Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson: Woodburn is filled with leaders who make our city better every day

After dedicating a renovated downtown last week and opening a new school year this week, I want to take a moment share my deep admiration for the exceptional leadership that makes our city a place I'm very proud to live in.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Woodburn Mayor Eric SwensonRestoring city hall and giving our First Street a complete facelift — both long overdue projects the city responsibly waited to complete until it was fiscally feasible — happened under the direction of our city manager of 10 years, Scott Derickson. These are highly complex projects that happened because of the outstanding leadership he exhibits and orchestrates in our city government.

It's also important to thank former mayor Kathy Figley and council president Frank Lonergan who championed these projects that were years in the making. And, last month, our city council, at the urging of former Mayor Nancy Kirksey, passed an ordinance to prohibit smoking in our parks. Twenty plus years after leaving office, she's still leading.

We also cut ribbons on a beautiful playground at Library Park, former fire chief Paul Iverson's project as Rotary president, and a Peace Pole at city hall.

As we celebrated all those projects Monday evening, I was lucky to share a moment with Charlie Piper, long-time community leader. Born in the Woodburn hospital when it was downtown, growing up and then running a family business here over the past 40 plus years, he looked out at what had once been the ideal small town that he watched struggle over the years, like so many towns in America — to the unveiling of a rejuvenated downtown we are all proud of and thankful to see.

A few weeks ago Woodburn celebrated the life of Jack Reeves, Woodburn's superintendent of schools from 1996 until 2004. Under Jack's bold and visionary leadership, our school district was rejuvenated and developed its signature dual-language programs in Russian and Spanish that brought a cohesiveness to the Woodburn community based on mutual respect. He also championed our International Baccalaureate program and a strong belief that Woodburn students deserved the best.

His wife, Lin Reeves, served as the superintendent of North Marion Schools before joining the Woodburn School Board in 2014. With the sudden resignation of our superintendent in June, Linn led a swift but thorough process that resulted in the hiring Dr. Bill Rhoades as an interim for the 2019-20 school year.

Born and raised in Woodburn, Bill was hired and mentored by Jack Reeves and served as the principal at Valor Middle School before becoming the superintendent in West Linn-Wilsonville. Apart from being a favorite son, Bill's infectiously positive and mission-focused leadership has received an overwhelmingly grateful reception from the many dedicated staff who serve our children, allowing us to start the school year with gusto.

Jack, Lin and Bill have had a profound impact on generations of students in Woodburn over the past quarter-century and as a school board member and parent of a high schooler (now fluent in Spanish and Russian) I am grateful that their influence is continuing.

Outstanding leadership that accomplishes extraordinary things, and inspires others to do so, is as difficult as it is rare. Woodburn is exceedingly fortunate to have leaders that have done just that.

Eric Swenson is the mayor of Woodburn. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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