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Incumbent councilor says he'll prioritize communication, collaborative relationships, resolving Oppenlander dispute

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - West Linn City Councilor Bill Relyea is running for re-election. After four years on the West Linn City Council, Bill Relyea said he wants to continue lending his "calm and reasonable perspective" to the body for another term.

Relyea, a former West Linn planning commissioner who joined the council in January 2019, is up for reelection this year, facing four others for two open seats. He will be the only incumbent on the ticket, as Councilor Todd Jones opted against running for another term.

Relyea noted that when he first joined the council, meetings often involved incessant arguing at the dais. The council struggled to move items forward, extending meetings for hours.

"I sought to provide the reasonable-person perspective and move the conversation forward," Relyea said. "I think I've been very successful doing that."

Since 2021, when two councilors and the former mayor left office, Relyea said the council has taken a more civil approach. With another term, Relyea wants to keep the council on its current track, leaving the infighting and personal attacks in the past.

Relyea said he has contributed to improved relationships between councilors, staff and citizens, adding that councilors are now more appreciative of the work done by city staff.

In addition to preserving civility at City Hall, Relyea would like to continue working on the city's purchase of Oppenlander fields. Oppenlander, a 10-acre property on Rosemont Road that includes several baseball fields, became a hot-button topic when the West Linn-Wilsonville School District moved to sell it in 2021.

Since then, the city and school district have discussed the city's acquisition of the property, which the district has owned for decades, but those talks devolved into a civil lawsuit over the fair purchase price of the property. West Linn residents passed a $3.5 million bond measure to purchase and improve the property in May, but negotiations between the city and district are ongoing.

Relyea, who represented the city during initial negotiations with the district, said it's important to not only obtain the property, but do so while maintaining a cooperative relationship with the school district.

In the coming weeks and months, Relyea said it's also important for the council to continue developing its relationship with new City Manager John Williams. Feeling confident Mayor Jules Walters will win her bid for House District 37 in November, Relyea said the council will need to work to determine her replacement, and coordinate with Williams on setting agendas for council meetings in Walters' absence. According to the city's procedures, the mayor and city manager collaborate on establishing meeting agendas.

For Relyea, good communication is key to success, and one area that needs to improve is with the city's community advisory groups and neighborhood associations. Currently, Relyea said the city's various boards and groups are unaware of what the others are working on, when they should be collaborating.

Other priorities for Relyea include continuing to strengthen the city's relationship with tribal partners, and advance plans for the Willamette waterfront area.

Relyea faces Leo Groner, Scott Erwin, Tanner Woody and Jeff Bunte in the race for two open council seats in November.

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