By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Mayor Lore Christopher has long been bullish on how many jobs have been created in Keizer in recent years, even with a slumping economy.
But even she has to draw the line somewhere.
Christopher gave her final State of the City address Tuesday at the Keizer Civic Center. The speech, sponsored by PGE, was a chance for the mayor to continue her farewell tour. Christopher became mayor in 2001 but has officially announced she will not be running for re-election this fall.
Before Christopher took to the stage, she was introduced by PGE’s Richard Goddard, who mistakingly – and rather hilariously – credited Christopher for helping to create 200,000 jobs in Keizer.
“So the 200,000 jobs, that was actually 2,000,” Christopher quickly corrected once she started her speech. “But those 2,000 meant as much to us as 200,000 jobs would mean in larger communities.”
Throughout her speech, Christopher mixed jokes and self-depreciating humor with reflections and news from around Keizer. She started with a reference to a headline from the Jan. 3 issue of Keizertimes: A year of new starts.
“This headline says it all for 2014, don’t you think?” she said. “Thank you very much, I’ll sit down now. But really, 2014 will be a year full of new starts for our city. If you are expecting me to impart some profound wisdom during this last speech, you haven’t been paying attention the past 13 years. I’m still just me, not profoundly wise, but profoundly grateful for the opportunity to be your mayor.”
Christopher said timing and luck have been her friends over the past 13 years.
“Growing up, being mayor my hometown was not only not on the top of my list, it was not even on the list,” said Christopher, who moved to Keizer in 1988. “I can’t tell you how fulfilling it has been. Thank you for allowing me to represent all of you and being a part of helping define who Keizer is becoming. I’m so proud of…what we are able to accomplish through Pride, Spirit and Volunteerism.”
Christopher pointed to three key factors for staying in office: honesty, integrity and experience.
“I have been honest with you even when the truth was not good, was embarrassing or unhappy,” she said. “Together we have weathered those truths.”
Those truths also included talk of businesses expected to open in Keizer this year. That ranges from Silverton Health’s clinic opening this month to the Caruso’s building reopening as Delaney’s Bar and Grill next month to REI opening in the former Circuit City building in June. Also, the $7.8 million Avamere Memory Care facility is scheduled to open this summer while Kaiser Permanente’s clinic will open in November.
“2013 was good, but 2014 will be a barnburner. All of these businesses will add another 500 local jobs to our community,” Christopher said. “The addition of medical jobs is so important to our community. They are career and higher wage jobs. They are predominantly daytime employment which helps support additional restaurants for all of us.”
As she did at Monday’s Keizer City Council work session, the mayor talked about three businesses that have closed recently on River Road (Roth’s, Ace Hardware and Porter’s Pub) but encouraged people to continue to support other locations owned by the same owners.
Christopher also referenced last week’s Keizertimes front page story on the city’s ongoing dispute with the Rawlins family and the Local Improvement District (LID) fee on their property in Keizer Station.
“We are also awaiting the decision from the courts,” she said, referring to a March 7 summary judgement. “The Rawlinses sought legislative help. They asked for relief yet wanted to keep their property. Improvements have to be paid for. The people benefitting are the property owner. If we foreclose, that becomes city property and we have to pay for the LID improvements. We don’t think that’s fair. They agreed to it. They signed two contracts. I will continue to fight for the taxpayers and do everything I can to eliminate the risk of passing on the cost of repayment on to Keizer taxpayers.”
Not surprisingly, Christopher referenced The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park playground project.
“This is such a joyous project with such broad support,” she said. “You can buy a fence picket that can be personalized for $35. That’s a pretty cheap price for a piece of history.”
Christopher then compared some numbers from 2000 with today’s numbers. For example, Keizer’s population has grown 15 percent, from 31,371 residents to 36,907 residents. The number of parks has increased from eight to 19. Housing prices have increased 48 percent from $133,600 to $198,039 while Latinos make up 18 percent of the population, compared to 12 percent in 2000.
“Fourteen years to most people seems like a long time,” Christopher said. “I know most of you are thinking, ‘When will that woman ever leave?’ But it’s been a blink of the eye for me. It’s been a labor of love.”
Christopher talked about how she first joined the council via her name being drawn out of a bucket, then became mayor three years later. Less than a year from now, she will be the former mayor.
“Although I am officially a lame duck for the next 10 months, those of you who have worked with me will understand that I will be working, as my grandmother loved to say, ‘like a mad dog eating guts.’”
The mayor expressed excitement for the future, including a brief recap of the previous night’s discussion during a council work session for a new Economic Development Commission.
As she was ready to conclude her speech, Christopher had champagne – paid for by her – to give a toast to Keizer, replicating the one she gave last month at the Keizer First Citizen Awards Banquet.
After the speech was over, Derik Milton, current president of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, had other chamber leaders join him on stage and presented a clock to the mayor that matched the ones recipients received at last month’s banquet.