Scott Starr — the unabashed and ideologically distinct yet well-liked and respected Wilsonville City Council president — completed his 192nd and final meeting Monday, Dec. 17.
During the evening, councilors and community members thanked Starr for his eight years of public service and Starr delivered a parting speech.
"I've had this piece of paper up here that I look at since I started and there's three bullets here and it just says councilor Starr's questions: 'Are you spending your neighbors' money wisely, are you respecting one of the main foundations of a democracy, personal property rights, and did you strive for communication, transparency and service to the public,'" Starr said. "As people look at my eight years here they can come to their own conclusions. I like to think I did my best to respect all three of these bullet points."
For his part, City Manager Bryan Cosgrove listed off the notable projects Starr has helped plan such as the South Metro Area Regional Transit fleet building, negotiating the agreement to build a water pipeline from Wilsonville to Hillsboro, the Barbur Street Bridge project, upgrades to the sewer treatment plant and more. Throughout deliberations, Cosgrove and councilors said Starr always had the taxpayers' interests in mind.
"To Tina (Starr's wife), your kids, friends, thank you for supporting Scott in his desire to make a difference in the community," Cosgrove said. "He has made a difference."
While the council typically votes in unison, Starr has occasionally opposed resolutions the other four councilors supported, most notably objecting to the proposed bike and pedestrian bridge over I-5. And in the most recent council election, he endorsed insurgent candidates Ben West and John Budiao over incumbent Charlotte Lehan.
Despite some disagreements, Starr has remained professional and cordial with fellow councilors.
"You've demonstrated the adage that it's okay to disagree without being disagreeable," Cosgrove said.
"I appreciate the extent to which you've advocated strongly for what you believe in. More often than not we've reached a meeting of the minds when issues come forward," Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp said. "I think the city is stronger and more economically robust than it was eight years ago and that should be a gratifying thing for you when you look at your time."
Wilsonville Community Sharing Board member Dick Spence expressed appreciation for Starr's support of the nonprofit social services agency and Starr subsequently presented Spence a $1,000 check for the agency.
"Scott, thank you for everything you've done," Spence said. "You have been, are and always will be a great asset to the city and its citizens."
Wilsonville resident Doris Wehler, for her part, praised Starr for his work with the Wilsonville business community.
"You are always the one we go to to convey what business wants and what business needs," Wehler said. "Certainly the whole aspect of the City being friendlier to business has occured while you are in office."
In his speech, Starr said he's learned that issues are more complex and nuanced than he had expected coming into his first term on the council and that he tried to consider all viewpoints before coming to a decision.
He also expressed gratitude and appreciation for his time representing the City of Wilsonville. As a present, the City gave Starr an honorary street sign that reads: "Scott Starr Loop."
"It's been a pleasure to serve with all of you," Starr said. "Thanks for this opportunity and I really appreciate how much each one of you loves the city of Wilsonville and sacrifices for it."
West, Starr's replacement, will be sworn into the council at the Jan. 7 meeting.
City Council compensation
Wilsonville councilors unanimously supported a resolution to direct staff to research council compensation and return to the council with a recommendation at Monday's meeting.
Knapp said that in speaking with other politicians across the state, he has learned that many city governments are struggling to attract the best people to apply for city council positions and that providing some compensation for councilors could make the positions more attractive. Currently, Wilsonville councilors are not compensated for their service.
Starr posited that even paying councilors a small monthly stipend could prove beneficial.
"For us to take a look at what others are doing and see how we can continue to maintain interest to a level that gives us the horsepower on council in the long run and (leads to) key decisions, that saves us way more money in the long run than we would lose by spending a few hundred bucks a month," Starr said.
Councilor Kristin Akervall said people are often surprised when she tells them serving on the council is a volunteer position and noted that councilors examine hundreds of pages of documents to prepare for each meeting.
"That takes considerable time so I think it would be good to have the information in assessing all of those factors and the environment we complete this work in," Akervall said.
Wilsonville councilor Charlotte Lehan, for her part, said serving on the council is challenging for those with a full-time job and that they often have to take time off work to perform council duties. As a result, many councils are made up of mostly retired or financially secure individuals.
Lehan also said serving on the council has become more time-consuming over the years.
"There's always that expense that councilors as volunteers make and over the years it has become greater and greater because we all are involved in so many meetings and committees and events and functions," Lehan said.
Lehan said she received a stipend when she was mayor and that council pay should be based on an objective standard rather than the council making the decision unilaterally.
"Some nominal stipend I always thought was appropriate for the council, not just the mayor. I think we need to move it in that direction," Lehan
Cosgrove said that if the council passes a resolution to address compensation, it wouldn't be implemented until after the 2020 election so that the council wouldn't be directly paying itself.