For Michele Roland-Schwartz, running for the Keizer City Council is a matter of meeting a moment.
“Everyone is being asked to look at our policies and their impact on our day-to-day lives,” Roland-Schwartz said. “I’m interested in meeting those policy decisions and having those conversations and thinking about how decisions affect our residents, how do they impact our hardworking families or seniors, people with disabilities, black, indigenous and communities of color, LGBTQ communities.”
Roland-Schwartz said issues such as growth affect all residents of the city in different ways and city officials need to keep all of them in view as they proceed.
She is running to replace Marlene Parsons in Position 3 on the Keizer City Council. Keizer businessman Kyle Juran has also filed to run for the same position.
Roland-Schwartz’s attention to such issues of inclusion is an extension of who she is as well as her work as the current executive director for the Oregon Attorney General’s Oregon Sexual Assault Task Force, a position she’s held since 2013. The Keizer-based task force, a private, non-profit, fosters collaboration to between numerous agencies and research disciplines to create a culture more attentive to the needs of sexual assault victims. Its work runs the gamut from preventative education to training first responders.
An issue such as housing can have a direct impact on the work she does as part of the task force. Keizertimes asked how she regarded council’s pre-pandemic decisions banning sleeping on sidewalks, a direct response to a burgeoning population of homeless residents.
“When I see ordinances like that or decisions like that, it makes me concerned because it is kind of directly criminalizing homelessness and housing insecurity,” Roland-Schwartz said.
One of the things she’s learned as a result of a career in support services is that solutions to most problems are unique to a specific community.
“It’s been a recurring theme in the work of the task force that we can bring expertise, but it’s the individual communities that tell us what works best for them. What works in McMinnville or Ashland might not work in a rural area,” she said.
In some ways, Roland-Schwartz was drawn into the city council race as a result of the pandemic and council meetings gaining more visibility. And the precautions that arose to combat COVID-19 certainly impacted collecting signatures to place her name on the ballot.
“There were days when we were driving around to people’s homes and they would bring out a pen to sign the petition. It felt a little weird, but someone signing the petition would always direct us to someone else around the corner. It was good because I got to know a lot of the neighborhoods I hadn’t visited before,” Roland-Schwartz said.
She hopes to capitalize on some of her newfound campaign connections if elected to the council in November.
“I think one of the council’s roles is to help residents understand how quality of life and the decisions that are being made in Keizer are connected very intrinsically,” she said.
While Roland-Schwartz was born and raised in rural Lane County, her roots in the community stretch back much further. Her grandmother’s family moved to the area when it was still mostly farms and lived as renters while working in hops fields.
“I feel a thread connecting me to this area and it’s where I’m raising my kids. That’s what makes me want to make it a better place,” she said.
Roland-Schwartz lives in Keizer with her husband, Sam, and three children, Lee, Quentin and Ada. Voters can find out more about her campaign and contact the candidate at www.michelefororegon.com.