Candidate profile: Baumgardner focused on climate, dysfunction
Though she'd been involved in city politics for years, Mary Baumgardner held off on filing her candidacy at first. Even after friends and acquaintances started asking her to run for West Linn City Council, Baumgardner said she was initially hoping for a more diverse pool of applicants.
Baumgardner, a lifelong West Linn resident, is one of 10 candidates in a hotly contested November election. Her initial interest in city politics began with waterfront development planning, in particular what would become of the settling ponds containing runoff from the West Linn paper mill. After researching and talking with others about the issue, Baumgardner went on to join the city's sustainability and transportation advisory boards in 2019.
Though her introduction to West Linn politics revolved around these ponds, Baumgardner's focus eventually turned toward social justice.
"The more I became involved and spoke with people and advocated for people, I believe that they are people who don't really want to be in a front-and-center political role," she said. "Those are the kind of people who would come to me and say, 'I don't want to run for City Council, but you should do it.'"
Baumgardner said she believes she was asked to run because of her calm demeanor and ability to listen and mediate.
"I have the ability to see sides that are opposed to each other, but understand where they're coming from," she said.
Baumgardner graduated from Oregon State University's College of Liberal Arts in 1989 and worked as an administrative assistant with Mentor Graphics in Wilsonville. After taking a few years off work while her kids were young, Baumgardner became a regular volunteer with the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, in a classroom support role that would become a paid position.
If elected, Baumgardner's top priorities are climate change and social justice.
Baumgardner's concerns for the climate and social issues intersect at Highway 43. During her time on the transportation advisory board, Baumgardner discovered Highway 43 wasn't prioritized because of demographics in West Linn and Lake Oswego, which are more affluent than other surrounding areas. But Highway 43 is a major artery for the region, Baumgardner said, not just West Linn. It connects people from across the area with Portland and Clackamas County.
"I understand that there are many areas that need funding. It's a big picture and it's complicated," she said, "but I'm hoping that we can create multi-modal transportation so we can get people out of cars. That's one of my goals because we can reduce congestion and carbon emissions and give better access for people for whom affordability might be an issue."
In its current state, Highway 43 is not the most bike-friendly.
In regards to social justice, Baumgardner pointed to the topic that many people in West Linn have expressed concerns about this year: police reform.
Baumgartner wants the city to rethink how its police force is structured and funded. It doesn't make sense, she said, for police's only tool in response to a person experiencing a mental health crisis to be a gun.
"We need to see the bigger picture," she said. "It isn't blaming the police for doing a bad job. It's asking them to do their job differently than they've been doing it and having a reasonable recipe for success."
A third major priority for Baumgardner is government dysfunction. The continued talk of toxic personalities and dysfunction leaves a bad taste in people's mouths, she said, and leads people to disengage from local politics.
"Civility is the foundation of our democracy," she said. "And that means treating everyone with respect and listening to everyone's point of view."
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