Ashley O’Toole has filed for one of the opening La Grande City Council positions, challenging incumbent Justin Rock.

O’Toole, 33, is from St. Peters, Missouri. He served in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Seabees, from 2003 through 2009 and was deployed around the world, he said, including an eight-month tour in Iraq.

He moved to La Grande in September 2012 and immediately felt called to “serve and support my community.”

“I want to help it thrive,” said O’Toole, who is a Realtor with John J Howard & Associates Real Estate. “After years of volunteering for events and organizations, (city council) is where I want to serve next.”

Among the organizations he’s been a part of are the Union County Chamber of Commerce and La Grande Main Street Downtown.

“I’ve been involved in a number of events with them,” he said, “but most notably I’m a co-founder of the Eastern Oregon Beer Festival and the founder of the New Year’s Eve Block Party.”

O’Toole was also part of the group behind installing the welcoming sign near the eastern entrance to La Grande on Interstate 84.

He said he jumped right into helping with local organizations when he got here.

“I see a world of potential of what La Grande can be,” he said. “I want to help it get there. I would love to see
La Grande continue to move forward and continue to act as the hub of Northeast Oregon.”

One of the things O’Toole said he would work on if he were elected is increase the city’s revenue, without increasing taxes or cutting programs.

“The priority would be to close our spending deficit in our budget,” O’Toole said. “I don’t want to raise revenue by raising cost of living or raising taxes that would affect every citizen in La Grande. I don’t want to see the pool or library cut back more. There are other creative ways to raise revenue.”

Because of his experience serving on the city’s Budget Committee, he feels comfortable with this responsibility.

“I have seen line by line what every department is spending,” he said.

O’Toole said he would also focus on the Urban Renewal Agency.

“I won’t advocate we do without it,” he said, “but I would like to look more at its purpose and structuring. (I want to) see how it is managed and if there are ways to manage it more effectively.”

O’Toole said he is politically different than his opponent, incumbent Justin Rock, and he wants to offer La Grande a new voice.

“I like Justin. I have quite a bit of respect for him as a business owner,” O’Toole said. “I don’t think we agree on a lot of things politically. I would like to offer voters a choice in the matter.”

O’Toole believes that if he were on the council it would encourage the younger population to get more involved in politics.

“I think having someone even younger — in their early 30s — can engage folks in my peer group. I want them to care about who is running for city council.”