City & Government

Cottage Grove State of the City Address: Mayor Jeff Gowing


This is my sixth and final State of the City. If you have not heard, I  will not be running for Mayor in the November 2022 election but have announced  my intention to run for a state office.  

Because of this, tonight I want to reflect back on the years since I began serving  on the City Council in 2009. A lot has changed. The City has changed. Issues  have changed. And over those years I have changed.    

I want to take this moment to thank everyone that has worked with me over the  last decade. I thank you for your patience in me and for your trust that you put in  me. I want to thank all those that shared their insights and knowledge with me. I  did not change on my own, you all helped me.  

I have made many new friends and learned valuable skills as I have worked with  people from throughout the community. Many of the friends I have made are  from different walks of life, political parties or philosophies. I may not share the  same opinions or views – but they are still my friends. Their views and opinions  have helped make me more accepting, more respectful and more understanding  of the needs of the community.  

I can honestly say the last nearly 12 years has increased my overwhelming pride  in this great community. It has truly been a pleasure getting to work with so  many people including the members of this Council and previous Councilors.  We may not always agree or have the same ideas but we respect each other’s  views. We have had the opportunity to make some really tough decisions and we have many more tough decisions to make. But collectively we have made  those decisions with the best interest of the community at heart.  

Tonight I want to express my thanks to some that have helped me perform my  responsibilities as a City Councilor and Mayor.  

I grew up on Dugan Lane just south of town, our driveway was long and went  past the neighbor’s house. I would ride my dirt bike up and down the driveway  for hours. In 1976 new neighbors moved in and had to put up with an annoying  teenager ride past their house. Once I got a driver’s license I had several  vehicles going through high school, each one had a loud stereo, a very loud  stereo. I graduated high school with their oldest daughter that I have remained  friends with since we were in school. After I was elected to my first term as  Mayor we were talking and Pam said when I used to go past their house with my  stereo full blast her parents would say, “There goes your future Mayor”. I would  like to publicly apologize to Pete and Angie Lightcap for being such an annoying  neighbor and also thank them for believing in my potential over forty years ago.  It’s my pleasure to give Pete and Angie Lightcap the Mayoral Certificate of  Appreciation.  

For business I would like to recognize Weyerhaeuser Lumber Company, not only  has Weyerhaeuser provided me with a better than average income for the last 33  years, they have also been great steward of the community participating in local  events, providing grants to non-profits, scholarships to high school students, and  donating lumber to Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits addressing our  much needed housing crisis. And most recently allowing the City to store bridge  beams on their plantsite. But for me, shortly after being elected as Mayor, Brent  Czaban, the plant manager directed his lead team to allow me to be flexible with  my schedule so I could take care of Mayor business when necessary during work hours, whether meeting, ribbon cuttings, luncheons or even BBQing for  PeaceHealth Staff. This support took a lot of pressure off me being able to focus  on both my work as well as my elected position without worrying about the  conflicting schedule. Weyerhaeuser is a direct reflection of making Cottage  Grove a better community.  

I would also like to recognize the Woodard Foundation and Kris Woodard. Back  in April of 202, the foundation had the foresight to know what an impact the  pandemic was going to have on non-profits. The donated $100,000 to the  Cottage Grove Community Foundation to distribute with $90,000 for specific non profits and the remaining $10,000 to discretion of the foundation. This is a true  example of supporting the community you live in and it’s a great example of why  Cottage Grove is such a strong community.  

There have been many others that have contributed to helping me serve this  community – so many that we’d be here all night if I read the list. Thank you to  all those that have made this experience in service worthwhile and fulfilling.  

Typically, in my State of the City, this is where I would I share a list of the  accomplishments performed by our fine City Staff or the challenges the City has  faced during the last year. We have quite a list from the year. We completed  many projects that will have a major impact on the community for years to come.  Projects such as the Safe Routes to Schools where we completed over a mile of  road improvements and 2 miles of new sidewalks to provide a safe way for  students to get to school at the Middle School. Or the completion of the effluent  storage pond at the Wastewater Treatment Plant that helps to provide a  sustainable and innovative approach to irrigating public spaces while also  reducing the community’s impact on the water quality of the Willamette River. Or  the renovation of the Community Center/Library and the re-opening of the Library with full hours and staff last week. Or I could describe the challenges that the  City faced this last year – such as staffing and material shortages – that also  were faced by our local businesses and industries, but even short staffed police  calls for service were handled, roads were plowed and permits for construction  were processed.  

But tonight I want to spend most of my time telling experiences that have  demonstrated what is being called “civic charity”. Currently there is a shortage of  “civic charity”. Throughout our nation there has grown an overwhelming  movement of polarization, contention and contempt. So much so that former  examples of true bipartisan statesmanship have all but disappeared. Not too  long ago this community benefited from true bipartisan efforts from our Oregon  congressional delegation when Senators Wyden, Smith and Congressman  DeFazio worked together and even brought other leaders from throughout the  country to resolve our Hospital crisis. And they had it solved in a matter of  weeks, rather than months or years that any kind of action takes now.  

That same type of polarization, contention and contempt which has become  commonplace at the federal or state level is beginning to rear its ugly head in  communities around the state.  

Former federal Judge Thomas Griffith commented that our country and  constitution is “built for vigorous disagreement. But it cannot withstand  contempt.” He went on to explain that people “think so ill of each other that they  don’t trust each other all.” He went on to describe the contempt as a hatred or  distrust, even a desire to destroy people and their beliefs rather than to spend the  effort to understand and find common ground to achieve the shared goals of the  community. 

Tonight I want to share stories from the past year that show that civic charity still  exists in our community.  

During a recent Clinic at the Community Center a young man came in wet, cold  and visibly shaken and distraught. People attending the Clinic came up to a staff  member asking if they could get the young man something to eat, another person  offered to give him the coat they were wearing. Someone then called a church to  see if they could pick up some warm clothes and shoes. The young man was  able to get rest, take a shower, change into dry clothing and enjoy a plate of  warm food.  

I received the report from a friend in the community who had a frightening and  dangerous situation occur across the street from their home. The mother and  child that lived across the street came to their house for help because of a family  crisis. After solving the language barrier by calling another member of the  community, the friend called the police for assistance. The police quickly arrived  but their presence created anxiety with the mother and child. The young boy  began to cry and feared for his safety and the safety of his family. My friend  witnessed our officers put their sincere and complete attention at calming the  nerves and comforting the mother and child. Once nerves were calmed, and  comfort was given, the officers focused on resolving the crisis. Mother and son  were placed in safety. My friend was impressed and touched by the sincerity and  professionalism that the officers demonstrated as they addressed the needs of  the individual first, then worked to resolve the crisis.  

Another example, that may to some appear mundane or expected, is a result of  the City’s installation of the new advanced water meters but it demonstrates the  desire to improve service in the community. Our utility staff reached out to a  customer to make them aware of a flow of over 300 gallons every hour at their home. The customer was in his car traveling north but promptly turned around to  return to the house. Upon arrival home they found an upstairs toilet that had  been flushed by a house guest was continually running at full flow. Using the  new meter information our staff has also been able to assist a customer who  called very concerned about her high monthly billing statement and significant  increase in water usage. Staff reviewed the meter information and was able to  identify that the irrigation system that was supposed to only come on early in the  morning was also coming on late in the evening. It is exciting to see staff eagerly  use the new tools provided to them to find ways to help members of the  community.  

Another story is about a 57 year old woman I’ll call Hope. Hope has been living  unsheltered for 8 years in Cottage Grove. She started coming to use the Mobile  Shower that is operating through a partnership between the City and Community  

Sharing. She then offered to volunteer at the mobile showers each week.  During a conversation with staff, Hope mentioned she needed counseling and  stated most unsheltered people do. A staff member called a local counselor and  asked if she could take on a new client. Hope has been seeing the counselor  every week for the last few months. Hope has applied for and now works as one  of the staff through Community Sharing to operate the Warming Shelters and has  been working every night they’ve been open. By working with Hope, staff has  had an opportunity to listen and begin to understand, in a small way, what life is  like for those that are unsheltered in the community. Hope’s success continues,  she has signed up with Carry it Forward and completed the front door  assessment which allows people to get on a housing list. She is looking for  permanent housing and working to improve her life. Hope has expressed her  appreciation for being able to take a shower weekly and takes pride in her  volunteer work helping to run the Mobile Shower and working at the Warming  Shelter.

Coming to the City Council at the next Council meeting will be an action item to  create a special line item in the Special Trusts Fund to accept and expend funds  donated as a result of efforts by Bruce Kelsh of the Presbyterian Church’s Earth  and Social Justice Committee and the Ministerial Association. The funds are to  be used by Police Officers while, in the line of duty, come across someone that is  in need of some small act of kindness. The funds can be used by the officers at  their discretion to address an immediate need.  

Finally I want to recognize the efforts of those who spent hours discussing,  planning and preparing to bring back events and activities that make Cottage  Grove such a great place to live. I am not sure everyone understands the depth  of discussions held and the opinions shared just to prepare for the events we had  this year. Each of those involved demonstrated in the discussions civic charity  as they considered the fears and concerns of everyone and put together plans to  successfully hold safe and fun events. We saw record attendance at the Eugene  Symphony and Concerts in the Park. Bohemia Mining Days adapted and even  brought us an exciting new event with the ore cart races. The Halloween Howl  moved and became the Halloween Hootinanny in Bohemia Park. The Downtown  Christmas also adjusted and created a Christmas Kickoff in the park that saw  more involvement from members of the community than ever.  

As we face challenges in the coming year and in years to come I am optimistic  that the members of this community can continue to increase their civic charity.  The stories I have shared are just a tiny glimpse of the civic charity that exists in  Cottage Grove. Let’s not lose sight of that civic charity in our community. No  matter the challenges or issues, we will be able to always treat each other as  friends. That when the heat of the vigorous debate and discussion ends, we will  all leave that on the table and remain friends. 

I wish to close with the words form Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural address  made nearly 161 years ago on March 4, 1861 that still ring true today;  

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though  passion may have strained – it must not break our bonds of affection.” 

As Mayor of the City of Cottage Grove I express my sincere appreciation to  everyone in the community for their individual efforts to make the community a  better place to live for every person. It will only be together as friends that we will  be able to address the challenges that face this community. Thank you for  letting me serve this community as a Councilor and as Mayor. It has truly been  an honor and privilege. Thank you.



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos