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Newberg mayor praises city staff, volunteers as he looks at where the city needs to grow

One month into his tenure, Newberg Mayor Rick Rogers said he's enjoyed his new position with the city.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Rogers

Rogers, who is also the executive director of the Newberg Area Habitat for Humanity, said over the past 30 days he has been involved in a "variety of different things" as mayor, and is making sure he can juggle his different roles with the city, with Habitat and with coaching rugby at Newberg High School.

"I find this stuff fascinating," he said of city work.

Rogers handily won his bid for mayor in November after former Mayor Bob Andrews opted not to seek another term. Rogers easily defeated Nicholas Morace, who placed a distant second with just over 28 percent of the vote. A third candidate, Buddy Cook, came it at just under 8 percent of the vote. Write-in candidates received less than 1 percent of the vote. All told, 8,790 city residents voted in the mayoral race.

Rogers said so far, there haven't been any major roadblocks or setbacks in the things he was interested in working on. He credited the city's staff for helping him and council members, adding that there is a good culture at city hall.

One issue Rogers said has come up is the city's lack of "employment land," meaning it's difficult to attract new businesses and jobs without available places to expand.

"That puts a lot of pressure on the community," he said.

That also impacts housing, he said, as the city is working on housing issues, but there is a lack of land available to expand onto.

He also said the site of the shuttered WestRock mill continues to remain a prescient issue. The city last week held a meeting on the Riverfront Master Plan, where a citizens committee indicated they wanted to rezone the mill site to allow future commercial uses there. WestRock officials said they wanted the site of the former mill to remain only for industrial purposes.

"We need to figure out what's going on with that," Rogers said.

One issue he pointed to that the city needs to work on is better communication with the school district and with George Fox University. He said it's important all three entities work together and communicate with each other to make sure "we're all working toward the same objective of making this community the best place we can.

"I think we really do need to make sure we're functioning in knowledge of each other."

One way to do that, he commented, is starting a youth council in the school district, a possibility that city has been considering for some time. This is something other surrounding communities have done and Rogers said he thinks it's something the school district and students would be interested in.

As for upcoming plans, Rogers said the council is now entering budget season. City department heads are finalizing their proposals and the council will then enter the thick of it. He said the council was also slated to review its priorities for the year at its Tuesday council meeting.

"We've got so many new councilors that will be a good introduction," he said.

Rogers and the council are working on a lot of different things, he remarked. In addition to the Riverfront Master Plan work, he said there is a housing needs assessment going on, and plans for Newberg 2030, which looks at expanding the city's urban growth boundary.

"All these things are setting what we anticipate the future of the community will look like," he said.

Rogers and city officials want members of the public to complete a community visioning survey, which is available online at https://bit.ly/2SDq8E5. He also said there are open positions on citizens committees like the Citizens Rate Review Committee and he praised the city's 130 employees and the nearly 120 volunteers who make up committees for their work and community involvement.

"I'm not ready to run for the hills," Rogers said. "It's been enjoyable, it's fascinating to see all the moving parts that are the city."

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