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Planning commissioner Mike Mitchell appointed to the commission seat that Denyse McGriff vacated to take mayoral position

After interviewing eight applicants on Oct. 25, all four remaining Oregon City Commission members voted unanimously to appoint Mike Mitchell to the vacant commission seat.Oregon City planning commissioner Mike Mitchell interviews to be appointed to the City Commission.

Only three out of the four commission members were needed to make the appointment, but Mitchell impressed the elected officials with his strong background of volunteering for the city, along with his articulate and detailed answers to his interview questions from commissioners.

Mayor Denyse McGriff vacated the commission seat to fill the mayoral role vacated by Rachel Lyles Smith since April 22. Michell's appointment brought a chapter in Oregon City politics full circle, since he ran against Lyles Smith for a commission seat in 2018 and received about 44% of the vote.

"I study a lot; I always make it a goal to be the best-informed person in the room, and I would bring that same kind of dedication to the city commission," Michell said.

Mitchell is expected to serve at least until the first commission meeting in January 2025, and he has the option of running for a full four-year term in November 2024.

Mitchell's vision for the central/downtown area involves working on three fronts: parking, transportation and marketing it as a unified historic tourism district.

"We don't have an all-day attraction in Oregon City; we have a collection of all-day attractions, so we should be working now on how we integrate that whole district so that it becomes a focal point for our city and not something that tears up our city," he said.

Homelessness is another big priority for Mitchell and the rest of the city commission.

"We need to make sure that we're the squeaky wheel getting our fair share of the funding and the programs, whether it's from the county or Metro, to take care of our homeless citizens, and at the same time we need to be willing to handle the enforcement side for those who won't follow the rules or aren't willing to accept help," he said.

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.

Oregon City's other seven people for appointment as a city commissioner included two people who are on the Nov. 8 ballot, and one of the other candidates for appointment has previously served as a city commissioner.

Here's the list of the seven other 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.

• 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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