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Politically active citizens break record for number of candidates involved in single election

Democracy is alive and well in Gladstone, with nine candidates running for four City Council positions on the Nov. 6 ballot.

No one is running unopposed, as was common as recently as four years ago. And the grand total of nine candidates is a record high for the city at least since the year 2000.

All the races have their points of interest: Mayor Tammy Stempel's re-election campaign pits her against Tom Mersereau, an often opposing viewpoint on City Council, while Councilor Pat McMahon's decision not to run for re-election opens up a free-for-all with three candidates vying to fill his seat next year.

Meanwhile, Gladstone voters' decision to recall two city councilors in May 2017 means there are two recently appointed members of the council who have to run for election in order to continue to serve. If voters don't agree with the City Council's picks for replacements of the recalled councilors, they can pick two other candidates who have filed for election.

Mersereau vs. Stempel

Tammy StempelTom MersereauTammy Stempel recently won election as mayor, but must run for re-election after two years because she ran in 2016 to fill the remainder of a vacated term.

Tom Mersereau was appointed from his council seat as interim mayor following Dominick Jacobellis' resignation, and now Mersereau is trying to take back control of running City Council meetings. If he unseats Stempel, she will become a private citizen, and the remaining city councilors will get to choose a different appointee to fill Mersereau's vacant council term for the next two years.

Mersereau is a retired manager/engineer, while Stempel is the principal of an environmental engineering/consulting company.

Initially, Mersereau was appointed to a library committee before joining the Planning Commission. He since has served Gladstone as a planning commissioner, appointed councilor, elected councilor, acting mayor, council president and appointed mayor. He was appointed to the City Council in December 2011. He's won elections in 2012 and 2016 to hold his City Council seat.

Stempel was chair of the Planning Commission prior to being elected mayor in 2016. She also has served on the Clackamas County Economic Development Commission, Clackamas County Development Liaison Committee, Clackamas Transportation Advisory Committee, Willamette Falls Legacy Project and Regional Trails. She has held positions on the Gladstone Budget Committee, Traffic Safety Committee, Portland Avenue Development Group, Library Advisory Group and the Gladstone City Hall/ Police Station Advisory Group.

Mersereau and Stempel have been on opposite sides of several critical City Council votes.

Mersereau voted to sue Clackamas County for $1.5 million in library funds, while Stempel voted to drop the lawsuit in a May 2017 4-3 vote of City Council, just weeks before the recall election. Mersereau publicly opposed the recall election, while Stempel stayed officially neutral on the topic.

Following the 2017 recall of two city councilors, preferred candidates were named by an interview committee. Stempel and Councilor Neal Reisner wanted to accept the interview committee's recommendations, but they were overruled by the other city councilors, which included Mersereau.

Stempel and Mersereau were on opposite sides of a Sept. 11 vote (Stempel yes, Mersereau no) to allow city councilors access to city-attorney bills for the previous year and a half.

Hernandez vs. Tracy

Frank HernandezMatt TracyOne of two people recommended by the interview committee was retired school principal Frank Hernandez. Rather than picking Hernandez, a 19-year resident of Gladstone, the City Council appointed Matt Tracy, who had lived in Gladstone for less than two years.

After being passed over for appointment to the City Council, Hernandez said he was so disillusioned that he would not be running for the council again. He's re-evaluated his decision not to run with his family, and he now feels voters deserve a chance to weigh in on the City Council's failure to appoint him in the first place by running against Tracy.

Hernandez, 72, holds an associate of arts degree from MiraCosta Junior College and a bachelor's of science and master's of education degrees from Linfield College. Tracy, 53, earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Portland State University, where he received his master's degree in public administration in 1995.

Tracy lived in Portland during the 1990s and 2000s, after he worked as a Vietnamese linguist for the U.S. Army for three years. He currently works as Metro's principal planner for solid-waste transfer-station operations, trying to find ways to decrease the long lines at the overcapacity transfer station in Oregon City. He has managed a $1 million grant where he had to work with multiple waste-hauling businesses and is the president of the board of directors for the Columbia-Willamette Clean Cities Coalition.

Hernandez was a teacher for 16 years in the North Clackamas School District before moving into education administration for the next 15 years. He then served as the bilingual director at both the NW Regional Education Service District and the NW Regional Education Laboratory. He finished his career on a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation project creating and directing the Native American Youth and Family Center's Early College Academy.

Hernandez has been asked what he would do differently from his opponent if elected.

"Everyone brings a little value to City Council, including Matt Tracy, but what I see missing is a balance of perspective," Hernandez said. "One of the main things that people have said I would bring is a standard of process and being able to create a systemic accountability perspective, and I don't see that being included in a lot of the decisions that are being made."

Tracy says the current City Council is doing its best to balance perspectives.

"Good leaders actually follow," Tracy said. "Frank has presented himself as someone who knows better than others, at times, and that's going to make for a challenging environment. My focus is to continue to bring a level of stability to a city that's been challenged politically by bringing experience in creating policy. I don't think stability would be there with folks who are less interested in developing consensus."

Hernandez says his current education consulting business shows his ability to create policy as he helps agencies comply with state and federal law. As for examples of where the City Council has failed to create sufficient standards, Hernandez pointed to the local backlash over the Webster Ridge Apartments that were built starting in 2015.

PHOTO COURTESY: FRANK HERNANDEZ - Gladstone residents are upset that Webster Ridge's apartment complex looms over houses on Stoneoaks Court.Hernandez agrees with the homeowners on Stoneoaks Court that the three-story apartments were built with insufficient setback from the cul-de-sac, so they now tower over the owners of one-story ranch homes.

"Had we had a process with an accountability perspective we would be in a better place for future projects," Hernandez said. "When you're talking about accountability, you're talking about ongoing assessment of your agency. I believe any organization can be improved by a simple process of being able to audit and review."

Tracy, who was neither a resident when Webster Ridge was approved nor part of its planning process, promised he would have taken into account the impacts to neighbors if he had been involved in the process.

As evidence of his caring about neighborhood concerns, Tracy pointed to his work in developing the Gladstone City Council's unanimous decision last year to deny the application for the large apartment complex proposed near Gladstone High School and the so-called Olson Wetland.

He was able to bring special knowledge about the apartment-complex proposal from his experience in wetland development as a solid waste manager for Columbia County, which had to get U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permits for constructing a garbage transfer facility in St. Helens.

"I brought some questions to bear on that [apartment-complex proposal], and I did that because I had heard from some citizens who were concerned, but also because I was concerned that the proper process had not been followed," Tracy said.

Tracy said that, if elected, he would work with citizens to push for policy changes.

"If I'm elected, I'd feel more comfortable working with citizens who have agendas to develop policy," he said.

He added that the city is "incredibly diligent" about auditing itself. City councilors review every check that is written by the city.

"If somebody were to say this isn't happening, we have a system to go back and look at it," Tracy said. "City Administrator [Jacque] Betz, with the concern of city councilors, is trying to open up the books as much as possible."

Milch vs. Ripley

Michael Milch, who was appointed to council at the same time as Tracy, has led a relatively quiet campaign. Milch was a member of the downtown revitalization committee before he was appointed to the City Council in July 2017.

A retired consulting pension actuary and church education director, he publicly campaigned for the May vote in which voters approved construction of a new county-funded library in Gladstone on the site of the soon-to-move City Hall.

A 1962 structure will be replaced with a larger, modern, accessible library. He has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of California, San Diego, and a master's in religious education from the Claremont School of Theology.

As a young local resident, Randy Ripley joined Gladstone's Fire Department, where he served for 28 years until he left in February 2018. With the closure of Gladstone's 911 dispatch center, he is concerned about the city losing its local police and fire departments due to poor oversight and financial decisions.

He also is campaigning for term limits on the City Council. He has worked in various professions besides being a firefighter/paramedic, such as in construction and restaurant businesses, and is now working at FIRE Restoration. He transferred to Portland State University in the fall of 2014, enrolling in the geology program; he says he has only six classes left to earn his bachelor's degree.

Garlington vs. Osburn vs. Todd

Mindy Garlington, who has worked for PrintSync for 26 years, is a member of the Gladstone Budget Committee, the city's Parks & Rec Board, its Audit Committee, and is a founding member and treasurer for Friends of Gladstone Nature Park.

She was part of the Charter Review Advisory Committee and interview committee that recommended Hernandez. Garlington has coordinated an annual Arbor Day and Gladstone Community Festival celebrations.

Bill Osburn describes himself as a local consultant and community advocate. He got involved with city politics after he successfully overturned the city's previous policy of charging a $90 "extortion fee for going to court," as he called it. He since ran the recall campaign that ended up ousting two city councilors.

He has served the city on its Traffic and Safety Commission, its advisory panel for developing a Transportation System Plan and in organizing regular cleanups of High Rocks Park.

Tracy Todd has volunteered to raise money for local public schools as the Gladstone Booster Club secretary for five years, on the Yes for Gladstone Kids political action committee in 2006, on the Gladstone School District Budget Committee 2007-08, and as a co-chair of the parade coordination committee for the Gladstone Community Festival. She has been a licensed massage therapist since 1997 and an office manager for Happy Rock Landscape Maintenance since 2003.

This story has been updated from its original version online to correct the type of Gladstone parade that Tracy Todd has helped coordinate. We apologize for the error.

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