Outgoing Lake Oswego Mayor Kent Studebaker reflects on time in office
Mayor Kent Studebaker is retiring from the dais after serving as Lake Oswego's mayor for eight years — and the feeling is good, he said.
Lake Oswego City Council members are limited to two consecutive four-year terms on council, so after serving his last term, Studebaker had a lot to reflect on from his time as mayor.
"I'm glad it's time for someone else to take over. I feel we've accomplished a lot," Studebaker said. "I think it's time."
During Studebaker's time as mayor, major developments have come to fruition. Relationships, from his perspective, have improved and he's helped further the enhancement of city infrastructure. And it would be wrong not to mention the work the city accomplished during this challenging year, and the final year of Studebaker's term: a commitment to diversify and create a more equitable city, the adoption of the Climate Action Plan and providing aid to struggling businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Studebaker was on the budget committee before he was encouraged by city councilors to run for mayor.
"Things were not going as they should be in a financial way, particularly," Studebaker recalled.
During his tenure, the Wizer Block — a 1960s-era red-brick shopping center owned by the Wizer family — transformed into the 290,000-square-foot mixed use development known as The Windward. The West End Building also sold to Yakima and improvements were made to the city's infrastructure like roads and pothole abatement — all without raising the budget, he said.
"I think there's a whole host of things that we accomplished," said Studebaker, adding that he's grateful for the relationships he's formed with councilors, city staff and the community. "I'll miss the people. It's been great going into the office. The staff has been fantastic and I'll miss seeing them and the citizens in the various activities."
Studebaker has also made an impression on folks in City Hall.
During the Dec. 15 City Council meeting, City Manager Martha Bennett said Studebaker is thoughtful about the role of government and she has enjoyed his sense of humor.
"In my time here, I've come to know him as a really kind, compassionate and caring human being who really cares about the office and representing the city with dignity," Bennett said.
During the meeting, Council President Jackie Manz acknowledged their political differences but said Studebaker was a joy to work with and always listened to her. She also appreciated how Studebaker ran tight meetings.
"(He's) a man of integrity, a man of loyalty and a man who always had our city front and foremost in his mind," Manz said.
Outgoing Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff also lauded Studebaker for his stewardship as mayor.
"You were the mayor, Mayor Studebaker," Kohlhoff said during the meeting. "You knew that I was not necessarily on the same wavelength, but you trusted me, you put me on committees, you let me do the best I could. You never questioned, you never second guessed me and I tried never to let you down."
After eight years, it would be hard not to have some overarching takeaways. Studebaker learned during his time as mayor that the position doesn't hold as much power as he thought. He said he had authority in setting the agenda, which is important, but beyond that it was important to have productive discussions and be collegial if the desire was to get a lot of work done.
"It really is beneficial to listen to what other people have to say," Studebaker said. "I've learned I don't have all the answers or even all the information, so you have to pay attention to what other people are talking about."
Mayor-elect Joe Buck will take Studebaker's place after the new year. With his new free time, Studebaker plans to play golf and travel more with his wife.
"We're just relishing … having the idea to decide more," he said.
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