Creswell Mayor Dave Stram – ERIN TIERNEY/CHRONICLE PHOTO
If you enjoy watching sports on TV, you’re familiar with the “highlights.” They show them during halftime, the plays that set the tone in the first half of the game. The catches, the shots, the steals and assists that put one team in the lead. At the end of the game there will be more highlights, and always the “play of the game,” the one that turned the momentum in the direction of the team that eventually won.
This evening I’d like to talk about highlights and hopes. Last November I was appointed by the City Council to serve as Mayor. That was a personal highlight for me in 2021, and I consider it a great privilege to serve as your mayor. Tonight, I want to talk about highlights here, in the City of Creswell. And there were many!
Highlight #1 – Awards
In 2021 the city received a 5th consecutive Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. This award recognizes excellence in preparing a city budget that functions as a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide, and a communication tool. Also, last year the city audit was completed on time and received a “clean opinion” from the auditors. Why is this important? Because every year in November we pay property taxes and a portion of it goes to the City, and we want to know that our tax dollars are being well-managed. And they are! That’s a highlight.
Two other awards are significant: the city completed a water system survey with the Oregon Health Authority and received an Outstanding Performance certification, and for the 11th consecutive year Creswell was named as a Tree City USA. Why are these important? Because the water we drink and the trees that beautify our community are important to us.
Highlight #2 – Parks
A second highlight is parks. I enjoy walking through Creswell, and one day I stumbled upon Grasslands Park, located at the corner of Grasslands Street and Niblock Lane. There I found an interesting layout that, upon inquiry, I learned was a bicycle pump track. It’s quite amazing and looks like great fun. If you haven’t seen it, you go should go check it out. On another walk in Garden Lake Park, I discovered a disc golf course that I hadn’t seen before. New recreational opportunities were a highlight in 2021.
Highlight #3 – Buildings
In 2021 we watched the new 76 gas and convenience store go up. It didn’t happen without a lot of effort on the part of the owner, the builder, and the city staff. All around Creswell new buildings are going up, and that’s a testament to people who want to serve our community, offer jobs, and put in the hard work to bring dreams to reality. There are new townhouses going up on Holbrook Lane, new shops being constructed on Highway 99 just south of “F” Street, and new homes along North 5th Street. Wise Woman Herbals is planning an expansion east of I-5 and Inspired Healthcare Assisted Living and Memory Care Facility is looking to build near the Emerald Parkway. Last year the city partnered with St. Vincent de Paul to assist income-qualified residents with home repair needs through the Rural Housing Repair Program, and the city began work on a Housing Needs Analysis. New buildings and maintaining homes are my third highlight.
Highlight #4 – EOC
EOC stands for Emergency Operations Center. Knowing that a natural disaster could occur at any time, our city is preparing a center of operations at the Airport. Two major tasks are involved – equipping the center and installing an onsite waste water system. Three emergency generators were purchased last year along with additional necessary equipment to operate the center. The engineering in nearly complete on the waste water system and we are anticipating installation in 2022.
Highlight #5 – Efficacy
I am indebted to City Manager Michelle Amberg and her staff for giving me a list of highlights, from which I have selected some to share. On the list I found this highlight: “maintained efficacy through several staffing changes”. The word “efficacy” comes from a Latin word that means, “capable of fulfilling a function”. I pondered what it must have been like for our city staff to “fulfill” their function during the last two years.
At the heart of every good organization is the people who work there. It’s no different in Creswell. Our city staff is not large, but they are good people who work diligently for our benefit. Part-way through 2021, our Administrative Assistant, Jennifer Gardiepy, died quite suddenly. If you went into City Hall, the first person to have greeted you would have been Jennifer. She sat behind the front desk, answered phone calls, welcomed visitors, did all kinds of odd jobs and even helped out with lost dogs when needed. She was a bright and cheery person and losing her so suddenly was very difficult. At the end of 2021 our Utility Billing Clerk, Michelle Furrer, retired, having served the city for many, many years. We were sad to see her go, but shared her joy in the completion of a job very well done.
The covid virus brought the end of in-person City Council meetings and the closure of City Hall for a period of time. Staff had to figure out how to hold virtual Council and Committee meetings in the interim period. There were numerous safety protocols that had to be followed. There was turnover in the Council as the Mayor resigned, followed by two Councilors. And yet, through these two years of great turmoil, our city staff kept on serving the people of Creswell. They “maintained efficacy,” and for that I want to say, “Thank you.”
Thank you to all of the people who work outside all year long, mowing our parks, cleaning the restrooms, fixing broken water pipes, repairing potholes, clearing the streets of snow, and making sure that the sewer works and the water flows day-in and day-out. Thank you!
Thank you to all of the people who work inside, at the airport, at the water and sewer treatment plants, at the police station and inside City Hall. Thank you for planning how buildings should be built, preparing monthly utility bills, keeping records from our many meetings, following up on code complaints, making sure our money is well managed and wisely spent, preparing for our recovery just in case there is a natural disaster, writing out agreements so that we can have community celebrations, and managing all the staff and all the details that it takes to keep a city going. Thank you!
These are but some of the highlights from 2021, now to the hopes for 2022.
I hope that by mid-year the city has a new five-year Strategic Plan. We’ve hired a consultant and are set to meet with them in two weeks. We are looking for Creswellians who would like to provide input on the plan. If you are interested, please let me or a Councilor or Manager Amberg know.
I hope that by the end of the year we have a plan for maintaining the roads in Creswell. Many of our roads are old and in bad condition. Sidewalks are lacking in many places. This is really important, and really expensive. And so, at the March Council meeting I’ll be appointing a Roads Ad-Hoc Committee to address the long-term needs and look for funding sources. No one else is going to take care of our roads and sidewalks. It’s up to us. If you are interested in serving on this Committee, please let me know in the next two weeks.
I hope that in 2022 the City Council and all our committees will get a lot of work done. In 2021 there were vacancies on the Council and in our committees. It’s hard to get the work done when you simply don’t have the people you need. Tonight, you see before you a full Council. Council Committees have received their charges and they are off and running! Tonight, the final vacancies on our Budget, Planning, and Parks Committees were all filled. We are blessed to have so many people willing to serve, and I look forward to a year in which we get a lot of work done!
I hope that this year we have robust, well-attended community events that can be enjoyed by every person. The Chamber of Commerce has entered into a three-year agreement with the city to provide community events and promote tourism activities. First up is the city-wide garage sale in May, followed by the July 4th Celebration and then the Winter Lights Festival in December. Our community celebrations have always been for everybody – for the high school marching band and the church floats, for people on horseback and people in classic cars, for fire trucks and farm combines, for politicians of every stripe and clowns in striped costumes. I look forward to great community events in 2022!
Are my hopes just “pie in the sky,” or do I have a reason for the hope within me? As I look around this room, I see a reason for hope. I see before me dedicated people who want to do good for their community. I admire my fellow councilors for their willingness to serve. I admire the citizens who have stepped forward to be on our boards and committees. I am grateful for the talented people that Manager Amberg has assembled to do the daily tasks that make our city go.
As I walk through Creswell and interact with people, as I step into businesses and visit with owners, as I engage in conversation with people who call Creswell home, I see a reason for hope. There are so many good people in this town. That’s not to say we don’t have our share of troubles. Our welcome sign says, “Creswell, the Friendly City”. Sometimes we haven’t been as friendly as we should. Sometimes we haven’t given a warm greeting to every person who comes to town. Sometimes we need to apologize and work harder at loving our neighbor and treating others the way that we want ourselves, and our children, to be treated. I have hope, because I believe that we want to be better people. We want to learn from one another. We want to live up to our motto as “The Friendly City.”
You are invited to join me, the City Council, our many Committees, and our amazing Staff, on the journey of 2022. A year from now we’ll have new highlights to report and new hopes to pursue. Until then, let’s get to work!