OUTLOOK EDITORIAL: David Widmark shows best traits of community leadership
Gresham City Councilor David Widmark got his start when Gussie McRobert was mayor, so it's no wonder that he's amassed deep institutional knowledge that has served him — and this city — well during his time of elected leadership.
It's one of the reasons he'll be missed when he steps down from the council at the end of his term. Widmark announced in late January that he won't run for reelection, saying he instead wants to spend more time with loved ones, and in volunteering for various causes.
Widmark has been an enduring friend to The Outlook, in large part because he was one of the few members of the Gresham City Council who routinely stays in contact with our reporting staff. He's been known to relay valuable tips about people in our community who are doing interesting things. Those tips naturally evolve into feature stories appearing on our website and in print. Rarely, if ever, were those tips self-serving.
Widmark also warrants a shout out for his ability to build coalitions. He's the councilor who put the brakes on the infinite loop the council had been caught up in over if-how-when the council would modify its process of encouraging social diversity on city committees. While others debated the ease or difficulty of changing the process, it was Widmark who ultimately called upon fellow councilors to get off the merry-go-round and get on with brainstorming ideas, building consensus and proposing solutions.
Just weeks ago, the council approved amendments to how the city fills seats on commissions, committees and task forces, spearheaded by Council President Janine Gladfelter and councilors Eddy Morales and Widmark. Now, members of a city group who wish to participate beyond a second consecutive term will have to go back through the application process — removing a grandfather clause that prevented fresh faces from joining.
Widmark also is the type of leader who makes it a point to be accessible, whether that's through attending Chamber of Commerce functions, pulling weeds along Johnson Creek, or rallying volunteers to assist home-bound residents.
One of his biggest accomplishments was as an advocate for protecting Gresham Butte from over-development, preventing hundreds of homes and new roadways being built atop the natural space.
Widmark also is a strong advocate for ensuring new development follows the city's design standards and guidelines. And he helped form Gresham's first neighborhood association in 1989, serving as its president.
Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis says of Widmark, "his policy perspectives and public service have always been guided by his heart."
While some politicians get jaded or cynical after years of service, Widmark has never lost his optimistic outlook, his empathy for residents, or his desire to affect meaningful change.
These are the qualities of leadership that Widmark's replacement in 2021 should strive to emulate.
"It's common to see David emotionally moved during community recognition events and testimony from residents before the City Council," Mayor Bemis continued. "He has always made it a point to maintain deep connections in the community, and partnerships with community nonprofit organizations. We will deeply miss his service on the council, and we profoundly thank him for his decades of service to our community."
That said, Widmark is not stepping down from the council just yet. His term runs through the end of 2020.
We're glad to know he'll have a place on the dais for another 11 months.
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