Savas bids for third county board term
In the eight years since Paul Savas joined the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, many of the core issues facing the region haven't changed.
But Savas has changed, and he feels more prepared than ever to advocate on behalf of matters like transportation, housing and employment if he's elected to a third term at Position 2 in May.
"One thing I've gained as a commissioner is I really have a lot of relationships, and I believe they're a benefit to everyone at the county and the commission," Savas said. "Once people know you and understand you and know you're consistent ... that helps. If you're new, and they don't know, you have to prove yourself."
For Savas, who filed for reelection last October and faces two challengers in Louise Lopes and Peter Winter, a third term would be "renewing the commitment I made" back in 2010.
"What I foresaw back in 2010 when I ran was this need for more jobs, and I also saw the pending dilemma for younger folks and families, especially — that the job market and cost for housing, and the hurdle they had to climb ... was I thought pretty challenging," Savas said.
While the county has made gains in certain areas since Savas joined the commission, he said the same core issues remain at the forefront.
"Now the challenges are more prominent, and frankly more obvious," Savas said.
Housing, in particular, is a concern as more residents of varying socioeconomic statuses are priced out of the region.
"If I could change anything in my efforts going forward, it's really to work on housing for all folks — families, seniors," Savas said. "I was at a community meeting the other day and a long-term resident in the area said 'This will be my last meeting; I'm being forced out of the area because of rising rents.'
"I've experienced that myself ... My kids may not be able to afford living here in this state."
Transportation remains at the forefront of Savas' mind as well, and he serves on a number of regional committees related to that issue. Specifically, widening I-205 and continuing to extend the Sunrise Corridor that runs from the Milwaukie Expressway east to 122nd Avenue would be priorities for Savas in his third term.
"Some of the naysayers are agreeing (now) that Sunrise is the way to more jobs," Savas said.
Something that Savas was less aware of when he first joined the commission is what he calls "the urban-rural divide."
"(It is) far more challenging than I had originally thought, and we need to understand and be sensitive to all of those needs," Savas said. "A person in poverty in a rural area is in a far more difficult situation than in an urban area ... there's not much out there — not much hope, not many jobs, period."
About a third of the county's residents lived in unincorporated rural areas as of the 2010 U.S. Census.
Savas defeated incumbent Bob Austin for Position 2 in 2010. He fended off Karen Bowerman, then a Lake Oswego city councilor, to win re-election in 2014. He also made losing bids for board chairman in 2012 and 2016.
Now, he hopes to rejoin a commission that he says has gelled nicely in recent years.
"My colleagues, we get along really well — this is one of the better commissions I've worked on," he said. "I'm really looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and focusing my time after the election is over."