Jessica Chilton and Patrick Birkle are new kids on the block at St. Helens City Hall
The St. Helens City Council welcomed a pair of newcomers at the Jan. 6 virtual council meeting.
Jessica Chilton and Patrick Birkle were warmly welcomed at the Wednesday meeting. They replaced council members Keith Locke and Ginny Carlson.
Carlson lost to Chilton at the November general election. Locke did not seek re-election.
Reacting to her new role with the city, Chilton said, "I am really excited and nervous all at the same time. I take this job very seriously, and I am pleased that St. Helens' residents believe in me, and I hope that I can come in, breath some fresh air, and really bring some livelihood to the council and continue on your guys' journey that you have already started for the city."
Chilton continued, "I think that the residents are really excited about that — I have got a couple of kids at home and a husband, who are also transitioning with me, so we're all adjusting, but we're making some headway."
Birkle thanked his fellow council members.
"I would like to take the opportunity to first of all, thank the citizens of St. Helens, who put their confidence in me with their vote to this position," Birkle said. "I won't take umbrage at being called a politician. As I understand it, the root comes from a Greek word 'polis,' which refers to the people or the community. A politician is somebody who works for the good of the community. If I am called a politician, I will claim it."
Birkle said, "I really am here to serve the residents, to help St. Helens become a place of safety and health for us."
Noting that he does not have an agenda, but has hopes and dreams, Birkle told councilors, "I will be a strong advocate for those things, but I am one of five. Even though I might not like it, I will support the decisions made by the majority of this council."
Contacted after the City Council meeting by the Spotlight, Birkle expressed interest in a couple of goals, the first being citizen engagement in city matters.
He is exploring the idea of starting monthly town meetings or coffee chats with citizens.
"Right now, those would be done virtually, via Zoom or something," Birkle said, noting he would like these get togethers to be held between regular council meetings. "Just give folks an opportunity to talk with me."
Birkle added, "I might at times, maybe, suggest a specific issue of importance for people to talk about. Or other times, just let people express what their interests are."
Birkle stressed that he would need to consult with the city before launching monthly meetings.
Birkle also feels strongly about preserving nature in our community.
"Let's develop, let's grow our businesses," Birkle said. "Let's provide people with jobs that they can support their families without having to commute to the metro area — but do that in a way where kids can get outside and play in a natural setting."
During the session, council members voted to keep Doug Morten on as council president. Morten has served as council president since 2011.
"I would be honored to serve," Morten told fellow council members. "I have been honored to serve — and I just want you to know one thing. What I really stand for is teaming, and that means teaming with our council staff, our city crews, our city staff."
Morten noted the importance of teaming with others, including the Port of Columbia County and other municipalities.
"In the past, the mayor and I have teamed to be partners in public works and parks and city administration," Morten said. "It's all about collaboration and it's all about we instead of me."
In other business, Mayor Rick Scholl appointed Chilton to be a liaison to the police department and appointed Birkle as liaison to the planning commission.
"I am excited about my new journey as the liaison for the police," Chilton said. "That's a huge passion of mine, so I'm excited to support them in the new police station and just making sure that their needs continue to be met."
In welcoming Councilors Chilton and Birkle, Scholl said, "A lot of big changes are going to happen for the citizens. It's going to be good."
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