Reception held for outgoing mayor of Columbia City who served 32 years earlier this week

PHOTO COURTESY OF HELEN JOHNSON - Cheryl Young poses for a photo with a sign erected in her honor outside of Columbia City City Hall. The sign was a surprise city staff and council members revealed Monday afternoon. Cheryl Young, the former mayor of Columbia City who retired this week, was recognized and honored at a special ceremony on Monday, Dec. 31, where nearly 100 people gathered to celebrate her.

On the last day of her time in office, Young was also honored with the dedication of the "Cheryl A. Young Plaza" in front of Columbia City City Hall.

Young, who served 32 years as mayor, said she was surprised when city staff revealed the sign in her honor on Monday afternoon. She described the honor as "amazing."

"I guess I think back years ago, I used to work with Mayor Terry Schrunk (of Portland), you know the first thing I thought was Terry has a plaza, and now I've got one. I couldn't help it, you know," Young said with a laugh.

Young was first elected in 1982 to a single term as a Columbia City councilor. In 1986, she was elected as the city's mayor, and has been re-elected to the position ever since. Many of the election cycles she ran unopposed, but when she did face competition one year, Young still managed to retain the mayoral seat.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - Cheryl Young, center, at a reception held in her honor on Monday, Dec. 31. Friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers and City Council members attended the event held to celebrate the outgoing mayor earlier this week. At 71, Young said it was time for her to step down from the role. She didn't seek re-election in November, noting at the time she wanted to focus on her health. Young said she also stepped down from her role as the manager of the St. Helens Senior Center earlier this week.

On Monday afternoon, Columbia City staff hosted a special reception at the Columbia City Community Hall for Young and her years of dedication to the unpaid, elected-office, public service role.

Close to 100 people gathered in the community hall to honor her. Many greeted her with a hug and a warm hello as she sat at a table with family members.

While the event was dedicated to Young, it also served as a reunion of sorts as previous city employees, councilors, old friends, neighbors and family both attended. Many of those present recounted stories of working with Young, growing up in Columbia County with her and seeing how Columbia City has grown over the years. Many also credited Young with helping create traditions in the community, like the annual Columbia City Celebration.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - Sally Ann Marson, left, presents Cheryl Young with a symbolic key to the city and the gavel she used to conduct meetings with during a special reception. The gift was presented on behalf of the Columbia City City Council. The event was also emotional for those who had worked with Young for years, several of whom said she was like family to them.

"I love everyone that I have worked with. It is my family and they saw me through good and bad times in my own life, and I have to credit them for giving me the will, a lot of times, to go on," Young said.

Longtime City Administrator Leahnette Rivers, who also retired on Dec. 31, recalled many fond memories working with Young.

"Well, I'm excited for us. I think the event turned out nice and I hope we were able to get the word out to everyone. It's hard to know how you honor somebody properly who's put so much of their life into a volunteer, elected position such as this. You know, I just hope we have honored her properly," Rivers said.

Casey Wheeler, the executive director of the Columbia Pacific Food Bank, was expected take his oath of office as the new mayor of Columbia City during a City Council meeting Thursday, Jan. 3, after the Spotlight's press deadline.

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