In November, Keizer residents will get the chance to vote on three open city council seats, but only one will be a contested race. Keizertimes spoke with the candidates for Position 1, Allen Barker and Laura Reid, about their visions for the city and what they think they can bring to a role on the city council.
By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
When Allen Barker was looking to relocate his family to Oregon a few years ago, he and his wife used Keizer as a base of operations.
As they investigated other towns in the Willamette Valley and beyond, they soon realized they enjoyed Keizer just as much as any other place they’d visited. Soon they were drilling down in to what made the city so enticing.
“I started asking questions about how Keizer was doing so much with what seemed to be a very small budget. I wanted to know how they were able to do it, and that’s when I discovered the city’s history of volunteerism,” Barker said. They moved to the Iris Capital in May 2015 and, not long after, Barker volunteered for the city’s budget committee. In doing so, his respect for the city and its leaders only grew.
“We’ve done miraculous things with only a little bit of money because of our city staff doing an incredible job of keeping expenses down,” Barker said.
Barker is a retired tower crane operator with past experience in finance and business planning, and said smart development is going to be the key to Keizer’s future.
“Right now my biggest concern is that we are only able to get by on a budget like this because of the people who live here, but Keizer is aging. If we’re going to maintain what we have, we have to bring in new blood, and volunteers, to the city through fresh development,” he said.
While he doesn’t see volunteerism as waning in the city, he said it’s taking place in different ways than the city used to count on when constructing the likes of Keizer Little League Park.
“Police and parks are the top two issues from the residents I’ve talked with, and those are the same ones we came up with when I was working on the budget committee, so we have to figure out a way to fund those services,” Barker said.
The Keizer City Council is currently exploring options related to adding fees to utility bills and creating dedicated funds for those services, but Barker would like to see a more interactive process.
“I would like to have a system where we can reach out to registered voters online asking for feedback on the major issues of the day like funding for parks or public safety, then the city council can direct policy in accordance with the voting,” Barker said.
He sees engaging in conversations with all stakeholders as the primary vehicle for the smart development he’s talking about. He cited the lack of grocery options in Keizer as one example.
“We need to be talking with people in the planning departments of the food distributors to find out if Keizer is a viable market and, if there is something missing, how we can get involved to change it,” Barker said. “If we find out that we’re lacking something that we need to be in a marketable position, then we need to attack those needs hard.”
By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Teachers learn many things from their students, but Laura Reid gleaned one that she knows helped prepare her for a seat on the city council.
“I’ve had thousands of students and met so many of their families, and I’ve seen the support McNary (High School) gets from Keizer businesses. They’ve helped me understand what it means to be part of a small community in a large school district, and I feel like they taught me what it means to live in Keizer,” Reid said.
Reid has taught college writing and public speaking to Celtic classes for as long as she’s lived in the city – 15 years – and she would like to bring those skills to bear on the council.
“I am absolutely new to this, but I feel like one of my strengths is listening to people and weighing information fairly to make good decisions,” said Reid. “That’s part of what I teach. Students have to appreciate the complexities of a variety of issues and realize everybody has something to win and lose in any argument.”
Her bid for the city council is her first foray into public life, but she’s been heavily involved in other aspects of the Keizer community through her work at McNary and her church.
Through her recent conversations she’s had with residents, in no small part because she canvassed to collect signatures, Reid discovered that one of the more prevalent issues was concerns about pedestrian safety.
“There’s a lot of people who are interested in safer pedestrian pathways and installing sidewalks in the sections of town where we don’t already have them,” she said.
She’s been paying close attention to recent conversations at the city level regarding policing and parks and has appreciated the attention to detail, especially when it comes to seeking input from city residents while considering fees to create dedicated funding for police and parks.
“Those are conversations that have obviously been tough to have, but the principle is important and they’ve shown that by attempting to get real feedback rather than projecting their own views on the city,” Reid said.
The look and feel of new development, in public spaces and commercial ones, is one of her personal priorities. She would aim to strike a balance of Keizer’s small-town feel with an eye toward what future needs are likely to be.
When one local resident expressed concerns about deforestation during her canvassing, Reid said it made her think hard about how a global issue might relate to the job of a Keizer city councilor.
“I think it spoke to the larger issue of managed growth, we want to grow in a thoughtful and considerate way. We’re at a unique juncture where we’re finally coming out of the recession and able to move forward,” Reid said. “I’m excited about listening to the opinions of different people and learning how to make that growth happen.”