Springfield City Council has another vacancy to fill after appointing Sean VanGordon as mayor at a Jan. 19 meeting.
Eight Ward 1 residents, ranging in experience and age, applied to be considered for the interim two-year seat. The applications were due Feb. 1 and released Thursday, Feb. 4, so Eugene Weekly dove in to find out who wants to be the next Ward 1 councilor.
Before VanGordon, former Mayor Christine Lundberg and former mayor and county commissioner Sid Leiken held the seat. After the interim appointment, the city of Springfield will again have a complete governing body to deal with the issues the city faces, such as policing, economic recovery and development, and housing. The Ward 1 district is the northwest Gateway area of Springfield.
Kelly Mason, 25, would be the only Spanish-speaking councilor if appointed — and the youngest. Mason, a lifelong resident, has a bachelor’s degree from the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management at the University of Oregon and is finishing her master’s there in public administration. Mason serves as the chair of the Community Development Advisory Committee, which advises the council on use of the housing funds CDBG and HOME.
According to Mason’s application, she is bilingual and is able to interact with the city’s growing Latinx community. “I believe that Springfield City Council is lacking in diversity, gender and representation of the community as a whole,” Mason wrote,” and I will be able to fill this gap with my unique experiences.”
Another lifelong resident of the Eugene-Springfield area is Ray Suit, a principal risk analyst for NortonLifeLock. Suit is a 10-year volunteer with Kidsports and is an active member of the Technology Association of Oregon. Suit said he wants to help the city find solutions to the issues it’s dealing with: “from protest and riots, community perception of police, school and business closures due to COVID, unemployment to homelessness.”
Grace Bergen, a realtor with Re/Max Integrity, is on the city’s planning committee. She wrote that she is ready “to make the decisions that are the best for Springfield, even when they are difficult.” From her service on the planning committee, she said that she has had the inside look on the city’s goals “and has positioned me to serve our community on city council.”
Navy veteran Troy Allen wrote in his application that he wants to serve his ward and “focus on keeping our city safe and maintaining a budget.”
Timothy Canter wrote that he has been a foster parent of minority youth and has seen firsthand “issues of race and ethnicity play out in education, juvenile justice and with law enforcement.”
Thomas Lawrence, a mental health counselor at Laurel Hill Center, said that what makes him qualified is that few people have as much knowledge of the area and wide perspective on it. Because of his profession, he wrote that he has worked with people who have the least representation in the community: the unhoused and those suffering from mental illness.
Damien Pitts, an Eagle Scout and an Army combat veteran, wrote that he previously served on the Lane County Equity and Access Advisory Board. “Through my life and education, I have acquired cultural intelligence that allows me to navigate various spaces,” he wrote. “I am straightforward, and I care about team dynamics more than anything.”
Pitts wrote that he wants to serve as a councilor because he can use his skills of community building and constructive criticism to serve the community. “I want to support community leaders, and create spaces for personal and professional growth.”
Michelle Webber is the only person who’s previously run for elected office out of the pool of applicants. Webber was appointed to the Springfield School Board on June 25, 2018, but lost in the 2019 special election in May.
Webber is currently the chair of the Springfield Education Foundation and treasurer of the city’s Rotary Club. According to her application, she said the current environment of the city’s politics is an opportunity “to bring voices from all sides of these issues together, understanding we must agree to engage in respectful conversations which will move us forward, to solve these issues together.”
According to OreStar, the largest contribution from her 2019 campaign came from state Sen. Lee Beyer (D-Springfield), who gave her a total of $2,500.
One notable Ward 1 resident who didn’t apply for the position is Christine Lundberg’s son, Luke Lundberg. Christine Lundberg resigned abruptly Aug. 15, 2020, days before police announced her older son, Benjamin, had been charged with 10 counts of encouraging child sex. Christine Lundberg’s resignation led to the opening of the mayoral and then Ward 1 positions. Luke was appointed to the city’s budget committee on March 16, 2020.
The City Council will discuss the next steps of the councilor appointment process at the Feb. 8 meeting.