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Gundersen will join Brandon Sundeen as the newest members of the St. Helens City Council. Terms begin Jan. 1.

COURTESY PHOTO: MARK GUNDERSEN - Mark Gundersen will join the St. Helens City Council Jan. 1. Mark Gundersen is ready to enter the world of resolutions, ordinances and agendas when he officially becomes a new member of the St. Helens City Council on Jan. 1.

Gundersen joins Brandon Sundeen as the new kids on the block at City Hall. The two were the top vote-getters in the Tuesday, Nov. 8, election.

Gundersen currently works with Columbia Community Mental Health with the task of coordinating with the Oregon State Hospital, a facility that provides psychiatric treatment for adults who need hospital-level care.

Growing up in Milwaukie, Gundersen, who also serves on the St. Helens Budget Committee, moved to St. Helens in the mid-1990s after he met his wife.

Asked what prompted him to seek a role on a City Council, Gundersen admitted he is not really a "politician."

He said, "I don't get into the whole red-and-blue, why-are-they-doing-this, but I do have an interest in being on the inside of things, learning how it works, and the process."

Asked about the types of businesses he would like to see in St. Helens, Gundersen said he's in favor of businesses that can tie in with the natural resources of Columbia County.

As an example, he would like to see Cabela's, a store that offers hunting, fishing, boating and camping supplies, come to town. The closest Cabela's location to St. Helens now is in Tualatin, almost an hour's drive south.

"When salmon season comes around here, Scappoose Bay is packed," Gundersen said. "There's fishing around here year around. The river to me is kind of the primary draw to this area."

Gundersen continued, "You have your fall fishing and spring fishing, for sure. There are hunters. Every friend that I have hunts something. I would like to see something like that happen, like a Bob's Sporting Goods in Longview."

On the topic of tourism, Gundersen said he is amazed by the growth of the Spirit of Halloweentown event but admits his mind is not completely made up on the direction of tourism.

"I'm always shocked at the way the whole Halloweentown thing grows — it gets bigger and bigger," Gundersen said. "As far as other tourism activities, I'm not quite sure. There has been filming that's been done in the area. That I certainly support, where people can come in to be extras."

While the Riverfront Project will change the landscape of Old Town, Gundersen is concerned about the number of cars that will populate the downtown and Riverfront District.

"Traffic, and parking down there, it seems like that's going to turn into a nightmare, in my opinion," Gundersen said. "There's no parking there now. I went up to Plymouth Pub yesterday for lunch and there was literally nowhere to park."

Gundersen continued, "Now you're adding a whole other level, and it's not that big of an area. I like the Riverwalk idea and I, in general, like the idea of the condos going in there. I'm interested in seeing how it plays out. It could be a wonderful thing for the city."

He added, "I've always liked the Old Town feel of St. Helens, being able to go down to the theater and watch a movie. It's nice and it has that Old Town feel. That's the sort of thing that I like. We'll see."

Gundersen also wants to increase staffing levels at the St. Helens Police Department.

"Probably my biggest goal in getting in there is giving Chief (Brian) Greenway more police," he said. "We need some more cops on the road. They need to pay more or we're going to be just a training ground for folks that are going to come here for a year … then move on to other cities to work, where they're getting paid more."

Gundersen said, "We have some local guys that are fantastic. … I have a chance to work for them occasionally on my job. They just do a fantastic job."

Gundersen looks forward to getting to know the community.

"I like talking to people," he said. "You can ask anybody who I know."

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