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Eight people with diverse backgrounds seek seat Denyse McGriff vacated to take mayoral position

Oregon City has received applications from eight people for appointment as a city commissioner.Denyse McGriff

Rachel Lyles Smith's last day as mayor was April 22, and Denyse McGriff has since filled the mayoral position, first as commission president, then by winning the Aug. 23 special election. With Oregon City's new mayor sworn in, the commissioner seat previously held by McGriff is vacant.

City Commissioner Frank O'Donnell returned Sept. 27 from a 60-day leave of absence to "fast track" the appointment process, saying he'd be happy to see someone sworn into office as soon as the commission votes for an applicant.

After interviewing the applicants on Oct. 25, at least three out of the remaining four commission members will have to agree on a candidate before the applicant is appointed.

The new commissioner is expected to take an oath of office at the beginning of the Nov. 2 commission meeting. But there's a slight chance that a commission vacancy could soon reappear if the commission appoints someone who's running in the November election and that person ends up winning the election.

Two of the applicants for the vacant commission seat are on the Nov. 8 ballot, and one of the other candidates for appointment has previously served as a city commissioner.

With the option of running for a full four-year term in November 2024, the appointee will be expected to serve at least until the first commission meeting in January 2025.

Here's the list of applicants in alphabetical order with a brief bio for each:

• Petronella Donovan, who owns an adult-care home in Oregon City, has served as board chair of the Clackamas Volunteers in Medicine to help with the health needs of low-income people in Clackamas County. She serves on the Oregon City Transportation Advisory Committee and on the OC Chamber's Government & Economic Affairs Committee.

• Tom Geil is a former Oregon City planning commissioner and representative to the Citizens Involvement Commission who successfully represented the Park Place neighborhood in advocating that the city commission reject a developer's plan to build hundreds of homes in the area without any commercial amenities or additional north-south outlets. Geil's Nov. 8 commission campaign materials said that he is not against development, but he says that all new development should be preceded by improved infrastructure.

• Julie Hernandez, government affairs manager for Portland General Electric, currently serves on the board of the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber. Her previous board service includes Resolutions NW, which helps youth overcome conflicts; the Clackamas River Health Advisory Board for Water Environment Services; and the International Right of Way Association.

• Damon Mabee has previously served as a city commissioner from 2005-09, as a planning commissioner from 2011-19 and as the chair of the Friends of Buena Vista clubhouse. He has lost two mayoral campaigns, in 2018 and in 2021.

• Mike Mitchell has served in leadership roles on Oregon City's Planning Commission, Urban Renewal Commission, Citizen Involvement Committee, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, Transportation Advisory Committee, Caufield Neighborhood Association and Parks Foundation. He ran against former mayor Lyles Smith for a commission seat in 2018 and received about 44% of the vote.

• Casey Norlin, a dentist who works for the Clackamas County Health Department, previously worked for the U.S. Army National Guard, Colton Rural Fire District and as an assistant professor in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry. Prior to a career in dentistry, Norlin worked for the city of Oregon City in its Public Works and Code Enforcement departments maintaining OC streets and writing parking tickets from 2007-11.

• Jay Pearce was a charter member of the Oregon City Homeless Solutions Coalition, now the Clackamas County Homeless Solutions Coalition. He has been in the news recently putting up a "private drive" sign next to the public alleyway "to keep people out of our driveway, which has been frequented by mentally ill and vagrants" and for advocating for the removal of an Arta Pottie near his home out of concern for "vandalism and drug dealing centered around the portable toilet."

• Sandra Dee Toews recently was elected as a precinct committee member for the Clackamas County Republican Party. Her commission campaign emphasized how it's possible to embrace Oregon City's future with respect for its rich heritage.


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