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And they’re off… Two newcomers challenge incumbents in Scotts Mills

By Stephen Floyd

Two political newcomers have joined races for mayor and City Council in Scotts Mills, leading to a contested election in a city that sometimes struggles to fill the ballot with candidates.

Incumbent Mayor Paul Brakeman and councilors Robin Fournier, Casey Dean and Monika Martin have filed for new terms and are joined by Jason Axness, seeking the office of mayor, and Shawna Kelly, running for council.

The mayoral candidate with the most votes from the Nov. 8 election will be elected to a two-year term, while the three council candidates with the largest number of votes will be elected to four-year terms.

Axness is a recent transplant to the city, having moved with his family to Scotts Mills in 2020. He said he and his wife were seeking a small-town experience and close-knit community, and preserving this feeling for others would guide his decisions as mayor.

“I would like to see our town come together as a community and have positive growth,” said Axness.

He currently works as a gardener at Willamette National Cemetery and regularly encounters people experiencing deep grief. He said this has taught him the value of active listening and being available to connect with others.

“Meeting many people during these various experiences has taught me to listen with compassion, understand another point of view, and at times de-escalating a conflict between various family members,” he said.

Brakeman, executive chef at Silver Falls Brewery, is about to conclude his third term in office. He said he believes he has served well as mayor and wants to see the city continue to grow in a positive direction

“I want to continue to keep the city a welcoming place to live,” said Brakeman. “To keep providing services that keep our city running smoothly. To help the counties building the new bridge.”

Brakeman also encouraged residents to get out and vote in this election as a way to serve their city, on par with donating time to local community groups.

“It is important to participate in your community, and voting is one way to do so, another is to volunteer,” he said.

Kelly develops learning programs for financial professionals and consultants in the business-to-business lending industry. She said this experience has helped her become “a team player, quick learner, and a detail-oriented person” and she hopes to use these qualities to serve the city.

“If entrusted with being a part of the City Council, I would be happy to contribute my time and efforts in honoring the traditions of the community while working to make a difference,” she said.

Kelly said it is important for a councilor to build relationships with fellow officials and the community, and this would be one of her priorities. She also said she believes people get results when they take initiative, and this would be no different on the council.

“My philosophy in life is that you get out of life what you put into it, and I am able and willing to invest in our town,” she said.

Kelly joins three experienced councilors in seeking election.

Fournier was first appointed in 2017 and has since taken on the dual role of city manager, with the council’s blessing. She said she would like to serve a second elected term because she believes her goals and the priorities of voters are aligned.

“I would ask for voters’ support because I believe that my goals/wants for our City are the same as theirs,” said Fournier, saying she has chosen Scotts Mills as the place to raise her children and call home. 

“I volunteer and support this city in many ways from maintaining the park to serving on council, and I would love to be able to continue doing so as a member of council.”

Dean was appointed in 2021 and said it has been an honor serving his community on the council for the last year. He said he believes his brief service has been faithful to the needs of the community and he would ask voters for an opportunity to continue.

“My educational background is in political science with a focus on constitutional law, but my passion is theology,” said Dean. “My values and beliefs are informed by my faith, and my politics are simple: government is not the answer.”

Dean said he wants to continue leading Scotts Mills toward citizen-focused governance rather than a big-government model.

Martin is concluding her first term after being elected in 2018 out of a field of five contenders. She could not be reached for comment prior to Our Town deadline.

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