BY ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Some of the lessons from Cathy Clark’s first two years as Keizer’s mayor fill two notebooks.
They are the compiled notes, questions and ideas from nearly two years of her monthly Coffee with Cathy talks. Each month, she sets down stakes at a local coffee shop and invites residents of the city to come and share their concerns and ideas, and she’s been keeping track.
“From the start, I wanted to be open and accessible to the residents of the city. I want to hear what people are thinking and I want them to be involved in problem-solving,” said Clark, who will seek re-election as mayor in November.
She was the only candidate to register for the mayoral race.
Clark served as a city councilor for eight years before being elected mayor, and said she’s approached both jobs with the same attitude.
“I feel tremendously privileged to get to serve in this capacity. I truly feel like this is something I get to do, not have to do,” Clark said.
In some respects, Clark has already laid some of the groundwork for her next term. During the past several months, she has taken the lead in conversations about increasing funding for parks and police. Because property taxes are locked in at 1996 levels, city officials are exploring the possibilities of adding fees to utility bills for the specific purpose of creating dedicated funding for those two services.
“Keizer has always been about pride spirit and volunteerism and we have to decide what that’s going to look like for the generation coming up. We have to plan responsibly for the needs of the future,” Clark said.
One of the perennial goals of the council has been to determine the future of the Urban Growth Boundary Keizer shares with Salem. Past talks on the issue have stalled out more frequently than not, but Keizer is facing a housing shortage and an even more drastic shortage of local jobs.
“We can’t tell people that you can have a home, but you’re going to have to drive for your job. We have a business community that wants to thrive and we want to build a kind of community where deep-rooted, sustainable business is possible,” Clark said.
To that end, Clark is hoping to incorporate changes in Keizer’s development code that will pave the way for more diverse uses of existing spaces, such as workforce housing on top of retail spaces.
She said the Keizer Economic Development Commission has moved slower than some people would like to see, but its been necessary to assess the current state of affairs and the tools the city has available to provide activation energy for changes.
Clark would like to see KEDC develop a business retention and expansion plan that prioritizes future city needs, but its one of those projects that is going to require input on multiple levels and from people with already enormously busy schedules.
“Even on that front though, we’ve seen about six properties flip between Chemawa Road Northeast and Dearborn Avenue Northeast and that are all looking great,” Clark said.
Keizer city elections, as well as the national elections, will be held November 8.