By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
If you want to know why Jim Taylor has served on the Keizer City Council for 12 years – and the Parks Board for 10 years before that – you have to hit the rewind button.
Taylor, 67, has lived in Keizer his entire life. He was active in Troop 241 Boy Scouts as a child and played youth baseball. Taylor coached youth baseball and softball for years, also serving on the Keizer Little League board for more than a decade.
“My dad was always real active in the community,” Taylor said. “Growing up, I saw a lot of people active in volunteering. All of the people I looked up to as adults, whether it be through the Keizer Merchants Association (precursor to the current Keizer Chamber of Commerce), the Lions Club or Keizer Rotary, I looked at those people and they all volunteered in Keizer. So it was a natural progression.”
Taylor is leaving the council at the Jan. 5 meeting, handing his seat over to Brandon Smith. Mayor Lore Christopher is also leaving (see related stories), as well as Joe Egli.
“The most important thing we have in our life is time,” Taylor said of serving on Parks Board and council for a combined 22 years. “That’s what I was giving up. It was very self-satisfying. I didn’t do it for any other reason. I sure didn’t do it for ego. If you’re doing it for ego, you need to find something else to do. I was just volunteering my time.”
With a grin, Taylor added, “A lot of it.”
Based on his background, one might assume Taylor had problems putting friendships aside to serve the greater need. He said that wasn’t the case.
“I had one occasion where one of my best friends disagreed with where the council was going on an issue,” Taylor said. “I was with the majority of the council. This is a very good friend. I finally said, ‘I would do anything for you, but I serve 35,000 people.’ I couldn’t in good conscious go against what was good for 35,000 people for a few people. It was very difficult. He still thinks I was wrong, but our friendship survived.”
Taylor said such lessons are applicable to future councilors.
“Use your common sense,” he said. “A lot of the people who testify are the antis. You have to weigh whether that is the majority. I talk to the people in the community, so I feel I get a good sense of what people are thinking. I talk to people all the time with my job. I get a broad sense of how people feel. It doesn’t mean they are right or you agree with them.
“You have the advantage on council of having all the information and having to know the information,” Taylor added. “Most people who testify don’t want information, they want affirmation they are right. So you take all of that into consideration. You have to have a feeling of what the community feels and what is best for the community.”
Taylor is confident Smith, Amy Ripp and Roland Herrera will be good councilors.
“I was lucky to have Brandon run for my seat,” Taylor said. “He’s a smart guy who works hard. There’s no game playing with Brandon. I hope I’ve been that way. Amy and Roland are both very bright. I hope they work hard at the things they are passionate for. Every decision you make affects everybody. Don’t get too narrowed in, or just on your passion. You have to work with the entire council. I hope they can do that. It takes two years to really get into the flow of things.”
The city has seen a tremendous amount of change since Taylor started on the dais.
“In 12 years, there have been a lot of things,” he said. “There’s been a lot of really big changes. What we do as city councilors is we take care of the one thing people hate: change. People hate change. It started with the start of Keizer Station and Keizer Rapids Park, going through all of that with Richard Walsh. Then the next best thing was building the civic center.”
While Keizer Station stands out for Taylor, the controversy over the Area C portion in particular is what he recalls.
“Area C has been a thorn,” he said. “I wish something could have happened by now, but it will. It will be a good deal. I’m pretty satisfied.”
The council extended debate on what to allow in Area C, which for a time was rumored to be the future home of a large Walmart. Council’s decisions were ultimately appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), which disagreed with council. Taylor points to Area C as his main regret.
“Rich Walsh was the only one to vote against it at the time,” Taylor recalled. “He thought there should be a new text amendment. He’s a lawyer. We disagreed. In retrospect, he was correct. It might have gone forward. I wish we had discussed it more. He brought it up, but no one felt it was a good idea. We didn’t want to start over, since we had worked on it for months. We thought what we had decided on was good. Because of a couple of words, LUBA overturned it. That is the way it was.”
Recently councilors approved a new master plan for Keizer Rapids Park, including a spot for a long-desired youth indoor sports facility. Taylor makes it clear he wishes the project had been done earlier.
“I really wish we had gotten the youth indoor sports facility built by now,” he said. “I understand why it wasn’t. We didn’t really have a place for it like we do now.”
Much like Christopher, Taylor sees the biggest future topic for Keizer containing three letters: UGB, or Urban Growth Boundary.
“I am pro-UGB, but it needs to be slow and controlled,” he said. “We should have the choice. We have other entities involved – mainly Salem, which has the big voice on the block – that have to agree. Over the next four to six years that will be the big issue.”
When asked if he would like anything in Keizer named after him, Taylor said perhaps the indoor youth sports facility. He quickly rejected the notion of the boat ramp at KRP.
“The boat ramp is Rich Walsh’s deal,” said Taylor, who is well-known for his love of fishing. “I was there when he started on his rant about Keizer Rapids. At the time Lore and I said, ‘Oh, here goes Richard.’ Amazingly, he pulled it off. He was a one-man show. It took everyone and a lot of agencies, but he was the guy who did that.”
There is one thing Taylor didn’t want to ever do: be the mayor of Keizer.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I had no desire to do that. That’s a tremendous amount of work. I was a good councilor, but I don’t know if I would be a good mayor. I don’t have the passion to do it. Lore has done a wonderful job, not only because she’s very bright but she also had a true passion for that job. It’s the same with Cathy.”
As for his own future?
“I don’t know,” said Taylor, who owns and runs Jim’s Lawn Service. “I can assure you (wife) Darlene will find more things to do if I’m not productive enough.”
Taylor will likely also keep his phone call appointment.
“One thing Lore and I did is we almost always talked on Sunday nights,” Taylor said. “We talked a lot anyway, but especially on Sundays before council meetings. Now I’ll have to call her just to talk.”
Will Taylor end up still being at council meetings by habit?
“I’m not interested in sitting and watching council meetings,” he said. “Area C and the Herber property I probably will testify, because I have the background. Other than that, I’ll trust my elected officials to do the right thing. I don’t want to be a pain in the rear.”