Ogden reflects on almost a quarter-century as Tualatin mayor
On Monday, the City of Tualatin swore in its first new mayor in 24 years.
Frank Bubenik replaced Lou Ogden, who just finished as the longest serving mayor in Washington County in recent memory.
At Ogden's final meeting on Dec. 10, Bubenik said he had "pretty big shoes to fill" in taking over Ogden's job, which began with two years on the council prior to that time. During his tenure, it's estimated that Ogden had participated in no less than 750 Tualatin City Council meetings, paddled in eight Pumpkin Regattas and served with three city managers.
Several weeks before finishing his almost quarter-of-a-century term as mayor, Ogden talked about his time heading up a city that now numbers more than 27,000 residents (15,000 when he was first elected) along with his accomplishments, regrets and his future.
Among Ogden's accomplishments are being on board when the city added a new skate park, a library and a police station. Other highlights include:
n Construction of Tualatin Commons, a 5.17-acre mixed-use development that houses a lake, condos, a hotel apartments and more, built on the footprint of a former dog food factory. The city broke ground on the development in 1994.
n The building of Brown's Ferry Park, Jurgens Park and Ibach Park.
"Everybody loves parks," said Ogden, adding that construction of the Ki-A-Kuts Bike and Pedestrian Bridge was a "huge deal" as well, because it now connects all of the city's parks with a connector bridge.
In addition, Ogden said he's proud of the city building the artificial turf field at Tualatin High School and a running track at both Tualatin High School and Byrom Elementary School, projects he personally championed and pushed along.
n Both the development of Bridgeport Village and build-out of the Leviton Industrial Area while he was on board.
"And our largest employer by far is located (here), Lam Research," he said of the company that creates equipment that allows chipmakers the ability to build smaller and smaller device features.
Ogden said Lam is in the city because Intel is nearby and, in turn, lots of other businesses are here because Lam is here.
Regarding businesses that weren't as welcome, Ogden was mayor when Jiggles, an infamous strip club and "juicebar" that faced Interstate 5, was still operating before being torn down to make room for the new development of the Nyberg Rivers complex (where Cabela's is located).
The problem with the establishment, said Ogden, was its reflection on the city as a whole.
"The gateway to our city was a strip joint," he pointed out.
With that in mind, Ogden personally climbed aboard a track hoe in July 2014 and took a chunk out of the building as it was being demolished.
Meanwhile, Ogden said he's always been a proponent of finding solutions to traffic issues. He's famous for often saying the three biggest issues in Tualatin are, "traffic, traffic and traffic."
The recent completion and opening of the 124th Avenue extension, which comes off of Tualatin-Sherwood Road and eventually leads to I-5, marks a huge landmark.
Ogden likens it to a much sought-after but never realized "westside bypass," a plan that failed to move forward more than two decades ago, which would have created a roadway to running from Battle Ground, Wash., to Hillsboro.
"We got a poor man's version, a much smaller scope and scale but (it) still provides a transportation link out of Tualatin and opens that area up for development," Ogden said of the 124th extension.
So what changed since the 63-year-old former mayor took office in 1995?
Not the least being that Ogden himself, who pointed out that when he took office, he had no in-depth understanding of the issues. Today, traffic issues are more complicated, he said, while development is more expensive and social concerns more prevalent.
But it's not only infrastructure and development Ogden is proud of having overseen, he's also pleased with having been on board for development of the Youth Advisory Council, the Diversity Task Force and Tualatin Tomorrow, a visioning document regarding the future of the city.
Citizen Involvement organizations also were something he championed.
"I couldn't understand why (we) didn't have neighborhood associations involved (in city government)," he said.
As his final term began to wind down last year, Ogden initially sought the Washington County Commission chairman's seat, saying his goal was to "do with Washington County what I did in Tualatin," where residents enjoy a good quality of life with good jobs in the city.
Ogden later withdrew from that race.
Instead, he ran to become the new commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. He said he ran because he was approached by several people to get in the race, but also because he wanted to see more people in Washington County share in those prosperity and quality of life issues.
He spent several intensive months campaigning but ultimately lost to former lawmaker Val Hoyle.
For his part, Ogden said he has few regrets, using a sports metaphor to sum up his campaign: "Going to the World Series is fabulous."
Not a political animal
Although a registered Republican, Ogden said he is a moderate who doesn't adhere to any hard-core ideology.
"I'm not a political activist or Republican activist," he said.
As an example, during his final State of the City speech delivered last winter, he not only highlighted the business and economic opportunities the city has enjoyed over the years, he also emphasized social and health issues as well.
He pointed out at the time that Tualatin's "inclusive city resolution" was a victory and went on to take on the so-called "sanctuary city" issue by saying, "...not only do we welcome and value all who live here, in accordance with state law, we do not deploy our city resources for strictly ... the purpose of immigration enforcement efforts."
In the same speech, Ogden said that, while the state has worked to clean up rivers and provide safe drinking water, it doesn't address health issues related to food.
"We eat processed food and sugar to excess and we are, as a community, obese and largely sedentary," said Ogden, a vegan, who said his diet has reversed his Type 2 diabetes and allowed him to maintain a normal range blood pressure. "It is not our fault individually because that is the food chain and lifestyle we have as a society created."
Continuing a good-will-across-party-lines philosophy, Ogden recently unabashedly praised Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden during his visit to Tualatin High School.
"This man in front of you is one of the most powerful men in the world," Ogden said about the senator who is the ranking member on Senate Committee on Finance, which controls the purse strings of federal programs.
"He loves Oregon and he loves each and every one of us," Ogden said. "He's always worked on bipartisan issues for all of us."
That enthusiastic admiration started a little more than a year into Ogden's time as mayor when flooding in 1996 ravaged downtown Tualatin.
"The National Guard was here in the Kmart (now Cabela's) parking lot," he said. Ogden himself was surveying damage at a Tualatin apartment complex, when "here comes Sen. Wyden in a white station wagon ... in his blue jeans and sweatshirt and, with him, we helped this family upright this refrigerator.
"That's a long ways to the stuffed shirts you see on television on 'Face the Nation.' That's the kind of person Ron Wyden is," Ogden said. "Ron Wyden is you and me."
The senator returns the sentiment.
"From the time I worked with Lou to help Tualatin during the 1996 floods it's been clear he has put his city first in both his thoughts and actions," Wyden said in an email recounting those days. "I always looked forward to catching up with Lou at my town halls in Washington County and when he would come to Washington, D.C., because I could always count on his grass-roots knowledge of Tualatin's challenges and opportunities, all delivered in his inimitably animated style."
Over the years, Ogden, too, has been known for his colorful, getting-right-to-the-heart-of-the matter quotes. He said his quotes aren't premeditated or meant to be provocative.
"For me, it's a very simplistic way of thinking about things," he said, noting he looks at the lowest common denominator to understand things without being complicated or esoteric. "It's just kind of common sense."
Still, it was an election by Tualatin voters several years ago that set term limits on the Tualatin mayor's tenure.
"It originated because there was a small group of people who no longer wanted me to be mayor," Ogden said. "They talked about recall, ran candidates against one and other and didn't succeed."
He claims it was the "anti-light rail people" who ultimately gave others the idea of collecting signatures to place a vote for term limits on the ballot.
So were there things Ogden wanted to accomplish but ran out of time? Yes.
Ogden wants Herman Road expanded as a parallel arterial to Tualatin-Sherwood Road and wants it to cross the Tualatin River at the north end of Community Park, just like the existing Railroad Trestle, to I-5 at Bridgeport, he said.
In addition, Ogden said the city still needs a mixed-use downtown complete with commercial, retail, multi-story residential and walkable shops and restaurants. He said he'd like to see something like Bridgeport Village, with residential space above the commercial space, something he would use urban renewal financing to accomplish.
"We also need a master plan for Stafford, which would allow for similar mixed use along Borland to Stafford Road," he said.
Twenty years from now, Ogden said he predicts a downtown core surrounding the intersection of Boones Ferry and Tualatin-Sherwood Road, which extends Tualatin Commons westward to 90th Avenue and south to Warm Springs Avenue.
In addition, he envisions the future Southwest Light Rail corridor ending at Bridgeport Village, complete with a shuttle service that connects Tualatin neighborhoods and industrial sectors.
He also envisions the Basalt Creek area being largely built out; and the Stafford area in the process of developing with expanded park areas in Basalt Creek and likely east of I-5 and south of I-205.
"I see a robust internship program where Tualatin High School students are actively working in our myriad job sectors pursuing pathways to highly skilled, well-paying careers," Ogden said. "I see a culturally diverse community where all families enjoy a financially secure lifestyle with community amenities which include a YMCA Community Center, ball fields, natural areas, particularly along the Tonquin Ice Age Trail."
Ogden said he plans to remain in town, and while he currently has no specific political ambitions, it would all depend on the situation.
"If there's a need that needs to be filled ... then I'd be open to it," he said.
When City Manager Sherilyn Lombos nominated Ogden for a lifetime achievement award for the Oregon Mayors Association several years ago, she wrote the following: "He never shies away from conflict or diverse opinions. I have never seen anyone as open to thoughtful debate as Lou; he truly seeks to understand what is being communicated, even if he doesn't agree."
More recently, Lombos praised Ogden's leadership at a Tualatin Chamber of Commerce farewell reception: "You have forced all of us, but particularly me, to be better."
Former Tigard Mayor John Cook, who just finished his final term as mayor, reflected on Ogden's career as well.
"I have to hand it to Lou," Cook said. "He made relationships that opened doors for big and small projects to be accomplished in Tualatin and I can't imagine what the region would be like without his lasting leadership contributions."