During a week of "State-of's," the city of Woodburn work-week swan-song address was arguably the most unique — and festive — delivered by any government entity in the region, if not the nation.
Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson recognized pretty much every corner of the city during his Friday, Feb. 7, State of the City address, which was a catered affair boosted by live music at the Metropolis and luring hundreds of local denizens.
"Tonight's about being more awake to what's happening in Woodburn," Swenson prefaced.
Then he delivered, illustrating his oration with slides showing people, groups, teams, businesses and interests citywide. A sampling of the mix sharing a ray of the spotlight included PCUN leaders, city staff, U.S. Senators, police officers, former mayors, civic groups, the Woodburn School District, ribbon cuttings, the Fiesta Mexicana court, the Old Believer Russian Community, and even a nod to his barber.
Most showcased elements were fortified with an anecdote, and appropriately laced with humor; even in the most casual conversation with a stranger, the mayor is quite adept at working in the fact that his son played on the Woodburn High School state championship soccer team.
Swenson invoked a rhetorical trope from John F. Kennedy, adjusting the antithesis for Woodburn and those on hand:
"You people are not asking what Woodburn can do for you; you are asking what can you do for Woodburn? And you have been doing it for years."
Robert F. Kennedy was also invoked, his quote directly, and it too was fashioned into a Woodburn angle.
"'Some people see things as they are and ask why, I see things as they could be, and ask, why not?'" Swenson quoted, adding: "Could it be that all who are here tonight, because of the contributions you make to who we are, understand, appreciate and work together even more? Let's look around at each other and ask, 'Why not?'"
While it didn't dwell on it, the event did include some traditional state-of fare. The mayor lauded a number of the city's accomplishments over the year, including the First Street improvements, Hardcastle intersection realignment, demolition of the dilapidated former Pix theater building, a new park at the library, erecting a peace pole and helping to negotiate the design and layout of an approved apartment complex so it was more amenable to residents in the adjacent neighborhood.
"The power in and of community resides not in water systems and street projects, though we do those things very well," Swenson said. "The power resides in celebrating who we are and in the connections we make with each other, it resides with people exactly like you — We the People. And you see tonight we have very strong base from which to ask what else we can do together."
Swenson also offered a glimpse of what is coming, including a couple of murals on First Street buildings, construction of 800 mixed-sized homes in the Smith Creek Addition, and potentially a bond put before voters to build a community center.
"A vibrant city is a city that stays connected, and Woodburn stays connected," Swenson asserted.
The mayor connected a lot of those dots throughout the oration, listing a number of businesses, their features and milestones over the course of the year, including Specialty Polymers and Taylor Honda, along with Salem Health's recent opening of a new clinic.
Following the business tributes, the event segued into the live band where musicians were joined by Chamber of Commerce Director John Zobrist, who donned a pair of shades, stepped up to the microphone and belted out "Taking Care of Business."
Then it was time to dance.
"It was great to have such a deep and diverse representation all in one ballroom, getting to know all the other people that work hard to make Woodburn who we are," Swenson reflected.
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