CityFest lets staff from all departments spend day with the community sharing their passions

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Erika Fitzgerald made paper airplanes during CityFest in honor of Boeing. During Gresham's 2019 CityFest, Brandon McCullough kept a small notebook close at hand.

Whenever the public works asset specialist, famous throughout Gresham City Hall for his beaming smile and willingness to lend a hand, heard a concern from a community member attending the event, he would write it down.

One woman had a tree that had fallen in her front yard; a young family was worried about overgrown vegetation creeping into the roadway; a longtime resident was sick of potholes in the street leading to her home. Each time McCullough jotted down notes. His next few days will be spent following up on those concerns and seeing what he can do.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Brandon McCullough kept notes of everything community members told him during 2019 CityFest so he could follow up on their concerns. "I like the relationships you form with the citizens. Every day is filled with new connections," McCullough said. "You learn how much the city has changed over the decades, and you have a chance to make your own mark on Gresham."

Saturday, Sept. 14, Gresham city staff like McCullough spent a fun afternoon educating residents about pathways into employment with the city while also entertaining children with games and activities.

The fourth annual CityFest transformed the Gresham City Hall parking lot, 1333 N.W. Eastman Parkway, into a fairgrounds. There were live demonstrations from police and fire, interactive games with city staff, crafts and food.

All of the departments had something to showcase. Transportation showed off its big rigs; community members painted a mural on one of the city snowplows; police officers took children on mini-ridealongs; kids joined a cornhole tournament and took on a bike obstacle course, and more.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Robin Pederson passed out emergency water jugs during CityFest.  The city of Gresham's Robin Pederson, who is all about water, passed out one gallon water jugs for residents to add to their emergency kit and answered questions. As the water services coordinator in the Department of Environmental Services, she works on issues around water quality, conservation and emergency preparedness.

"My job and events like this keeps me engaged with citizens — each day is unique," said Pederson, who has been with the city of Gresham since 2011. "Working for the city is like working for a big family."

Pederson is a lifelong Gresham resident, so local government is a way for her to give back and contribute to uplifting her community.

"I have found a place that feels like home," she said.

Above and beyond

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Family of Friends Mentoring put on a water balloon toss during the 2019 CityFest. Few people know McCullough better than his Family of Friends mentee, 12-year-old John Olavarria.

The pair have been matched for two years, and together have gone through a lot of fun experiences, including a joy ride in a small plane, trips to the pumpkin patch and having slime dumped on them for a fundraising campaign.

"Brandon is a fun, easy going guy," Olavarria said. "24/7 he is always energetic and always has a smile on his face."

During CityFest the pair were teamed up to helm a booth about the work being done to repair local roadways. As McCullough chatted with residents about the technical aspects, Olavarria stamped passports and handed out candy.

The pair often discuss the future, and Olavarria could envision a future working for government.

"I've thought about interning at the city when I'm old enough," he said.

While Olavarria has a few more years before he is eligible to officially work for the city, the CityFest event is a way to showcase all the potential positions someone could take in City Hall.

Erika Fitzgerald joined the city of Gresham in 2014 after spending six and a half years with the city of Fairview as an Urban Planner.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Children took on a bicycle obstacle course during Greshams 2019 CityFest that was held all day Saturday, Sept. 14. In Gresham, as a senior economic development specialist, Fitzgerald has been tasked with recruiting new companies into the community while also working on retaining the ones already in place.

"The thing I like about Economic Development is being the advocate for our employees and creating relationships with the businesses," she said. "We are making sure our businesses are thriving."

During CityFest her booth was dedicated to making paper airplanes in honor of Boeing. Fitzgerald also was answering questions about the many companies that call the city home.

"Gresham residents don't always have a sense of that industrial community," she said. "It's important to have people understand the benefit the companies are bringing to the city."

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham Fire & Emergency Services did a vehicle rescue demonstration during the event. The most recent to locate in Gresham is Element 6, a synthetic diamond company that is in the process of building a $94 million facility and bringing 60 new jobs. Fitzgerald is working on bringing more to Gresham.

"It's a fantastic job and really fun because you get exposed to many disciplines," she said.

For McCullough, one moment stands out during his early days working for the city.

He was driving through a neighborhood when he noticed a woman struggling to deal with a fallen limb that was blocking her driveway. McCullough hopped out and went to her aid, calling in fellow employees to not only remove the limb, but also the entire tree which was rotted through. By the end of the afternoon, the woman was so thankful she had made them lunch.

"I enjoy doing my part for someone who is having a bad day," McCullough said.

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