State of the City – Growing, strong, creative, resilient

Mayor Cathy Clark delivered the State of the City Address on March 14. Photo by Lyndon Zaitz of the Keizertimes

Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark gave her formal State of the City address before a lunch time audience on Tuesday, March 14. She spoke before a crowd of public officials and private sector leaders at the Keizer Civic Center.

Staged by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, the event was sponsored by Portland General Electric.

Keizer will celebrate its 40th birthday with a big event in June. The mayor said the city’s history  and experience since its incorporation in 1982 is more of a mural than a timeline. She mentioned the organizations that predated Keizer becoming a city: the Keizer Chamber of Commerce (born as the Keizer Merchants Association in the 1950s), the Keizer Water District, Keizer Fire District, Keizer Little League, the Rotary Club of Keizer, among others.

“The foundation for this city and its character was well established before we incorporated,” said Clark.

“We have come through three years of turbulence and we have landed on our feet,” she said. “We have continued to be Keizer through all of this.”

Clark said that Keizer continues to be a strong regional partner in the Willamette Valley, “Showing up time after time, year after year and making a significant difference.”

Two thousand-twenty-three will be a year of change for city hall. The first retirements of key department directors begins in July with City Recorder Tracy Davis, followed by Police Chief JohnTeague in September. Other department heads are scheduled to retire in 2024.

In April Adam Brown was hired as city manager. Clark said, “He’s finishing projects that paused during the pandemic years and he is setting a sustainable course for the future of our city operations.” 

The city has returned to full staffing with 101 employees. Once current recruitment is completed the city’s largest department, Keizer Police, will be fully staffed including 42 sworn officers.

Regarding city parks the mayor said the $4 parks fee on the city services bill contributes 60% of Keizer’s $1.4 million parks budget.

Turf fields will be added to Keizer Rapids Park due to the city’s COVID-era American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money and an additional $2 million from Marion County’s ARPA funds. 

Construction of the fields should begin sometime this year.

The mayor recognized Mickey Walker, CEO of For Love of the Game, which manages the baseball complex at Keizer Little League Park. She cited their work on cleaning graffiti and fixing vandalism at the park, saying For Love of the Game has worked on a significant list of repairs that the park needed.

On public safety Clark said Keizer does not live in a bubble. “Our location on the I-5 corridor is a game changer.” The Keizer Police deal with the surge of dangerous drugs, gang tagging, homelessness and human trafficking.

“We have great partners in Salem Police, (the) Marion Countuy Sheriff and other law enforcement agencies in our region,” she said.

Regarding graffiti, Clark implored the community to report incidents of graffiti in their neighborhood or at their businesses, which includes taking photos. 

“It’s helpful for our law enforcement to be able to put together cases and understand the what, where, who and how, and be able to get to the  bottom of this situation,” she added.

Transportation is an issue that Clark has been involved with regionally for years. For Keizer she addressed two big projects that are in the planning stages: improvements on Verda Lane N. from Dearborn Avenue south to Dr. Martin Luther KIng, Jr. Parkway and Wheatland Road N. from River Road to the city limits at Brooklake Road.

Verda Lane is a $1.4 million project that will complete all the sidewalks, bike lanes, to upgrade the entire route, “Which will be fabulous for people to be out walking, biking and being in motor vehicles in a safe manner,” Clark said.

The Wheatland Road project will separate sidewalks, bike lanes and motor traffic. “I’m all about separated,”  she said.

The mayor said that a  Brooklake-Interstate 5 interchange update went before the  Oregon Transportation Commission earlier this week.

“It (the interchange) has been dangerous and failed decades ago.”

Homelessness was cited as one of the biggest issues and everyone has to work together on it to meet the needs of people in the  community.

“I am proud that Keizer is a member of the new Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance,” Clark said, an organization she chaired for three years.

“With the collaboration of government service providers, builders, faith-based and community-based organizations, education and transit…you name it, we have a strategic plan of action that has helped direct funding toward the best practices we have.”

In 2022 permits were issued for 234 multi-family, 20 single family and auxiliary dwelling units (ADU) housing.

“In order to produce housing, there has to be actual hard dollars and buildable or re-developable land,” said Clark. “It costs money. Lumber is not free; electrical service is not free.”

The mayor closed out her address with a positive tone: “Our community has grown, shown creativity, strength and resilience time and time again. We know folks are going to remember the chaos of 2020, but I believe that we will be remembered more kindly from what we are doing now and getting done as we live out our motto: Pride, Spirit and Volunteerism.”