SPRINGFIELD — If you ask Marilee Woodrow what motivates her to give back to the community, her answer won’t be simple — because neither is she.
“Have you heard the starfish story?” she started, “There’s a little girl on the beach that is throwing starfish back into the ocean.”
An adult comes over and asks, “What are you doing?”
She responds, ‘Well, those starfish need to be in the water. So I’m throwing them back.’
The man grumbles, “We’ll never get it all done.”
So the girl says, “Well, I was able to help that one.”
“That’s a part of it,” Woodrow finished. “If you just make one difference, help one person, that act of kindness goes a long way.”
For 12 years, the Springfield City Council Ward 5 seat has been held by Woodrow, who retired this year to focus on her health. Since her swearing in in 2011, she has been a key motivator in Springfield championing economic development, safety and infrastructure repair.
“Springfield is a place where if someone is in need, people step up,” she said. “It’s the kind of place where people get things done. I wanted to be one of those people.”
She moved to Springfield, her adopted “hometown,” with her late husband John Woodrow in 1997. She first became involved in city government supporting her husband who was elected to the Springfield City Council in 1998. After his sudden passing in 2009, Marilee stepped in to fill his position.
“We were great partners. We thought very much alike, and so we were appreciative of what the other was involved with,” she said. “It was a legacy yes, but at the same time it was a partnership I felt very comfortable continuing on.”
The two met in Southern California and were quickly married, traveling to Mexico, through California and eventually settling in Springfield.
“Springfield has that ‘special something,’” she said. “It’s a welcoming sense of community and a spirit that embraces each citizen – unique to each individual and uniquely collaborative as a city.”
Early into her life in Springfield, she started Pawz-Up! Professional Pet Sitting Service providing in-home pet visits and care. Previously, she was a family counselor and care coordinator, a multi-line liability claims negotiator, and a retail store manager.
She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1990 and decided then and there the condition wouldn’t “control her life.” “So I just kept going,” she said. “I volunteered and the more I did, I realized I was happy contributing to my community.”
Springfield City Council President Joe Pishioneri served with both John and Marilee, collaborating with Marilee to develop and create the Springfield Economic Development Agency (SEDA).
“We were a part of the original team that helped put SEDA together and we both worked to make a concerted effort to start cleaning up Springfield,” Pishioneri said. “We were involved in many, many things working together and she was passionate, always right in the middle of things, all four paws.”
Springfield Mayor Sean VanGordon praised Woodrow’s work with SEDA and the Glenwood Riverfront property.
“Her open, collaborative style gave the opportunity for the board to discuss what its goals were, and get on the same page. We got to the right decision and on the right path. Marilee’s leadership was critical to that,” he said.
During her time in office, she chaired SEDA; worked on the Springfield Budget Committee; the Springfield Finance/Judiciary Committee; the Springfield Legislative Committee; and the Lane County Human Services Commission; Chairman of HSC Executive Committee; the Community Development Advisory Committee; and the Main Street Safety Governance Team.
“Marilee approached every issue on the City Council with kindness, curiosity, and joy in her heart. For the City of Springfield and elected officials, I hope we all carry on that legacy,” VanGordon said.
She also worked very closely with the Lane Council of Governments to advocate for Springfield.
“It’s hard to step into someone else’s shadow but I think she did an outstanding job of stepping in, learning everything she could and then taking over and making that council seat her own,” said Brenda Wilson, Lane Council of Governments Executive Director. “People always knew where she stood. She put a lot of her heart and soul into making our community better. I admire that and try to emulate that myself.”
In 2015, The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce honored her as Springfield’s First Citizen for 2015. She also was a loud advocate for the annual Oldest and Coldest parade. Each year, also she’s been honored by making an introduction at the annual K9 competitions in Springfield, which she says has been a, “personal favorite,” for many years.
“My biggest goal for Springfield is to look at itself as a family community,” Woodrow said. “If we could focus on that, everything else will fall into place.”
While Woodrow isn’t sure what’s on the horizon, it won’t be long until she’s back in action.
“It’s very exciting to go from one phase of your life to the next,” she said. “I can go and do anything now – and as soon as I’m back on my feet, I’m already itching to get out there.”