MAYOR VS. MAYOR VS. MAYOR

October 22, 2002 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

UNION — The question of what is needed in a mayor for the City of Union could be turned around to, what mayor in recent history did the voters prefer?

The incumbent mayor, Dave Thomas, is seeking a second term, focusing on work already under way.

Sue Briggs, who served as mayor for three terms prior to Thomas' election, wants to return to the position and focus on Union's quality of life.

And L.G. "Jerry" Moore, Union's mayor from 1989 to 1992, thinks his direct style and willingness to prioritize projects is needed once more.

As voters consider the candidates, the question may not be so much what needs to be done, but what leadership style they prefer.

Dave Thomas

"I decided to run again because there are certain projects under way that need to be finished," said Thomas, who defeated Briggs in the last election for mayor.

Topping his list is completing the chip sealing of city streets.

Three years ago, Thomas said, there were about six miles of unpaved streets in Union. Three miles have been chip sealed, and there's about three and one-half miles left to complete.

Thomas wants to make sure, too, that money in the city budget is spent on the items it's allotted to, feeling that in the past some monies have been routed to other

projects.

"And I want to make sure there are no more water and sewer rate increases," he said. Thomas said $140,000 raised through water and sewer rates went to the golf course — now a county property — and that a lot of elderly city residents can't afford the rates for the basic services.

Thomas's "to-do" list also includes the need to continue to maintain the city park, perhaps adding one or two pieces of playground equipment for small children.

"And we need to continue to upgrade the library," the mayor said. While Thomas himself has been working to remodel the basement in the library, he hopes the city can make permanent improvements that are more than "stop-gap" measures.

When first elected, Thomas promised more access to the mayor, and while he's made himself available, he admits few people have come forward with comments. But he will, he promises, "continue to allow people to express opinions at city council meetings."

Finally, Thomas wants to "do something with the old mill site."

The former WTD mill site was a subject brought up by all three candidates. It currently is privately owned, but could become property for future business development if funds were pursued to take care of contamination at the site and if it could become city property.

"We need to get a study done," Thomas said. "The site has to be cleaned up first."

Thomas said he hasn't found the mayor's job particularly frustrating, but agrees he doesn't always agree with the others on the city council.

"It's healthy to have disagreements, and then we turn to the next issue," he says. "I've had good relations with the council; it's been a great, great time."

Looking ahead, Thomas would like to add to the city sidewalk system, improve the library and try to get an industry to come to Union "with family-type jobs," although until more industrial land is available, "we just don't own any land to do anything with."

Sue Briggs

"I loved it when I was doing it. I loved working with people and always saying ‘we did this,' " Sue Briggs said over lunch, stopping briefly during a day of door-to-door campaigning.

Briggs, who served on the Union City Council before becoming mayor, has stayed active in the community, serving on the city's budget committee, serving on the Cove-Union-Powder Association, being a member of the city's golf committee, its Commercial Club and a member of the RE:Union group. She's also worked with the county committee for Needs and Priority Project funding ratings, the county tax appeals board and the county's Senior Transportation Committee.

"I am an enthusiastic champion for the many assets Union offers," Briggs said, parroting her campaign literature.

Being mayor isn't, for Briggs, "an I thing," she said. "The present mayor and I — you can't compare our styles.

"I'm a consensus builder," Briggs said. That doesn't mean that everyone on the city council or on committees have to agree, she added, but it means you find a way to move forward.

"I have really no agenda," Briggs said of this election. With several projects around Union either recently completed or under way, Briggs thinks it is time "to spend time developing the quality of life things."

Among those life issues for Briggs is getting Union young people involved with city government, perhaps having a youth member on the council and having city leaders mentoring young people.

While the process is under way, Briggs would like to see even more joint work between the school, the city and local businesses focused on improving life for younger residents.

"The only project I can think of is the Bobcat Athletic Complex," she said, noting that the buildings still need some completion work and there isn't a track yet.

Briggs does see the loss of city police officers, let go as part of budget-tightening, as a problem

The CopsMore federal grant program paid for the officers for several years and even forgave the city the portion of salaries it was supposed to pay.

Briggs would question, however, the timing of letting the officers go. She believes there were funds in the budget for a few more months for the officers.

"I think that was an oversight," she said.

In the future, Briggs said, there will be an emphasis on finding alternative sources of grant money to do city things, much as the CUP Association process that resulted in the Union Family Health Clinic.

CUP, Briggs notes, had seed money to start, then found itself working with nothing "but a wing and a prayer." But the efforts and community work drew the attention of the Meyer Foundation, "and they wanted us to go for a grant. It was a lesson, Briggs said, in how to do things for yourself and then get noticed. "You have to show the interest."

L.G. "Jerry" Moore

"My observation is that some projects should be given priority attention," said Jerry Moore, former Union mayor and retired postal supervisor.

Moore decided to run for mayor after talking to people involved in city government now, and seeing what was going on around town.

Getting street work done is high on Moore's list, followed closely by the need for the city to make a decision on what should be done with the old mill site.

And, "I see things in the city that the city police department and the fire department should have their attention drawn to. A lot of places don't have visible house numbers, for example."

Moore is promising that if elected, he would ride through Union with the city administrator and other city officials once a month to view what needs work.

Moore, who had serious health problems that forced his resignation from the council after his term as mayor, said he's doing fine now and "is very fortunate to still be going."

Moore has a list of proposals he'd like a chance to implement as mayor.

He wants to sit down and have an open meeting regularly with the city administrator, along with meeting with every city employee once a month.

Disgruntlement can fester among employees, Moore said, "and it's like a virus, it spreads."

Moore admits to concerns about people new to Union he does not know, and points to his work getting the Forest Service complex on the north edge of town returned to the city, starting the efforts that resulted in the main street repaving project by the Department of Transportation, and setting up the three-tier system of water usage payments for Union residents.

Moore also points out that he has connections that could help Union, ranging from his work through the Powder River Correctional Facility, to good relationships with county commissioners.

"I will pursue any project that really needs to be done," Moore stresses.

All three candidates were asked to address the recent situation revolving around the return of a former city administrator to that post, and salary increases for the position.

Thomas said the matter was dealt with in a closed special session and he couldn't comment on what had happened, but would like to have the issue be reviewed again.

Briggs said the city manager situation "caused hard feelings," but was handled within legal parameters, as far as she knows.

Moore declined to comment on the matter, but noted the mayor must be up-to-date on all matters on the administrator's workload, in case the mayor has to take over.