Nicole J. Gardner Austin is running as a write-in candidate for mayor in hopes of being a voice for all community members in Estacada.
"If you're going to be mayor, you need to be able to speak and listen to everyone in the community. You need to be accessible to everyone," she said.
Gardner Austin is a lifelong Estacada resident. She works for Wyatt Fire Protection and previously volunteered at the Estacada Community Center's Meals on Wheels program.
In the aftermath of the Clackamas County wildfires, Gardner Austin said clear and accessible communication is critically important. During a recent Estacada City Council meeting, she asked if there was one location on social media in which citizens could hear from the community's leaders.
She's concerned that information is not reaching all people in Estacada.
"My goal would be to reach everyone and listen to everyone, because everyone has their concerns, ideas and needs," she said, noting that she also wants to ensure that information reaches community members who are not on social media. "We need to take into account everyone."
Along with increased communication, Gardner Austin also hopes to bring a lens of equity to the mayor's seat.
"There's low income families in this community. I think that we need to be mindful of that and provide services that accommodate them, because they're a part of this community as well," she said.
She also hopes to promote racial justice locally.
"I absolutely do not think that Estacada is a racist town. Certainly not everyone in this town is racist, and I feel like that's something that people feel has been said about them," she said. "I know there is an undercurrent of racism, not just in Estacada but throughout our country. To deny that, you are doing a disservice to Black and Indigenous people in our community."
Gardner Austin's additional priorities include supporting locally owned businesses and facilitating a year-round farmers market, where vendors from the community can sell their wares.
"I want to expand on that idea so more people can get their needs met here in our local economy," she said.
Gardner Austin believes it's important that voices from all Estacada community members are heard.
"We need to celebrate all of our differences, and our diversity is what makes Estacada great," she said.
Along with Gardner Austin, Mayor Sean Drinkwine is also seeking re-election on the November ballot. Additionally, Paul Strobel, Charity Hughes, Joel Litkie and Scott Staudt are running for the Estacada City Council.
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