Editor’s note: Creswell City Council will appoint a mayor in October. So far, council president Kevin Prociw – who is acting interim mayor – former three-term mayor Dave Stram and new councilor JoeRell Medina have applied for the position. The Chronicle posed questions to all three candidates; Medina did not respond. Here is Part I of their answers.
What is compelling you to run for mayor at this point in time?
PROCIW: I love our town and want us to prosper! However, our current system does not favor open and honest communication resulting in a culture of mistrust on the council and within the community. It’s not enough just to change the leadership. We must change the way we think about and do things so that we can hear the voices of the people and grow together. I’m convinced that when we channel our collective energies in a shared vision, we can do great things.
STRAM: Creswell is in need of a mayor who can navigate the city council through some rough waters. Those who have lived in Creswell for the past 10 years can attest to my abilities to lead during tough times. I have the experience, the skills, and the leadership temperament to do so again, and if appointed I will gladly serve as your mayor.
What do you identify as the main points of contention in the community right now? What actions would you take to help resolve these issues?
PROCIW: Creswell’s small-town atmosphere is a big draw for people wanting to escape big city politics. I’m 100% behind that. We seek non-partisan leadership without drama or politics. Both parties are well-represented by the other two candidates, but what about folks who prefer a truly neutral voice at the helm of their city? As the only nonparty-affiliated candidate, I’m uniquely able to say: I don’t do politics! Our best hope is to open channels of communication that let the community have a voice. With that in mind, I’ve suggested and promoted town-hall style meetings facilitated by a neutral party so that everyone has a chance to participate in the community conversation.
STRAM: There are two main points of contention: the Fouth of July parade and resulting fines, and concerns about equity and inclusion which were expressed in the proposed council resolution that was tabled in 2020.
If appointed, I will recommend to the council that we create monthly “listening sessions” for citizens to come before the council and talk about their concerns. Such “listening sessions” could take place on the fourth Monday of every month, prior to the start of the regularly scheduled council work session. A dedicated block of time – say, 30-60 minutes – could be set aside for topics submitted by citizens. This would be done in an open, straightforward manner.
What process do you use in conflict resolution, and what experience do you have in doing so?
PROCIW: I approach from a point of empathy and compassion and try to put myself in the other person’s shoes. I listen. Then listen some more. And after that, I listen even more. As an experienced facilitator and manager, I have training in critical and crucial conversations and conflict resolution. I’ve led and developed dynamic teams of individuals on large long-term and complex projects and efforts requiring skilled leadership and patient understanding.
STRAM: The role of a city councilor and the role of the mayor are not the same, and understanding the difference is a key to understanding how to handle conflicts. The role of a city councilor is to represent the viewpoint of the citizens that elected them, to be a voice for the people that put them in office. Ideally, the concerns of every citizen are heard when the council gathers. With six councilors presenting six viewpoints, it shouldn’t surprise us that conflicts emerge.
The role of the mayor is not to represent one viewpoint, but rather to lead the council toward decision-making that serves the best interests of the whole city. A gavel is given to the mayor, and the mayor alone. It signals the mayor’s unique responsibility to lead council meetings. This leadership can be a huge challenge at times, especially when councilors have strong opinions about hot topics under discussion. Giving ample time for discussion, gathering information from the staff, listening to citizen input, and keeping the mission of the city in mind are critical skills for working through conflicts toward a decision that moves the city to action.
For six years I provided that kind of leadership to our city. As mayor of Creswell from 2013 through 2018, I worked with a wide variety of councilors all representing the viewpoints of the citizens that elected them. We had our share of heated discussions! But together, we worked through conflicts to resolutions that benefited the people of Creswell. That’s the experience I have, and that’s what I will bring if appointed to be your next mayor.
In recognition of my leadership to the city of Creswell, in 2017 I was presented with the Oregon Mayor’s Leadership Award for a small city, given for “numerous and extraordinary contributions to local government.” The following year I was appointed to serve on the board of directors for the Oregon Mayors Association.
What style of leadership is needed in Creswell right now and why?
PROCIW: Servant leadership – one that builds others up. My job is to help others be successful. My adopted motto is: “What is the most excellent thing I can do today?” I’m here to help and serve you the public and to help build future leaders.
STRAM: Creswell needs leadership that creates opportunities for citizens to come and speak to the council. Leadership that encourages councilors to represent their viewpoint, and to do so in a way that is respectful of the other councilors. Leadership that isn’t afraid of conflicts, but skillfully moves the council from expressing differences to making decisions that are for the good of the community. Creswell needs steady, confident, respectful leadership.
Next week: Part II of the Q&A