Opinion & Editorial

Mayor’s Message – On council culture

Editor’s Note: This is a speech presented by Mayor Dave Stram to Creswell City Council on Nov. 26.
I want to talk with you tonight about the subject of council culture. As my service as mayor winds down, I’m excited to be passing the baton to Mayor-Elect Richard Zettervall.
I’m equally excited about the new council that will be seated in January, with the additions of Mr. Prociw and Mr. Costilla and possibly Misty Inman. You all inspire confidence in me that this council will do great things for Creswell in the next two years.
Looking back on my six years as mayor of Creswell, I believe that my two greatest contributions to the city were hiring Michelle as our City Manager and helping to create a new “council culture.”
I certainly didn’t do it alone; it took the combined efforts of nearly 20 councilors over six years to reshape our culture.
At the September LOC Conference, in a workshop presented by the City of Eugene, this statement was made: “It is said that ‘character is destiny.’ But in an organization, ‘culture is destiny.’” That statement resonated with me! So, let’s talk a bit about council culture.
First, a bit of history.
Back in 2012 the Creswell City Council was in the news a lot. One local resident who frequently traveled to Portland for work told me he read about Creswell in the Portland paper, then added, “And it’s never good.”
Last week, I was visiting with a local mayor who said that, “six years ago if I heard that Creswell was in the news, my first thought was, ‘Oh, no. What’s going on now.’”
The City Administrator at the time told me nothing had been accomplished in Creswell for several years, because of all the strife in the council. The city council had a definite culture, and words like, “unhealthy, divided, ineffective” would fairly describe it.
On Jan. 7, 2013, Judge Palmer swore me into office, along with newly elected councilors, Jacob Daniels, Jane Vincent and Nora Reynolds. Two months later, at the March 11, 2013 meeting of the council, our city Administrator and two councilors resigned.
For five days we had no acting administrator. Brenda Wilson from LCOG reached out to me and offered the services of Jamon Kent; on a Saturday morning at the VFW Hall in March, I appointed, with council consent, Jamon Kent as our interim administrator. In April, I appointed, with council consent, two new councilors, Brent Gifford and Adam Pelatt. Then, on consecutive Saturdays in April, the new council met with Consultant Stan Biles; on the first Saturday we created “Guiding Principles” for the council; on the second Saturday we worked with staff to develop six-month, short term goals.
Our consultant urged that all councilors sign the Guiding Principles. There were some who initially did not want to do so. We talked about the value of having done this exercise, having agreed to OUR guiding principles, and asked each other — were we really serious about this? In the end, all agreed — and all signed!
The formation of Guiding Principles, and our agreement to live by them launched us into a new era as a council! In the coming months, the collective behavior of the city council changed.
It was apparent to the public, as illustrated by an article in the Jan. 9, 2014 edition of The Creswell Chronicle by local writer Gini Davis. The article was entitled, “What a difference a year makes: Reflecting on 2013, ringing in 2014.”
“This time last year, the Creswell community was reflecting on a year of strife, upheaval and battered trust — the legacy of months of tensions surrounding the city’s overdue audits; conflicts over and among city leaders; the ongoing dispute between the city and skydiving operations at Creswell Airport; continuing debates over the best use for that long-vacant albatross, the Cobalt Building; and more.
“What a difference a year makes. As 2013 comes to a close, those issues, which seemed so daunting just a short time ago, have already faded like the pale winter sun, and we reflect now on a year not so much of troubles but of transitions. . . . (As) we prepare to welcome the new beginnings of 2014. . . . We look forward to the settling-in of a new city administrator Michelle Amberg, the continued civic stewardship of Mayor Stram and a spirit of cooperation among city councilors. . . .”
Looking at this council today, I am so proud of the culture that we have created. This council has been together just a little more than a year, yet we have accomplished so much. This council understands our role as policy-makers and long-term planners; we are not micro-managers of the city manager or staff. This council listens to the public, asks good questions of staff, trusts the city manager, engages in discussion and debate, and makes good decisions for the well-being of the community. This council is an effective governing body, and I am so pleased with the work we’ve done! Our city has made huge progress, and much of it is due to the culture we’ve created.
I want to encourage you, in 2019, to bring in a consultant and develop your own set of Guiding Principles; then sign on and commit to living by them. Continue the work of creating a healthy council culture so that you can continue serving the people of Creswell “to the highest levels of excellence.”
When I became mayor, I summed up my aspirations for Creswell with two words: good governance. It was my conviction then, and it still is, that good governance is the key to making good things happen in our community.
When I decided to run for mayor, my decision was influenced by a verse I had read from the Bible.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:4). Two ideas jumped out at me: those in authority are to be “servants” working for the “good” of the people who elected them.
Pretty simple, really. I still believe that being mayor or councilor is not about ego-gratification; it’s not about climbing a political ladder; it’s not about pushing your personal agenda. The best elected officials are “servants” working for the “good” of the people who elected them.
I am proud of this Council and I will be cheering for you and praying for you in 2019 and beyond!



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