Rogers eyes budget, mill property as he takes office
For Rick Rogers, who took over as Newberg's next mayor on Monday, the initial goal will be to meet with fellow councilors going forward to see what their interests are. While Monday's meeting is primarily a ceremonial swearing in event and a sendoff for departing Mayor Bob Andrews, Rogers said projects for the coming year won't be first taken up until the council's meeting on Jan. 22.
However, he does have a slate of issues he'd like to see addressed in 2019.
"For me, my main areas are going to be increasing our employment base, family wage jobs and business development, and housing certainly," Rogers said.
Rogers also listed off the city's budget as something to keep an eye on. In past years, the city of Newberg has run a deficit, and Rogers, the executive director for the Newberg Area Habitat for Humanity, said he, councilors and city staff need to make sure the budget is handled properly.
"I think we're going to hash it out once the budget cycle starts," he said, adding that the state's tax structure makes it difficult for municipalities to operate when costs continue to rise. "That's a structural problem brought on by Salem. It's not something we can solve ourselves."
With that in mind, he said if the budget continues to be a burden, the city may have to look at raising fees or taxes or cutting services. And although that's something residents probably won't like to hear, Rogers said at some point there just won't be other options. He said a city can talk about raising additional revenue, although that's not always easy to do.
"The new budget committee and new councilors will be fully immersed in that starting in March," he said.
Rogers also listed the vacant WestRock mill property as another concern he'd like to see addressed. He characterized the property is "very important for this community" and "something we really have to look at and be very mindful of." He added that with the ongoing Riverfront Master Plan development, and other community projects in the city like a housing assessment, it's an interesting time for the mill property and the surrounding area.
"It gives us a baseline of data and hopefully community input," he said.
Another issue he'd like to see addressed during his term as mayor is maintaining consistent leadership among city staff, saying it would be nice to have city staff want to stay in Newberg long term.
"It would be nice to keep staff in the city consistent for a while," he said.
Rogers concluded by saying he wants residents to feel comfortable reaching out to him or City Manager Joe Hannan with questions or concerns, saying citizens should never hesitate to reach out.
"We're always looking for citizen input and we'd like to hear it," he said.
In addition to Rogers, who replaced Andrews after he decided not to seek re-election, two new councilors were sworn in on Monday. Newcomer Elizabeth Gemeroy ran unopposed for the District 2 seat vacated by Stephen McKinley. In District 4, incumbent Patrick Johnson was re-elected to his seat after running unopposed. The District 6 seat vacated by Essin was filled by Stephanie Findley after she defeated challenger Brad Sitton.