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Jan Giunta steps up to challenge Mayor Lou Ogden for Tualatin's top job

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jan Guinta recently decided to run against incumbent Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden.Jan Giunta never had intentions of running for mayor — she never really had intentions of being involved in politics at all.

Until she turned her petition in last week, she’d been holding out hope that someone else would step up to race against incumbent Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden, so she wouldn’t feel compelled to.

“He’s just been too long in office and hasn’t had an opponent,” 70-year-old Giunta said. “It’s healthy for our democracy. Lou (Ogden), for the first time in 20 years, is going to have to talk about issues, and he’s going to have to defend his record. He’s going to have to talk about what his future is.”

An active community member, Giunta ran for City Council in 2012, marginally losing to Monique Beikman. Since its formation, Giunta’s been the president of the River Park Citizen Involvement Organization, a concept she helped spearhead in Tualatin about five years ago. The CIOs began as a response from Giunta and others to what they felt was a lack of conversation between city officials and the people they serve. Tualatin’s CIOs were born as a way to bridge the gap between citizen and leader, with the goal that enough conversations would ensue for officials to understand what the community wants and needs.

It’s with this mindset that Giunta is approaching her run for mayor. She believes in conversations first, detailed planning later. Not thrilled about the idea of competing for the position, the reason Giunta feels prompted to run at all stems from two decades of watching what she feels is a lack of citizen-first governing. Giunta has seen numerous plans, such as one for a town center and another for a recreation center, be completed only to fall at the hands of voters. From her perspective, this was wasted money and resources. If the city had conversed more with citizens about the scope of each project, they might have known it wasn’t something people wanted, Giunta said.

“When we have a major issue, (when) it’s expensive, and it will impact the community, it needs to go to the public, and they need to be educated on the different issues,” she said. “We need to understand, we need to have them reach a consensus so we know what the majority wants. Will they support a bond, or are we going to spend $10 million in planning and then have them reject the bond?”

Giunta is worried that issues such as light rail, new city hall and a potential water source transfer won’t be brought to the public’s attention in time for an informed decision to be made. Her concern is not that putting energy into planning something is bad, but that it’s wasted if the public hasn’t been asked if it’ll even support it in the first place.

Her concerns with light rail go a step further. She’s come up with a plan she thinks will be cheaper and ultimately better for Tualatin. Giunta is worried not only about the money it costs to build high-capacity transit, but with the minimal space Tualatin has to work with. She thinks a SMART bus system, such as that in Wilsonville, would be cheaper, easier and work better with Tualatin’s needs.

“I believe (light rail) will bring in more traffic. My solution is to go with a local transit system. It could be a combination of the larger buses and the smaller buses,” Giunta said. “It would begin to solve our problems. Because you’re going to have to have multiple solutions to solve the traffic problem.”

Giunta knows her solution isn’t the end all be all, but she thinks it’s a viable solution to a difficult traffic problem. At the very least, she wants to see discussions about potential solutions, instead of the ultimatum she feels has been given.

“Lou (Ogden) has a vision of Tualatin, and his vision is high density. That’s not the vision that I have of Tualatin, and that’s why I’m running,” Giunta said. “Right now, I’m just trying to protect my little part of the world.”

She moved here in 1991 to pursue a job in commercial real estate, a field she stayed in for 30 years. Two of her children and her three grandchildren live in town, and you might have seen her on one of her twice-daily walks through the parks with her Pomeranian, Tater. Giunta’s life isn’t consumed with the possibility of mayorship.

“I’m going to work as hard as I can to win, but it won’t shatter my life if I lose. It won’t be the end of my life.” she said.

For nearly the entire time Giunta has lived in Tualatin, Ogden has been in office. Whether she wins the race or loses, Giunta hopes her political participation will encourage others to do the same.

After all, she said, this is a democracy.

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