mental health, especially in rural communities like Philomath. If we want a viable, successful future, we need young people to stay and invest in our community.

My top priority is to bring people together. Is that a little cheesy? Maybe. But I firmly believe that the best way to amplify Philomath’s strengths and address our challenges is by listening to every voice and building a consensus around the strategies that work for our town. Our City Council has struggled to do that for the last two years. That’s what inspired me to run. We need to build community, bring people together and treat one another with respect.

NIELSON: My top priority for the city of Philomath during the length of my public service is to effectively and efficiently meet the present needs of our community members while preparing for a vibrant and promising future. This is a complex endeavor which includes the completion of our water treatment plant and reservoir, the progression of the Downtown Safety and Streetscape Improvement projects, and supporting measures to encourage economic vitality while nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship and small business development.

Additionally, I believe that it is vital to review marketing strategies which would aid in recruiting a much-needed grocery store, as well as, improve and develop additional public parks and gathering spaces. Another priority is implementing positive, fair, and sustainable opportunities and trainings within our city government that incorporate effective diversity, equity and inclusion practices.

And finally, I am committed to honoring the historical heritage and integrity of our city while optimistically evaluating strategies and goals for building a culture of creative innovation in meeting the needs and resolving the challenges of our community.

YODER: One of my top priorities is to seriously address speeding traffic through neighborhoods and on main roads. The streetscape project that is beginning soon should considerably slow traffic on Main Street and Applegate Street. I would like to focus on empowering community members that have valid concerns about traffic speeds on the local streets that go through their neighborhood. To do this, it’s time to actively implement the newly-adopted Neighborhood Traffic Management Program, and encourage neighborhood cooperation to offer solutions to the City Council for approval.

People feeling safer outside of their cars is a natural byproduct of our streets becoming safer by lower traffic speeds. Ideally, as time goes by, we could strive to become a walkable city (friendly to pedestrians, bicycles, wheelchairs, etc.), where future planning of our town considers the importance of persons, not just their automobiles.

It will also be important to address the needs of the community members that live on the streets that will be impacted by traffic changes and detours during the streetscape project. I know this is an ODOT project, but we need to be mindful that traffic isn’t detoured through neighborhoods.

Coming Wednesday: Housing developments have been a major issue in Philomath over the past few years. What’s your perspective on what the city needs to do moving forward to avoid some of the pitfalls that have been seen?

Monday, Oct. 17: What do you envision as the role of a city councilor and what do you believe constitutes appropriate and effective citizen representation?
Tuesday, Oct. 18: What is your top priority for this city over the length of your public service?
Wednesday, Oct. 19: Housing developments have been a major issue in Philomath over the past few years. What’s your perspective on what the city needs to do moving forward to avoid some of the pitfalls that have been seen?
Thursday, Oct. 20: City government transparency concerns seem to occasionally surface. Do you believe transparency is an issue? If so, what would you do to fix it? If not, what do you think the city is doing that’s working?
Friday, Oct. 21: Many in the community believe that the candidates have associated themselves with certain other candidates whether it’s through advertising, yard signs or other means. What are your thoughts on these perceived alliances, including the pros and cons of this election strategy?

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.