Unusually diverse slate of candidates seeking Lake Oswego City Council seats
With the filing period now over, campaign season is officially underway for the eight candidates who are vying for three open seats on the Lake Oswego City Council.
Councilors Jeff Gudman, Joe Buck and Jackie Manz currently hold the spots that will be up for grabs in the November general election. But Manz is the only incumbent seeking another term; term limits prevent Gudman from running again, and Buck is seeking a spot on the Metro Council instead.
Manz is joined in the race by former Planning Commission Chair Randy Arthur, restaurateur Daniel Nguyen, LO Moms community service organizer Emma Burke, International Leadership Academy director Massene Mboup, Lewis & Clark College archivist Hannah Crummé, former School Board Chair John Wendland and former Hallinan Heights Neighborhood Association Chair Donald Mattersdorff.
That's more candidates than in any other Lake Oswego City Council election since at least 1998, according to county election records and The Review's own archives. A couple of elections have seen as many as seven candidates, but the average over the previous 20 years has been 5.3.
The slate of candidates also stands out for its diversity. The roster includes two candidates of color and three women, one of whom, Burke, identifies as bisexual. Lake Oswego has had female candidates and elected officials before and former Councilor Jon Gustafson openly identified as gay, but this election appears to be the first in at least 20 years in which women and people of color make up the majority of the candidates.
Nguyen and Mboup also appear to be the first candidates of color in at least the past 20 years, according to The Review's archives, and it's something both men touched on when interviewed by The Review earlier this year.
Nguyen told The Review that he didn't want race to become a defining aspect of his campaign, preferring to cast himself as a representative for the small-business community and parents of school-age children.
"I want to be careful that I'm not just painted as the 'diversity candidate,'" he said. "I am a son of refugees; my older siblings were all born in Vietnam, and I was the first one born in the United States. That is part of my lived experience, but I want to bring so much more than just that."
Mboup told The Review that he was running primarily to be an advocate for youth and schools. But he also said that he wanted to push back against Lake Oswego's reputation for being unwelcoming toward people of color, which he said doesn't match his own experience as an immigrant in the city.
"That's why I want to run for City Council — to show that there's another narrative that can be told about Lake Oswego," he said. "The community has people like me who are thriving in their businesses."
Still, several community leaders pointed to the candidates' overall diversity as a sign of positive change.
"I'm excited to see the diversity in our candidates, and to give Lake Oswego a chance to really embrace diversity," said Willie Poinsette, one of the co-founders of the grassroots group Respond to Racism. "I don't know what the outcome of the election will be, but just to be able to have candidates who want to be here and who want to do something for our community I think is a real plus."
Lake Oswego School Board member and state Sen. Rob Wagner agreed.
"To the best of my knowledge, a person of color has never run for a seat on Council or the School Board in the history of Lake Oswego," he told The Review. "Which is very interesting given that we have 26 percent of our student population that do not check the white/caucasian box. So there's a huge mismatch between who's in our community and who's leading it."
Poinsette and others noted that the timing of the election coincides with a broader discussion about race and diversity that has been taking place in Lake Oswego in the past two years. Respond to Racism was founded partially in response to a racist road rage incident that was reported and widely discussed on the social network Nextdoor, and the Lake Oswego School District created a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion advisory committee earlier this year to address a series of racist incidents reported in the school system.
"There's a larger effort on many of our organizations' parts to work on diversifying our own staff, so I think this is a wonderful opportunity for our community to really move forward," said David Salerno Owens, the LOSD's director of equity and strategic initiatives. "There has been an awareness of the lack of diversity, and this just shows how far we've come along."
Ballots for the Nov. 6 election are expected to be in the hands of voters around Oct. 17. Full profiles of all eight City Council candidates are available online; here's a quick recap:
Arthur says he's developed a strong enthusiasm for working with Lake Oswego's residents to develop city policy and is seeking a council seat in order to further apply his expertise.
"I want to do my part to help Lake Oswego remain a wonderful place," he says. "I think I can make a positive difference."
Arthur has lived in the Portland area for most of his life and moved to Lake Oswego with his family in 2008. He served on the Planning Commission from 2012 to 2016, including two years as its chair.
After six years on the commission, Arthur says he's incredibly tuned in to the issues facing the city. He wants to have a greater impact as a councilor while the city confronts upcoming issues like short-term rentals, annexation policy and a potential renewal of a series of Parks & Recreation bonds.
Burke says she's seeking a council seat as a way to pursue further civic involvement and to provide greater representation for parents of school-age children.
"I want to really just invest more of my time, commitment and interest into making this an even better place," she says.
Burke, a massage therapist who has previously run her own practice, grew up in Washington and moved to Lake Oswego five years ago. Her two daughters are starting first and second grade, and Burke says her local community involvement began with volunteer work at their school and local Girl Scout troop.
She serves as the community service coordinator for the organization LO Moms and was recently appointed to the LOSD advisory committee on diversity, equity and inclusion. If elected, Burke says she hopes to be able to provide a voice for underrepresented constituencies including women, millennials and the LGBTQ community.
Crummé says she's running with an eye toward the ways in which Lake Oswego will grow and develop in the coming years, hoping to encourage growth while working to maintain the features that make Lake Oswego distinct.
"I'm invested in the future," she says. "I'm going to be here, I hope, for 60 years, so I really care what shape the city takes."
Crummé grew up in a rural part of Benton County and moved to the United Kingdom to pursue her postgraduate education in early modern literary history. She returned to Oregon two years ago to begin working at Lewis & Clark College as the head of special collections and archives.
If elected, Crummé says she'll put a strong focus on transportation development and solutions to congestion, including working to make sure the city is increasingly pedestrian-friendly and accessible through active transportation.
Manz says her decision to seek a second term is spurred in part by a desire to see several projects through to completion. She says she plans to continue to approach issues by prioritizing input from residents.
"You need to have opportunities for citizens to weigh in," she says. "I'd have to stick with my listen-learn-lead philosophy, and make sure that I'm in alignment with what the citizens would like to see."
Manz grew up in Los Angeles and moved with her husband to Lake Oswego 23 years ago. Her community involvement began as a school district volunteer and continued with roles on the Hallinan Heights Neighborhood Association and the city's budget committee.
If re-elected, Manz says she wants to maintain a consistent focus on pathway development, expand her focus on transit issues and continue the council's current discussion about affordable housing strategies.
Mboup says he's joining the council race because he wants to advocate for students and schools and play a greater role in shaping the future of Lake Oswego. "I'm optimistic that the future is bright," he says. "That's why I want to be a part of this."
Mboup's lifelong career as an educator started in Senegal. He immigrated to the United States in 1999 and taught for 12 years at two Portland-area French schools. In 2011, he and his wife founded the International Leadership Academy, a French Immersion School in Lake Oswego.
If elected, Mboup says he wants to support community hubs like the library and parks. He also characterizes himself as an advocate for future families and says he would fight for affordable housing and making Lake Oswego a leader on environmental issues.
Mattersdorff says his goal is to help prepare Lake Oswego for the impacts of regional growth in the coming decades, particularly in the areas of park spaces and transportation.
"I'd like to do something nice for Lake Oswego," he says. "I've seen it grow a lot, and I'd like to be able to help shape the future."
Mattersdorff grew up in Lake Oswego and built his career as a financial advisor in Boston and San Francisco. He and his wife moved back to Lake Oswego in 2010 in order to give their kids access to the city's schools. His community involvement began with the Hallinan Heights Neighborhood Association.
If elected, Mattersdorff says he would be a strong advocate for park space acquisition, urging the city to buy land sooner rather than later. He says he will also push for improved transportation and for a second branch of the library to better serve residents in the western half of the City.
Nguyen says he wants to represent the small-business community on the council and provide a unique perspective as a younger parent. He says his focus on housing and transportation stems in part from his own experiences.
"Having a family gives you perspective," he says. "What would it take for another young family like mine to come and live here?"
Nguyen grew up in Camas, Wash, and opened the first Portland-area Bambuza restaurant in 2008. Five more of the Vietnamese restaurants have subsequently opened, including one in Lake Oswego.
With an expanding company and two school-age children at home, Nguyen admits he's picked a busy point in his life to run for council. But he says he hopes he can serve as an inspiration to other residents who want to find the time for public service.
Wendland says he's seeking a council seat with the goal of maintaining the features that make Lake Oswego a great city and that he wants to focus on supporting the city's infrastructure and basic services.
"That's really the foundation that everything works on," he says. "All those components are working really well together here."
Wendland grew up in Lake Oswego and returned to the city in 2003 after starting his career in California. He quickly became involved with the Lake Oswego School District and was elected to the School Board in 2009; he served two consecutive terms, including two one-year stints as chair.
If elected, Wendland says his experience with budgets and the impact of state programs like PERS will enable him to fill the void after Gudman — who has been a consistent voice for maintaining roads and other city assets — departs from the council.