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Middleton takes reigns as mayor
Sworn in Jan. 15, the former police chief has lots of plans he wants to come to fruition
Sherwoods newest mayor, Bill Middleton plans on hitting the ground running, already armed with plans to address issues of communication between the city and residents, hopes of attracting small businesses to the city and ensuring that a community center is built sooner rather than later.
Middleton, 62, officially took over after being sworn in during the Jan. 15 Sherwood City Council meeting, following the November defeat of Mayor Keith Mays who had served since 2005.
In the fall, Middleton retired as police chief from the city of Carlton (a tiny hamlet six miles north of McMinnville) as well as ending a long career in the U.S. Army where he most recently service in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
In fact, during his last five years in the military, Middleton served as detachment commander of Protective Services, Major Crimes and Investigations, working with the FBI and CIA among other agencies.
Im retired from everything, Middleton pointed out during a recent interview.
And although this is Middletons first term as the citys top elected official, he is no rookie to the city or Sherwood politics, having spent 12 years as the citys police chief. During that tenure, he helped usher in the passage of a bond measure that provided funding for the construction of the current police station.
He also ended up suing the city in a suit that resulted in a $250,000 settlement, saying he was demoted while serving on active duty in the U.S. Army Reserves. Since then, hes donated much of that money to groups ranging from the Cat Adoption Team to the Sherwood High School Booster Club.
For the record, Middleton said he has no ill will towards the city regarding the lawsuit and that it had nothing to do with his decision to run for elected office.
I just think we need a change in direction, he said, pointing out that he had been encouraged by residents in the previous election to run but didnt feel the time was right.
Middleton has met with all the Sherwood City Council members and while initial conversations among some members were heated, he feels they ended up as fruitful talks.
I think Im a fairly easy guy to get along with, he pointed out.
During his campaign, Middleton said he covered almost the entire city in a door-to-door campaign to see what was on citizens minds.
I think its really worthwhile going out and talking to people, he said.
One of the first goals Middleton wants to accomplish is to see completion of a new community center. The proposed former machine shop building once slated for that center will be torn down in the upcoming months because of structural deficiencies. Even before that happens, Middleton said he wants to encourage public involvement among residents in what they want that new community center to look like.
Middleton also wants to push ahead with smart growth for the city that includes infilling industrial land sites along Highway 99W as well as a large parcel of industrial land on Oregon Street that he called a very advantageous piece of property.
In addition, extensive industrial-use areas are planned for the voter-approved annexation of the Tonquin Employment Area along 124th Avenue (off of Tualatin-Sherwood Road).
What we really want for this community is light industrial which can bring in jobs for the people, he said.
At the same time, Sherwoods new mayor said he will push ahead with plans for increased transparency in Sherwood city government, providing more information regarding citys projects and a detailed accounting of where money is being spent.
He said his plan is to create an atmosphere where residents can give input into issues affecting them.
Were going to be dealing with a lot of little problems (that) I think have been overlooked, he said.
Those include everything from whether residents should be able to keep chickens inside city limits to restarting conversations about building a skateboard park for the citys youth near the Sherwood Family YMCA, an issue that fell by the wayside after initial support and funding sources waned.
He said when working as police chief in Carlton, that community built a small skateboard park that is well used.
You dont have to come up with these $800,000 projects, Middleton pointed out. You can do something on a smaller scale.
Middleton also wants a citizens group to take a close look at water rates that have gone up significantly several years ago.
Meanwhile, Middleton said addressing city finances is also going to play a prominent part in his administration. Having worked with private, local and federal agencies for 36 years, Middleton knows how to draw up a budget, and he wants to take a hard look at the citys long-term general fund budget.
That will include some tough choices when it comes to city staff, he said.
I also ran on (a) platform we have to reduce our staff, he said. I really hate to do that.
He said obviously salaries and benefits are a citys greatest expenses.
I was elected by a pretty good majority, and Im going to do what the people want, he said.
Another issue Middleton plans on tackling involves reviewing the citys fee structure, especially when it comes to new businesses locating in Sherwood. He wants to know whats drawing businesses to Tualatin and Tigard while leaving Sherwood out of the loop.
We want to encourage businesses, not discourage (them), Middleton said.
What hed like to see as well are smaller family-run businesses locating in the city.
Middletons plate will also be filled a number of transportation and road-related projects everything from Washington Countys planned improvements of Tualatin-Sherwood Road to the resurfacing of Railroad and Washington streets.
Middleton says hes supportive of the Southwest Corridor Study that is considering a rapid transit system that would include high-capacity, high-speed buses along such thoroughfares as Highway 99W, which could result in dedicated lanes at peak hours. As a result, hes met with other local mayors to help coordinate projects.
Im not in favor of light rail, he said, pointing out he doesnt want the city to be stuck with something so permanent.
Also topping Middletons list of things he wants to accomplish is pushing for the citys police department to become more involved in the community.
We have a very low crime rate, Middleton pointed out. They (police) just need to come out and be part of the people.
Middleton said hes had good conversations with current Chief Jeff Groth regarding community involvement.
The police department can be a huge public relations department to a city, Middleton pointed out, saying his goal is ensure residents arent treated like they live in a big city.
It takes a whole different mindset to be a small city police officer and chief, said Middleton.
In his spare time, Middleton rides motorcycles and recently purchased a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic, which weighs nearly 1,000 pounds.
Thats why I go to the gym everyday to hold it up, he joked.
Middleton has been married to his wife Margaret, who is in charge of transportation planning for the city of Beaverton, since 1975. They are the parents of two grown children – Chris, a radiographer at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center, and Michelle, who is in the chaplaincy for the Nevada National Guard. In December, the Middletons became first-time grandparents with the birth of their grandson Ethan.
Now the mayor said what hes most looking forward to is working with city employees.
Its just a great group of people there, he said, also noting that hes pleased with the hiring of City Manager Joe Gall. We seem to work very well together.
But mostly for now, hes ready to get to work.
Im just really excited, he said. I think its going to be great.