Joe Buck believes his first-hand perspective has prepared him to lead Lake Oswego in a way that will make the city better for everyone.
Buck announced his mayoral candidacy in August and said he'd bring his business skills and passion for sustainability and equity to the table if elected.
"I have just been more and more glad I made the decision to run for mayor as we've gone through this COVID time," Buck said.
He said the realization of issues pertaining to sustainability, recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and the "horrid reputation" Lake Oswego has when it comes to racial equity led him to run for mayor.
Buck grew up in Lake Oswego and runs three businesses: Gubanc's Restaurant, Babica Hen and Lola's Cafe, which will open later this month.
Buck also owned a Babica Hen location in Yamhill County, but decided to close the business permanently during the pandemic.
"I have a team that's really good, but it's just me as the owner, (and) to do things the right way, in a safe way, ... there was no way I could … reopen them all at the same time," Buck said.
Buck's parents opened Gubanc's 1976 and Babica Hen opened in 2012.
"I grew up in Gubanc's," said Buck, adding that he and his siblings would go to the restaurant on Sundays when the business was closed and help out his dad. "I couldn't wait to work."
Buck started washing dishes at Gubanc's when he was 12 and gradually worked in various positions including prep cook, busser and server.
After high school, Buck went to Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, to become a doctor. He said the school was expensive, however, and after his freshman year, he changed his mind.
He dropped out and joined the United States Coast Guard from 2001-2004. He was stationed in Clearwater, Florida, where he participated in maritime law enforcement, and search and rescue. He was also a cook at the station.
"I wanted a different experience and I needed to pay for school," he said.
While Buck was in the Coast Guard, he took evening accounting classes at St. Petersburg College.
After his enlistment, he graduated from the University of Portland with a bachelor's degree in business and accounting.
After Buck left the Coast Guard, he had his own struggles that he said has shaped him into the person he is today.
"When I was younger, I struggled with alcohol addiction, especially when I was in the Coast Guard," Buck said. "Luckily, (I) was able to get grips on myself shortly after getting out of the Coast Guard.
"My recovery from alcohol has been a big part of my life, so leading a healthy lifestyle and promoting health and wellness, especially with my employees, setting a good example, is a big thing for me."
Buck worked for a small accounting firm in Portland, while still helping his father out at Gubanc's on the weekends.
When his father decided to retire, Buck took over the restaurant.
"It meant a lot to me to carry on that tradition," Buck said.
Buck said his grandparents were also in the restaurant industry and it was his grandma's dream to open a breakfast place.
"I was able to open Babica Hen. My grandmother had already passed away, which was unfortunate," said Buck, adding that his grandfather lived long enough to see the idea come to fruition.
Buck said it was important to his parents to also be an engaged citizen while owning a business.
He became more involved with city government after planning for the current Boones Ferry Road project commenced in Lake Grove. As the project pushed forward, Buck said he felt like the local business community wasn't being heard.
"We felt like we didn't have a seat at the table," said Buck, adding that this was initially what led him to run for City Council in 2014.
Lake Oswego resident Cyndie Glazer, who has known Buck for many years, said he and his family have done so much for the city and that Buck is a generous leader.
"I worked directly with him when he was a city councilor and came up with a unique way to connect one of our core values — sustainability — with the Lake Oswego Reads program that I was managing for the Lake Oswego Library," Glazer said in an email to the Review. "I see Joe Buck's imprint on so many programs that are making our city better and more inclusive, and I believe being our mayor is the logical next step in his work for our city."
Buck served on the Lake Oswego City Council for four years and is currently involved with the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, the board of directors for Hunger Fighters Oregon — a local food pantry — the Lake Grove Business Association, the Clackamas County Economic Development Commission and Metro's Solid Waste Advisory Committee, among others.
In 2018, he ran for a seat on the Metro Council but lost to Christine Lewis.
"Joe is an integral part of our community, understands our issues and challenges, and he is ready to lead us through these unusual times," Glazer said. "I know Joe will lead us with a steady hand and will focus on the needs of our city, to deliver a better community and standard of living for all of our residents."
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