Swenson to face Lonergan in mayoral race
Two new candidates have entered the race for Woodburn city leadership positions: Eric Swenson is running for mayor and Mary Beth Cornwell is running for the Ward Five seat.
Swenson, a retired administrator from Woodburn School District, will be facing off against longtime city Councilor Frank Lonergan, and Cornwell will be running against recent high school graduate Juan Arriaga.
Cornwell said she is seeking the Ward Five seat to work on beautification and safety downtown and on First Street.
"I have a great heart for this town, and I want to see Woodburn change for the better," Cornwell said.
Cornwell doesn't have any political experience, but she was born and raised in Woodburn and her family has been here since the 1930s. Her son is 20 years old and attends college at Oregon State University. She currently works as a substitute teacher with the Woodburn School District and part time for Aurora Mills Architectural Salvage.
Cornwell said she was convinced to run for the Ward Five seat by a group of friends she meets with regularly to discuss city issues.
"They felt and I felt it was time to step up to the plate," she said.
Cornwell said the issues she wants to work on as a city councilor are ordinance enforcement, continued beautification downtown and increasing access to resources for homeless people.
She said that derelict buildings on First Street such as the former Pix Theater are eyesores and roadblocks for further development downtown.
"I want to know what can be done to further enhance downtown," Cornwell said. "It's thriving but not terribly eye appealing."
Cornwell said she wants to see downtown brought back to its former glory, and wants to see a renewed focus on enforcing ordinances and dealing with graffiti downtown.
"I remember as a kid it was something to look at," Cornwell said. "The last two years it's been hard to live positive lives. Downtown should be a place to come to and feel safe."
Mayoral candidate Eric Swenson said he would also like to find a solution for the derelict buildings downtown, such as Pix Theater and the former gas station next to the old City Hall building.
"I want to take measures to continue to work with these owners," Swenson said.
"But there's gotta be a point where you can move to condemn a building," he said.
Swenson recently retired from Woodburn School District, where he worked as an administrator and served as a middle and high school principal. Swenson is multilingual, speaking fluent Spanish and conversational Russian. He has a Master of Public Administration from Lewis and Clark College, and said that he always imagined himself serving in the public sphere after retirement.
Swenson said he decided to run for mayor a few weeks after he retired this year; he was going to teach part-time at Pacific University and wondered what else he could to for the community.
"My question to myself was, 'What else do I have to give?' This seemed like a good opportunity (to give)," Swenson said.
Swenson has served as president of Woodburn Together and is currently president of Woodburn Proud, a nonprofit which recently helped raise $14,000 to purchased automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for the police department's patrol cars. Swenson was a founding member of the Woodburn Boys & Girls Club, served two terms on the city's budget committee and was appointed to the city's Recreation and Parks Board in 2014.
Swenson has also served on the board of directors for the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce, and will serve as president of the Woodburn Rotary Club for the 2019-20 term.
Swenson moved to Woodburn with his family in 2005 to work with WSD, and his wife Alejandra has taught with Woodburn schools since 1990.
Their son Jonathan is 15 years old, has been in both Spanish and Russian dual language programs, plays youth soccer, and is a member of the high school Mariachi band and the youth music group Woodburn Rocks.
"This has been the ideal community to raise my son in," Swenson said. "It would be an honor for me to be able to give back to Woodburn."
Swenson said that as mayor he would push for further improvements downtown, serve as a spokesperson to build support for the community center project and try to connect visitors of the outlet mall to downtown attractions.
Swenson has a particularly ambitious vision for bringing visitors downtown: a trolley running to the outlet mall. Swenson said that with 5 million annual visitors to the outlets it seems like the city should be able to bring some of those visitors downtown.
"I envision a trolley that would operate regularly to bring all those poor people who accompany their spouses or children to the outlets, yet really don't want to be there, to downtown and other local businesses," he said.
Swenson said he got the idea from seeing other similarly-sized cities with trolley services, and said it seemed like a natural fit.
His other major goal is shepherding along the city's community center project, which has been in various stages of planning for the last 10 years. He has had some input on the project through the Recreation and Parks Board, and said he would lead the charge as mayor to get public support and input to finalize a construction bond.
"It would be great to construct a gathering place that brings our community together for recreation, education and celebration," Swenson said. "If elected I would spend a large amount of time seeing that project through to completion."