Former Creswell mayor Richard Zettervall/CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO
CRESWELL – It was a term cut short for former Creswell mayor Richard Zettervall in 2020 after he resigned in September amid adversarial community reactions to an equity resolution he and city councilors were discussing. He had three months left to serve.
It was an abrupt ending to Zettervall’s term, and what a term it was. Zettervall has led the City through tumultuous times since his first month as mayor, from the 2019 historic snowstorms and floods, to a pandemic to wildfires and issues around social justice.
Zettervall served as a city councilor from 2016 and served as council president under mayor Dave Stram in 2019 before being elected mayor. Zettervall also serves on the board of the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG) as a general board member.
“Shortly after Richard and (his wife) Linda moved to Creswell, they began looking for ways to get involved in their new community,” said former mayor Stram, who campaigned for Zettervall during the election.
Seth Clark, owner of Blue Valley Bistro, said that before Zettervall was mayor, he and his wife had been longtime customers and had “countless conversations with him prior to being mayor about the well-being of the community.”
“Richard has been nothing less than a mover and shaker for public safety in Creswell,” Stram said, noting that he was a citizen representative and eventually chaired the Public Safety Committee. “When I began as mayor in 2013, Creswell had two deputies and a part-time sergeant. Today, we have four deputies and a full-time sergeant.”
One of the first things he did as a councilor was to get street lights along Niblock Lane, city manager Michelle Amberg said, which involved coordinating between the City, county, school district and electric company.
Creswell 76 Station owner Bill Spencer said Zettervall had a “passion for low-cost housing as he sees people that can not afford the average Creswell house to buy or rent. That has resulted in some efforts to make some more affordable apartments. Time will tell if it becomes reality.”
While he was mayor the city added yoga, child therapy, aikido and Body Ki classes to the Cobalt Activity Center, Amberg said, and he was a supporter of the commercial kitchen project at the building. “He and Linda spent time and money to help kick off programs there,” Amberg said.
In 2018, Zettervall led the city’s effort to host its first emergency preparedness fair.
City Councilor Kevin Prociw recalled that he dedicated nearly 200 hours to the project. “The fair was a rousing success and may easily have been his biggest achievement and contribution to the city. It helped educate hundreds of people while encouraging them to prepare for the unknown,” he said.
Stram said that as a regular meeting attendee, Zettervall “has done an excellent job making sure that the business of the city council gets done.”
“I’m quite sure that when he took office, Mayor Zettervall would never have imagined having to preside over so many emergency situations,” Prociw said. “He led with confidence and compassion. It’s not easy to move initiatives forward in the midst of ongoing disasters ... That leadership brought comfort in uncertain times.”
“He was level-headed and on top of information throughout the pandemic,” Amberg said. “He was instrumental in listening to local business persons and passing along their needs. The city was able to set aside an initial $50,000 in grant funds for Creswell businesses. We will be making another $50,000 available soon. He also supported the temporary utility bill assistance program.”
Clark said that shortly after the state shutdown, the governor’s office asked local municipalities to gauge reaction to suggested rules for reopening.
“Zettervall called me and we had a brief conversation regarding how some of the proposals could possibly negatively affect my business,” Clark said. “I really appreciated having a voice and it speaks highly of him to solicit my advice.”
Richard led the city with his heart on his sleeve, sometimes becoming emotional as he commended people for their hard work, emphasized the love he has for this town, or relayed sad or sensitive topics at city council meetings.
“He really wanted the very best for Creswell … it showed in so many ways but I will always respect him for sharing his heart and passion, even if it meant a few tears as well,” Amberg said.
Councilor Prociw said that after his first year on council, Zettervall gave councilors a token of his appreciation.
It was “a large silver dollar-sized coin/medallion with the Creswell city logo on one side and the statement ‘One Person Can Make a Difference’ on the other,” Prociw said. “He was pretty choked up while he handed those out and beaming with pride. That moment meant a lot to me and to this day, I carry that coin in my wallet.”