Swenson comes from behind to secure Woodburn mayoral seat
"It was a comeback win."
That's how Eric Swenson described it on his campaign Facebook page late Thursday night after the latest results showed he received roughly 220 more votes than his opponent for Woodburn mayor, Frank Lonergan.
On Election Day, Swenson and Lonergan went to bed believing the latter would be mayor, with Tuesday night results showing Lonergan had received about 240 more votes than Swenson.
But they woke up Wednesday morning to updated results that showed Lonergan's lead had significantly diminished to a mere 18 votes.
"I rolled over at 1 o'clock in morning to check the last update and it was kind of a shock to see it was close," Swenson recalled, adding with a laugh, "If my supporters are like me, they vote and do their taxes at the last minute."
That proved to be true, as Thursday afternoon numbers sealed their fate: Lonergan had 2,723 votes (41.3 percent) versus Swenson's 2,940 (44.59 percent).
An additional 894 voters selected no candidate, while 37 wrote in their own choice for mayor.
The Marion County Elections office will bring another update Nov. 14, but even they were surprised by the Woodburn mayor race.
"I'm surprised with the mayoral race (in Woodburn), because usually Tuesday night results reflect who the winner is," Marion County Clerk Bill Burgess said.
The county does not finalize election results until 20 days after the election, which falls on Nov. 26.
Swenson, who has already met with city officials, will be sworn in during the City Council's Dec. 10 meeting.
"I think it's important to get to know the city councilors, to get to know their views, experiences and ideas; they're more the decision-making body," Swenson pointed out. "The city, in my opinion, is not only being run well has set itself up well for this moment as far as a stable financial foundation that opens up lots of possibilities for the City Council to help improve Woodburn. ... This is a very fortunate time to be entering city government because of all the possibilities."Swenson will replace Kathy Figley, who has been the longest-sitting mayor in Woodburn history. With his defeat of Lonergan, who has decades of leadership experience in the city government, Swenson recognizes the departure of a lot of institutional knowledge.
"With both he and Kathy leaving that's a lot of experience going away, so I plan on seeking their advice regularly," Swenson said.
Lonergan's take on voting results is that Woodburn is ready for a change.
"It's definitely been a roller coaster," Lonergan said about the past week. "But Woodburn wants to make a change and I can live with that. ... Eric's pretty smart, we've got a solid council that will help him and a great staff. ... Eric will do fine. I think the city's direction already is pretty well set. ... I think there's good people in Woodburn that can step up."
Both Swenson and Lonergan ran on platforms of improving downtown, pushing for a community center and helping bring new development to Woodburn. Additionally, Swenson, who has a son in high school who plays soccer, is interested in transforming the athletic fields in Woodburn parks to turf.
Swenson retired over the summer from the Woodburn School District, where he has served in many roles, most notably as principal at the middle schools and at Wellness, Business and Sports School (one of the small schools at Woodburn High). When he's not teaching part-time for Pacific University or George Fox University, he is also active with Woodburn Proud, the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce and Woodburn Rotary (for which he's president elect), and he has served on the Recreation and Parks Board.
As for Lonergan, he said he isn't sure what's next for him. But he said he's confident it won't be another Lonergan-Swenson race for mayor in 2020.
"I'm going to have to reassess where we're going to go (from here," he said. "I'm kind of excited about it."
Prior to the election, Swenson and Lonergan appeared in a video together urging citizens to vote, setting an example to the dirty politics seen elsewhere during the election season.
"Eric and I talked at the very beginning, and we knew there wouldn't be anything negative, but we didn't realize we'd actually go over the line and enjoy doing things like that (filming a political ad) together," Lonergan said. "I give him a lot of credit for that."
"That resonated with a lot of people," Swenson added. "That's what I'm most proud of is, that we showed how a campaign should run."