Term-limited Darell Lumaco reflects on city service
When the Hillsboro City Council next meets Wednesday, Jan. 2, its members will farewell Council President Darell Lumaco, who has been serving as a city councilor since 2011.
"Since 2011" is a phrase with quite a bit of significance in Hillsboro. It's been since 1990 that the city's population has exploded, from fewer than 40,000 then to more than 100,000 now. But it's been over the past eight years or so — the time Lumaco has been in office — that a number of features and projects that mark Hillsboro's modern-day identity have taken form.
"I think the city has changed a lot," Lumaco said Monday, Dec. 17. "We've always been a pretty vital city, but in 2010, the economy in general was a little bit stagnant. In these eight years, our businesses have thrived and grown."
Lumaco: 'I thought I could contribute'
Lumaco and his wife moved to Hillsboro from nearby Lake Oswego in 1984, and Lumaco soon got involved with civic service. He was a parks and recreation commissioner for more than 20 years, and in 2010, he was elected to the Hillsboro City Council.
"Even before I got on council, I kept bugging people: 'We need sidewalks. We have no sidewalks. Kids need to ride their bike and walk to school.' And that was kind of an issue that I talked about a lot. When I got on council, I realized it wasn't as easy as just throwing a sidewalk up along a road," said Lumaco, who has now served the maximum two terms for a Hillsboro city councilor and was ineligible for re-election this year due to term limits. "Other than that, I did not really have an agenda. My feeling was that I'd lived here for 30 years, and I'd always been really proud of the government we had and the direction of the city, and I thought I could contribute to that continuing."
You could say government is in Lumaco's blood. His father, Roy Lumaco, was a city councilor in Cle Elum, Wash., who went on to serve for two decades as a Kittitas County commissioner.
"I thought I had a decent idea of how government worked," said Lumaco, a retired ophthalmologist who still works part-time at the Hillsboro Eye Clinic. "Being on council just gave me a better understanding of that, and I really learned that … it's more important to listen than talk sometimes."
During Lumaco's time on the Hillsboro City Council, the city has participated in the construction of Ron Tonkin Field and welcomed a minor league baseball team, the Hillsboro Hops, to town.
"It's been great marketing for us," Lumaco said. "I mean, no matter where you go, you wear your Hops stuff, people recognize it. Or you tell them you're from Hillsboro: 'Oh yeah, you guys have a baseball team.' I think it's part of us growing into a bigger city and having sort of a marquee organization that people recognize."
The city has also started work in earnest on three long-range projects that will change Hillsboro's very footprint.
One of those projects is the Willamette Water Supply Program, a partnership with the neighboring Tualatin Valley Water District to tap the Willamette River as a drinking water supply. Two others are major expansions of the city itself: South Hillsboro, a predominantly residential planned development south of Tualatin Valley Highway that is expected to add about 20,000 people to Hillsboro's population by the mid-2030s, and North Hillsboro, an industrial area under development north of the Hillsboro Airport.
As a city councilor, and more recently as council president, Lumaco has been a central figure in the city's growth and development. But he credited the leadership of the city's mayors — from 2009 to 2017, Jerry Willey, now a Washington County commissioner-elect, and Steve Callaway for the past two years — as well as City Manager Michael Brown, whom Lumaco voted to hire early in his council tenure, and other members of Hillsboro's city staff for driving it forward.
But Callaway, asked for his thoughts on Lumaco's work on behalf of the city, pointed to the outgoing council president's time on the parks commission and his role on the council.
"His leadership touches every part of Hillsboro," Callaway said, noting the city's rapid growth and adding, "There's things now that we do as a big city, and Darell has laid the groundwork for us as we move forward."
"We're going to grow," Lumaco said. "And there's a couple of ways to do it. You can grow and then try and figure out how you're going to deal with it. Or you can plan for it and make sure you have the infrastructure and the staff to deal with permitting and all that."
Successor calls Lumaco a mentor; grateful for service
Lumaco will be succeeded on the council by Beach Pace, a Hillsboro planning commissioner, nonprofit administrator and retired U.S. Army captain who won election last month. Callaway and the entire City Council, including Lumaco, endorsed Pace in her bid for office.
"She has great leadership skills," Lumaco said. "I would say she is prepared for being a city councilor better than anyone I've ever seen. … She is really well-prepared, and I think she'll do great."
All the same, Lumaco didn't hesitate when asked if he would have run for a third term if he could have.
"Yeah," Lumaco said, adding with a laugh, "I've been telling people, I've always kind of been a proponent of term limits until they applied to me. Now I think they're a terrible idea."
Pace said that to her, Lumaco has been "a steward and a mentor, in a way." He has met with her on several occasions to talk about what is involved in being on City Council, she noted.
"People don't do council for the money," Pace said. "They do it because they're passionate about their city. And I admire Darell for all of the service that he's done."
She added, "I'm honored to be able to follow him."
"Darell brought a real important perspective to our council for the last eight years, and it will be missed. He was very thoughtful and deliberative in his positions, and he was articulate in sharing them," Callaway said.
Callaway recalled something Lumaco said to him after their first meeting together after they were both elected to the City Council in 2010. He had counted, apparently in his head, how many more meetings they would have as council members, and he said cheerfully, "Well, (however many more) meetings to go!"
"I just can't believe how fast those numbers have gone," Callaway said Monday.
He added, "I'm excited for Beach Pace to come on council, but certainly, Darell will be missed."
For Lumaco's part, he said he doesn't have any regrets, except maybe that he didn't run for City Council sooner.
"It's been a really rewarding experience," Lumaco said.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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