By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
While the Keizer Iris Festival was bringing people together recently, another event was quietly bringing a community together as well.
In conjunction with Pastor Jose Dominguez and Roland Herrera, Keizer police chief John Teague spoke to 50 people at Dominguez’s Light of the Valley (La Luz Del Valle) Church on Dearborn Avenue on a Friday evening.
Most of the attendees were of Hispanic descent. That was by design.
“I’ve learned many Hispanics feel really disenfranchised,” said Teague, who noted conversations on the topic with the American Leadership Forum. “They don’t feel they have access to the government, to the justice system. They want the same things we all want. They want good jobs, security and a bright future for their children. A natural part of my job is to make sure we’re serving all constituents. It’s incumbent upon me to start the dialogue, which is why I started in.”
At the same time, Herrera and Dominguez had a similar idea for hosting such a dialogue.
“Jose and I got together and we said let’s make it a dialogue,” Herrera said. “A lot of times people react after something happens. This is a proactive approach. We’re making it happen. Jose and I put it together, then approached chief Teague. He was all for it. He was excited.”
Dominguez, a 21-year Keizer resident, noted the need for such a conversation.
“We need to establish a relationship with public officials,” Dominguez said. “We want them to come tell us what we can do to make their jobs simpler. What can we do to help? It came from that need. I’ve never known a Keizer official to want to have a conversation. We were so wide open to that. This is an exciting time. We can solve a problem in our community.”
Initially, Dominguez had doubts about a Keizer official wanting to have the dialogue.
“I was very surprised,” he said. “For a public official to say he wants to have a conversation, he wants to know the good and bad in our community and that he needs to know how we can work together, that really was a surprise.”
Herrera, a former longtime city employee and 40-year resident running for council, had seen Teague work.
“For me it wasn’t a surprise,” he said. “I saw the leadership in him before and watched his leadership. I’ve seen how he conducts himself. This fits right in with his philosophy. It’s right down John’s alley. He wants to reach out. He’s very proactive and this is part of his proactive approach.”
Herrera said Light of the Valley was the perfect location.
“This church is such a great resource for a lot of things,” Herrera said. “That’s why we wanted to start here. It’s a great start to the relationship with our police department. We liked that (Teague) showed he cared about all of our community. People leaving the meeting were saying, ‘We have a good police chief.’ That was a big moment for me.”
Teague said improving relationships isn’t limited to him.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon officers to do their jobs well, which they do. But it’s not their job to foster societal change. It’s my burden to do that where I can.”
Dominguez appreciated Teague being accessible.
“We want to built that relationship,” he said. “We want to help build the bridge. We want to provide information for those who don’t know how to access information. What Chief Teague is doing is important. We want a better place to live. We want to be proud of our community.”
With the first meeting out of the way, the three men are looking to continue the meetings. Teague would like to have them every other month.
“By no means was that the last conversation we will have,” Teague said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s five, 50 or 500 people. The conversation needs to continue until we no longer have a gulf or at least a perceived gulf with the residents of Keizer. I didn’t have an agenda going into the first meeting. I don’t have one for the next meeting. I want to continue having meetings, but I don’t want to drive that dialogue. My main thing is I want to be there so they know they have access to unbiased justice in Keizer. I am an open book.”
Herrera and Dominguez would like to see a similar schedule. Those interested in helping out can contact Dominguez at the church, located at 606 Dearborn Avenue NE, or at 503-689-1652 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We look at it as we’re trying to help,” Herrera said. “We can’t do it ourselves. It takes a collective effort to put something like this on. I want to continue this. John wants to as well. It’s going to be great for our city.”