Newberg council undergoes more changes
The Newberg City Council is experiencing a game of musical chairs of late and the game shows no signs of abating.
The latest development came last week with the announcement that councilor Elizabeth Curtis Gemeroy has moved out of District 2 and must leave the council. Fortunately, the city charter allows a councilor who has moved out of the district to remain in office for up to 120 days from the date of his or her resignation, in this case until Feb. 26, or until the council appoints a replacement.
Gemeroy announced her departure via a Facebook page she created when she ran for the position in 2018. She said that attempts to find a new house in her district had proven unsuccessful.
"This resulted in us moving out of my district … and I could not be more heart broken," she wrote. "When I set out to be on council, I planned to do it for the long haul, I was and am committed and could not have seen this coming. I take this position so seriously and have diligently put this work ahead of so much in my life."
On the Facebook page she ticked off some council accomplishments she's most proud of, including prioritizing affordable housing and efforts toward better sustainability and transparency by city government.
"We have made our meetings more efficient and productive and we have sustained a respectful culture, even when we disagree," she wrote.
She touched on the city's internal troubles as well.
"We began searching for a new city manager almost immediately upon discovering the mismanagement that had been happening the past three years," she said, referring readers to an investigative report, released by the council city last month, that characterized Joe Hannan as an ineffective city manager.
She added that when she first joined the council she was taken aback by some of revelations about the state of the city.
"I will be honest when I say I did not know that cities regularly face lawsuits and that was a huge surprise," she wrote. "I will be honest and say that I did not think that a town as small as Newberg could have as much animosity and politics surrounding every comment and decision.
"I am sad that the work I set out to do to ensure transparency across all departments has resulted in the entire police department viewing me as anti-police as opposed to pro-truth, when no other departments reacted this way. NDPD has made it clear they are against any oversight by City Hall and questions from anyone outside the department."I must be honest when I say it is hugely concerning when a department reacts this viscerally in response to transparency. I have personally been the recipient of defensiveness and aggression when asking simple questions, which lead me to conclude that my questions are the right ones to ask. I hope this council will continue to have the courage to speak on behalf of all citizens in our community, not just getting in line behind the police."
Piros joins the fray
News that Gemeroy is leaving the council follows the announcement in early October that after seven years on the council, Mike Corey had moved out of the city and would no longer be able to serve.
Fortunately, the process to replace him took less than a month; the council appointed Gene Piros on Nov. 4 and he has assumed Corey's District 5 position.
A St. Louis, Mo., native who moved to Portland at age 10, Piros is a retired customer service manager who has lived in Newberg for decades. His wife of 45 years, Rebecca, is a member of the Newberg School District board of directors and they have three grown children: Grant, a teacher who lives in Dundee; Elliott, a professor of Latin at University of North Carolina; and Miranda, a student at Willamette University.
In looking for a place to live, Newberg struck the couple as a town with affordable housing and as a safe place to raise their three children, the 66-year-old said.
Piros' past government experience is limited to supporting his wife as a school board member and his daughter's involvement on the Newberg Planning Commission.
His goal as he serves out the remainder of Corey's term until Dec. 31, 2020, is to promote livability, affordable housing, "walkability," sustainability and local jobs. He said he plans to run for election to a four-year term once he completes Corey's term.
Piros, who studied business management and landscape technology in college, said he is not daunted by joining the council during a particularly tumultuous time.
"No, I'm not afraid of rough times," he said. "They help us grow stronger and better."
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