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Rocky Smith Jr. election signals new future of city's housing development strategy

Oregon City Commissioner Brian Shaw was unseated by Rocky Smith by 43 to 57 percent of the Nov. 6 vote in a contest that was seen as a referendum on future annexation and development in the first city incorporated west of the Mississippi.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Rocky Smith celebrates with supporters the Nov. 6 election results returning him to Oregon City Commission.Shaw saw a need for providing more local homebuilding lands in a controlled manner, while Smith would like more attention paid to the livability of current residents.

Rocky Smith"Those of us who care about Oregon City want it to keep its unique character as it grows," Smith said at his election-night party.

Smith pledged to spend less than $3,500 on his campaign, relying on word-of-mouth and volunteers to wave signs at key intersections. Partially paid for by developers, Shaw's campaign raised more than $10,000 to buy a billboard ad, send out six-page mailers to all OC voters and litter right-of-way areas with lawn signs.

"This election solidifies my faith in the voters of this city who saw through the money," Smith said.

Smith is an OCHS art teacher who served on City Commission from 2009-16. He has worked as a head counselor for the Oregon City Parks and Recreation Department in addition to working at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and the Oregon City Chamber of Commerce.

Smith pledged to fight for developments at key sites -- the Rossman Landfill and Willamette Falls -- that are appropriate to Oregon City's historic character.

"Waiting for the best possible development for those sites is worth waiting for," he said.

Smith's election also sets up a potential majority of the City Commission in favor of designating the official boundries of Waterboard Park to include portions of the Public Works operations facility that is moving to the Hilltop area. Mayor Dan Holladay has said there's no need for more parks in the McLoughlin area, unlike Smith and City Commissioner Frank O'Donnell. Smith and O'Donnell both would like to return the Public Works office buildings on Center Street to the tax rolls, potentially for affordable housing, while extending Waterboard Park charter protections to more of the natural area above.

"If I would have seen some of the information I have now, I think we would have voted differently, because that was at least intended to be a park," Smith said.

In other Oregon City election news, Holladay fended off two opponents in this year's mayoral race in order to win a second term in office. According to Nov. 6 election results, Holladay received about 50 percent of the vote, compared to 36 percent for Damon Mabee and 14 percent for Mark Matheson.

Holladay, 57, has a long track-record in local politics that includes service on the Oregon City School Board, chairman of the Willamette Falls Media Center Board, the Clackamas County Coordinating Committee and the South Fork Water Board.

State employee Rachel Lyles Smith will replace retiring City Commissioner Renate Mengelberg after she got about 55.5 percent of the vote against Mike Mitchell. While he was disappointed with the election result, Mitchell said he had no regrets about a clean campaign with Lyles Smith and he planned to stay invoved with city government through advisory committees.

Mitchell's "live here, work here" campaign platform was similar to Shaw's. Lyles Smith promised to listen to voters and be an independent voice on the City Commission.

Meanwhile, voters by 78 to 22 percent approved ODOT's plan to use John Storm Park in order to widen the Interstate 205 bridge above the city park.

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