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'Let's be encouraged to ... find ways to bring light and peace to each other and our community.'

Eric SwensonOn Monday of this week I was sworn in as the 42nd mayor of Woodburn after an invigorating and close race with Frank Lonergan. The best part of the campaign for both of us was that we became friends and took time to share moments from the many doorsteps that gave us pride and hope in the people and city of Woodburn.

During the campaign we learned of a national group called Better Angels, whose mission is to bring together people from opposing political views and parties. The Oregon Chapter of Better Angels, that takes its name from Abraham Lincoln's concluding line in his first inaugural address, is moderated by Pastor Cynthia O'Brien of the Woodburn First Presbyterian Church.

Inspired by that group, the two of us filmed a video standing side by side at Woodburn's ballot box, poking fun at negative campaigning - and encouraging people to vote. It was a light-hearted yet poignant message about what politics could and should look like in another too-often shadowy political campaign season. That message resonated and the video now has over 10,000 views. You can see it on the Woodburn Proud Facebook page.

This Wednesday we mark the 10th anniversary of one of the darkest days in our city's history, when a hateful bombing act at West Coast Bank took the life of Oregon State Police Senior Trooper Bill Hakim, Woodburn Police Capt. Tom Tennant and severely injured our then-Police Chief Scott Russell.

It was a moment where the holiday season of 2008 abruptly stopped for an entire city and, in the words written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the midst of the Civil War, it seemed that, "hate was strong and mocked the song of peace on earth and goodwill to men."

But it was also in that moment when an outpouring of support surged from within and outside of Woodburn that claimed Longfellow's ending verse: "But then the bells tolled loud and deep, God is not dead for does he sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth, good will to men."

In that spirit, and true to Woodburn's resilience, this week also marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of Woodburn Proud under the leadership of Kelly Long, a non-profit established in the days following the bombing. Woodburn Proud focused on bringing our city together in the midst of tragedy and continues to serve the purpose of illuminating the togetherness and strength that defines our community.

Mayor Kathy Figley, just completing 16 years as the longest serving mayor in our history, has served on the Woodburn Proud board since its inception — just one of the innumerable ways in which she has served our community so well. An event to honor the many affected by the bombing, and the support we received, takes place at noon Wednesday at the Woodburn Memorial Transit Center.

During the holidays there are many ways in which we in Woodburn come together to bring light into darkness to those less fortunate, not the least of which is our Love Santa program that Tom Tennant was actively involved in for many years. Love Santa will again serve over 300 families with food boxes and presents, this Saturday, Dec. 15 at the Woodburn Foursquare Church. Volunteers are needed on that day and all this week. You can learn how to participate with donations and/or volunteer hours by visiting the Love Santa Facebook page or contacting Robert Prinslow at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

During this season, when often times the most joyous and the most difficult moments of our lives are relived, and with all the business of shopping, spending time with family and friends and even in our giving, let's be encouraged to heed our better angels, ring our bells loud and deep, and find ways to bring light and peace to each other and our community.

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