COUNCIL-ELECTS HOPE TO MOVE ON FROM CHIPPY CAMPAIGN
With a clear result — showing incumbent Charlotte Lehan and nurse Ben West winning the four-person race for two open Wilsonville City Council seats — essentially decided the week after election day, the two victorious candidates switched focus from campaign season to governance.
But will residual tension from a contentious campaign season linger?
West, who finished second in the race and edged out ally John Budiao, made clear throughout the campaign that he opposed many council initiatives that Lehan has championed and blamed Lehan for exacerbating the City's traffic issues. He also accused Lehan of being in cahoots with Wilsonville Planning Commissioner Simon Springall, who he wanted pulled from the commission after Springall posted a photo of West giving a rifle to his son for his birthday.
"I don't like negative campaigning and it reaches an absurd level in many cases," Lehan said. "I'm not as powerful as people give me credit for. I'm like everyone else on the council. I'm one vote out of five. We do our best to work together to come up with the best way to move the city forward."
Though adversarial during the campaign, West expressed confidence that he and Lehan could move past their differences and work well together on the council.
"I think everything we (West and Budiao) spoke to is based on fact and truth. It was never personal," West said. "Charlotte is a seasoned politician and I'm sure she's also ready to get to work to do what's best for the city."
Lehan said she doesn't personally know West and isn't sure how he will alter the council dynamic, but the longtime elected official isn't overly concerned about it.
"I'm presuming he must be a nice guy and he'll work with the council the way everyone else has worked with the council. I've worked with many people," Lehan said of West. "Of the probably 25-30 different councilors, they've covered a wide gamut of personalities and political positions. It usually works out fine."
West also said that on election night, he talked with Mayor Tim Knapp, who he ran against in the 2016 mayoral campaign, and that the two have exchanged text messages and are ready to work together.
"I made sure to say that the rhetoric that I'm someone who doesn't play well with others is not true. I have every intention of being a good team member," West said. "Some of those unfounded things that were said during the campaign; we're going to push that stuff aside and build a relationship."
Along with fitting into the council, Lehan said West will need to steep himself in the myriad issues affecting Wilsonville and the policymaking process. West will work with City staff in that regard and planned to attend a variety of community events the week after the election.
"A lot of times people come
onto an elected body with a lot of misconceptions about how it works," Lehan said. "Usually there's a period of time new people come to understand how things
actually work because it's complex."
Though West has policy positions that differ starkly from some members of the council, he said he would try to find common ground but also hold firm on certain positions. Lehan said she doesn't mind working with councilors who
hold opposing views, like out-
going Council President Scott Starr.
"I've enjoyed working with Scott. I think he's been a good perspective on the council and I think in most cases we were able to arrive at positions on the council that everyone on the council can support," Lehan said. "That's because everyone is committed to doing the best for Wilsonville. Part of that is being committed to consensus-building and finding positions that everyone is at least okay with."
After the long campaign season, West enjoyed spending a little more time with his family and catching up on other tasks. And he is excited to represent Wilsonville behind the dais.
"I'm just super-honored and humbled that my neighbors and friends and great community chose me to represent them," West said. "It's going to be a lot of hard work. There's going to be a learning curve to it but I'm ready to step up and get started."
West upended Budiao for the second open council position by less than one percentage point. After the close loss, Budiao plans to jumpstart his nonprofit Operation Spartan Flag — a woodworking workshop for veterans — and continue volunteering in the Wilsonville community.
Budiao hasn't decided if he will run for elected office again but brought up the possibility of joining a City volunteer board or commission.
"I hope the best for the mayor and City Council. Wilsonville is a good city to live in and there are a lot of people that care about our city, as the election shows," Budiao said. "I have a lot of support and who knows maybe in two years if things go right, you never know. I'll still be heavily involved in Wilsonville."