In 1997, Cottage Grove mayor Darrel Williams was charged, along with the city council, to hire a new city manager. Out of 120 applicants, in a national search, Richard Meyers was unanimously hired and has served the community in that capacity for 26 years.
Williams said that Meyers always “kept a steady heartbeat on this City.”
In writing this letter to the community, I have spoken to former mayors, councilors, and residents. I no longer live in Cottage Grove, but a large part of my heart will always be there.
As a reminder to long-term residents – and perhaps new information to more recent residents – I want to talk about some of the many projects initiated, participated in, or supported by the City manager, council, and the administration.
If you enjoy the Eugene Symphony at Bohemia Park, give the City a round of applause. Meyers and his staff are responsible for bringing this event to the community.
• Winning the prestigious All-America City award out of 140 cities across the United States, Cottage Grove, along with nine other cities, were selected winners. The projects that led us to this victory were:
• Building the new hospital and the critical access designation that paved the way for construction and the community monetary support
• Establishing Economic Business Improvement District (EBID) where the community businesses voted to self-tax themselves to create this program, and
• The construction of the new high school through the passage of a second attempt to pass a bond issue.
These were winning projects because of the commitment of the community to support them financially and to project finalization. These projects were submitted by the city manager and were accepted to compete on a national basis. Meyers and his staff also planned and coordinated every step of the trip to Atlanta to present our community to the governing board of the All-America City organization.
The Youth Advisory Council provided an opportunity for youth to be involved in the workings of the City by holding a seat on the council and participating in many other aspects of city governance.
If you have concerns about the unhoused population, Cottage Grove has come a long way to resolve issues surrounding this community. Former mayor William “Bill” Whiteman said he was “pleasantly surprised” on a recent visit to see “no unhoused people loitering on the streets” and “how neat and clean” the City-supported facilities were.
Our city manager is often called upon by other officials asking how to achieve this outcome. Meyers has received awards from The League of Cities and the City Managers Association for the work he has done on behalf of this community.
Former mayor Jeff Gowing spoke of many projects that Meyers and his wife have assisted with, including the Mayor’s Ball, helping with many VFW events, the Ice Cream Social, Bohemia Mining Days, the Mayor’s Bike Ride, the tours of the Armory, and more. He raised his family here and they have all worked on various projects in the community.
Think about how fortunate we are to have the historic Armory and the ability to renovate it to its original beauty and the many events and activities that are held there. The leadership provided by Meyers and staff enabled this project to move forward.
Gary Williams, former mayor, who served six terms (12 years), said that, as a newly-appointed city councilor in 1997, that the greatest achievement of his tenure was hiring Meyers.
I have worked with the City on many projects and community nonprofits. I am saddened today by the hurtful words and actions of some who are angry and upset at decisions made by the city manager and the city council, including the recall effort for councilors Mike Fleck, Jon Stinnett, and Chalice Savage.
Fleck is the executive director of Community Sharing and has been a city councilor for 12 years. Stinnett started his life in Cottage Grove as a journalist, writing articles for the Sentinel. He is raising his family here, as is Fleck. They both represent the best interests of their constituents in the most honest ways.
I don’t know Savage but I will tell a story shared with me about her. Recently, on one of those blistering hot days, she was giving cold water to those she saw downtown. Meanwhile, there was a table with people gathering signatures for a petition. She stoppe and gave them cold water to drink. She learned they were part of the group seeking to recall her. She had no angry words for them and went on her way. These are the kind of people I want to represent me.
It is not unusual in any city to disagree with decisions that are being made by elected officials. It is critical, however, to hear their side of the issue, and for them to hear your side, too. We need to listen to each other in order to discover if any compromises can be reached and to seek unity where possible.
Healthy disagreement has to be the choice in pursuit of positive outcomes. Name calling and bullying cannot be tolerated and is shameful behavior.
Community members must engage and involve themselves in their local government by listening and participating where they can: ask questions, talk to your neighbors, and for heaven’s sake, if something is wrong, stand for what’s right.
It has been my honor to work with Meyers, the city council, and City staff over the years I lived in Cottage Grove. My hope for the future is that citizens be proud of their community and respect and celebrate those who have made it the wonderful city that it is.