West Linn Council candidate plans to listen to the people
Software engineer Alex Juarez dove into local politics this summer when he filed as a candidate for West Linn's City Council. The 30-year-old West Linn native was one of the first to file in a field of 10 candidates.
"My interest here is to try to understand the intersection between what perceived problems are and what the data says the problems are and try to understand: Which is driving which?" Juarez said.
Juarez, who moved back to West Linn in October after living in Seattle while attending the University of Washington, is a co-founder of a company called Nebula LLC.
The company gives advice to startup businesses on technological and personnel problems, Juarez said. His passion for helping others drove him into this work, he added.
According to Juarez, the management and planning skills he's learned from working with Nebula are transferable to serving on the City Council.
"Within a startup, you have to manage a lot of aspects," he said. "You have to manage teams of people, usually 50 to 100. You're managing other companies; you're managing budgets, managing investors; you have deadlines; you have milestones; you have to project for the future. And you have to plan ahead; you have to anticipate. And all these are skills that are going to probably be relevant as a city council person."
The first-time council candidate said he was inspired to run while trying to get a 700-foot fiber line laid near his house and had a hard time working with the city.
Juarez said he has reached out to people through social media to ask what they think the biggest issues are in West Linn. He heard back from a half-dozen people, one of whom shared concerns about misuse of funds in the Parks and Recreation Department, and others who were concerned about public safety and suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.
While diversity, equity and inclusion have been a major focus for the City Council and many in the community since revelations regarding an illegal and racist arrest by West Linn police came to light in February, Juarez said an important step in that work is to diversify the council.
He pointed out that he is the only Hispanic candidate.
"Being of a different ethnicity, you experience different things that you wouldn't normally experience," Juarez said. "And they're small things and rather innocuous things. And you get to see a pattern."
As an example, Juarez said some people may endure racial profiling from police, though he said he's only had positive interactions with West Linn police.
He recalled a time when he was pulled over for driving 40 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone and the officer let him off with a warning.
"I think that kind of leniency on misdemeanors is going to create equality because I've noticed that what happens is if you're more lenient toward one group of people than you are toward another group of people, then you have inequality. But if you treat all groups of people the same, you don't get such incredible range," he said.
Juarez's primary aim in running for the council is helping people. He said he wants voters to know he is easily accessible and people are always welcome to call or email him. A dropbox or P.O. box may also work as a way for people to submit complaints or concerns, he said, emphasizing that listening to people is his priority.
The things he wants to accomplish while on the council will be determined by what he hears from people, he said.
"Listen, form a plan, get it done," he said. "I'm not sure if the people in power (currently) are listening. Or if they are, they don't seem to be executing."
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