The city enters middle age

The city of Keizer is turning 40 years old in 2022. When voters approved incorporation in November 1982, Keizer became Oregon’s 13th largest city. The impetus to become a city was in part not to be annexed by Salem.

Keizer was created as a limited services, low cost city. Keizer still has the same tax base of $2.09 per $1,000 as in 1982 .That is the lowest in the state for a city of its size. It is a great story what the city has been able to do over the past four decades with such a low tax rate.

That low tax rate helped Keizer grow, as high property tax refugees from Salem moved to Keizer. It was not only the low taxes but the image of the our community as a small, quaint town.

Keizer had clean, orderly neighborhoods. The schools produced college-bound students. Driven by volunteer power, the Keizer Little League program and its fields were second to none in Oregon.

Keizer’s city council was filled with citizens who volunteered their time to assure that the vision of the city’s founding fathers was maintained and secured for future generations. Service organizations and their volunteers were instrumental in building and improving the city.

Identified as the Iris Capital of the World in the 1980s, Keizer’s premier community event, Keizer Days, morphed into the Keizer Iris Festival, which boasted one of the largest parades in Oregon. 

City leaders had a vision for the property along Interstate 5. The Chemawa Activity Center (as it was called at the time) became the Keizer Station we know today. That area is also home to Volcanoes Stadium.

Since 1982 Keizer has added thousands of homes and subdivisions. The city has been bumping up against its border for years now, which led to serious discussions of expanding the Urban Growth Boundary that keeps Keizer lassoed inside its 1982 border.

There is not much difference between Keizer of 1982 and Keizer in 2022. The city is home to family and senior households. The people in those houses are not much different than families anywhere else—they all want a sense of community. They want to feel safe and secure. They want the opportunity to partake in the American dream of achieving any goal, personal or professional.

Forty years on we need to assure that the idea of Keizer lives on. We all get distracted by coverage of national issues. There is no major effort to ban certain books in our local schools. There is no move to limit voting opportunities. The issue getting the biggest reaction is mandatory masks in schools. That will soon be a moot point since the state will lift its mandatory mask regulation on March 31.

Those who choose Keizer for their home do it for the same reason that our founding fathers did in 1982: to live in a small town with a sense of community and brotherhood. Let’s not lose that as the city enters middle age.

(Lyndon Zaitz is publisher of the Keizertimes.)