By Kristine Thomas
While Rick Lewis’ title has changed from Silverton mayor to Oregon House District 18 state representative, his commitment to serve others remains steadfast.
“Throughout my public service career, I have always strived to maintain a healthy respect for all viewpoints, collaborate and compromise when possible, and put the interests of the public above all else,” Lewis said. “I pledge to continue to abide by these principles as I begin my legislative career today.”
On Feb. 23, Lewis resigned as the mayor of Silverton before being sworn in by Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas A. Balmer as state representative.
A Republican, Lewis was appointed by the Clackamas and Marion County Boards of Commissioners on Feb. 22 to fill the Oregon House District 18 position. Lewis replaces Silverton resident Vic Gilliam, who resigned the seat Feb. 1 for health reasons. In 2016, Gilliam was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gilliam, also a Republican, has served District 18 since 2007.
According to Oregon law, the legislative vacancy must be filled by county commissioners representing the district in which the vacancy exists. House District 18 includes voters in Clackamas and Marion counties. Finalists were selected by the Republican Party, as directed by state law.
The candidates were Lewis; Gervais resident Jerome Rosa, who is the executive director for the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association; and Hubbard resident Glenn Holum, a business owner who serves on his city’s planning commission.
On Feb. 22, Marion County Commissioners Kevin Cameron, Janet Carlson and Sam Brentano all voted for Lewis along with Clackamas County Commissioners Sonya Fischer, Paul Savas and Martha Schrader. Clackamas County Commissioners Jim Bernard and Ken Humberston cast their votes for Holum.
Lewis will serve through the remainder of the two-year term, Jan. 13, 2019.
“It is an incredible honor to have the opportunity to serve the residents of House District 18 as a member of the Oregon Legislature,” Lewis said.
When selected Feb. 22, it was Lewis’ plan to continue as Silverton’s mayor. While Oregon law provides a public servant may hold two elected offices under certain circumstances, Lewis’ resignation as mayor on Feb. 23 eliminates any potential questions about the constitutionality of dual office holding.
Sharing the decision to step away from his role with the city was “far and away the most difficult” part of this process, Lewis said. He said he gave up the idea of serving as mayor while also serving as a member of the Legislative Assembly when it became clear that there were some outstanding constitutional questions that could expose both the city and the legislature to some risks.
“I have pledged to be as helpful as possible to my colleagues in Silverton as they navigate this unexpected transition,” Lewis said.
“Today is very bittersweet for me, but I am comforted by the fact that I will still have an opportunity to work closely with my friends at the city as I assume my new role in the legislature.”
Silverton City Manager Christy Wurster said City Council President Kyle Palmer will fulfill the responsibilities of the mayor until a new one is selected. The city council was set to hold a special meeting to discuss the vacancy on Feb. 27, after Our Town’s press time.
“Mayor Lewis has characterized outstanding leadership and service to our community for many years, first as our police chief and then as our mayor,” Wurster said. “On behalf of the staff, I would like to wish him continued success in his new capacity.”
Lewis and his fellow candidates for the District 18 position were interviewed at a joint meeting of the Clackamas and Marion County Boards of Commissioners before an audience of about 50 at the Mount Angel Fire Station on Feb. 22. The commissioners first took public comment on the candidates, then the candidates introduced themselves followed by questions from each commissioner.
Silverton residents Ann Haviland, Aaron Koch, Charles Baldwin, Stu Rasmussen and Dana Smith all spoke highly of Lewis’ service to Silverton and their confidence in him serving the constituents of House District 18.
Koch, who is a member of the Silver Falls School Board, shared with the commissioners that what Lewis brings to the table is the ability to listen to and work with everyone.
“He has the ability to reach across the aisle and values all opinions,” Koch said.
Describing Lewis as a man of integrity, Baldwin said Lewis has a broad array of experience and approaches things in an even-handed, fair way.
Rasmussen said Lewis is a fair-minded, public servant who is willing to go the extra mile.
A city councilor, Smith said she and Lewis have often found themselves on the opposite ends of a debate.
“Working with Rick has been an honor,” Smith said. “He has never been anything but respectful in the way he speaks to me and honors my opinion on things.”
Gilliam said Lewis was chosen from a slate of talented candidates. “Rick’s experience from the military and law enforcement and as our mayor not to mention his life as a dedicated husband and father will serve us well,” Gilliam said. “I wish Rick all the best as he steps into the House of Representatives and all of Oregon’s current challenges and opportunities.”
Humbled to be chosen to serve, Lewis said he sees the appointment as an opportunity to continue the work started by Gilliam, He added he will never be able to fill Gilliam’s shoes, a man he considers to be a statesman.
Lewis has been in public service for more than 45 years, including time as police chief, mayor of Silverton, interim Silverton city manager and in the U.S. Army. He decided to seek the seat because he believes he has more to give.
“I thank the community for the tremendous outpouring of support. Thanks also to those who were involved in this process from the very beginning, particularly to those who encouraged me to step forward and offered so much in time and in counsel,” Lewis said. “You know who you are. Thanks to my family for their love and support in allowing me to continue to serve.”