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Slew of candidates – Seven contend for City Council seats in Silverton

By James Day

There will be a distinct changing of the guard for the Silverton City Council come next term. That’s because there will be three and perhaps four new councilors when the session begins in January.

Incumbent councilors Jim Sears, Dana Smith and Crystal Neideigh all chose not to seek re-election to new four-year terms. In addition, Council President Jason Freilinger is running for mayor against Morry Jones. If Freilinger is elected to replace outgoing Mayor Kyle Palmer, the new council will select his replacement. If Jones is victorious Freilinger retains his council seat and would face the voters again in 2024, along with fellow councilors Jess Miller and Elvi Cuellar Sutton.

Seven individuals are battling for the three open seats in an unusual and open free-for-all given no one has the advantage of incumbency. The field originally included eight candidates, but Jayla Kuenzi dropped out last month. The election is Nov. 8 and residents can hear what the candidates have to say at a 6 p.m. free forum on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Palace Theater organized by the Silverton Discourse Project.

Here is a brief introduction of the seven candidates, based on their petition filings, email exchanges, campaign statements, and the public forum on Sept. 28 at the Oregon Garden. The order of the candidates is alphabetical.

Makai Brusa
Brusa works in juvenile corrections with the Oregon Youth Authority at its MacLaren facility in Woodburn.

Brusa said that he had learned problem-solving skills while working with youths at MacLaren.

“I want to solve problems instead of make them,” he said. “That takes perseverance and working as a team.”

Brusa described himself as “not a politician” and said he “wants what is best for Silverton, to help others get involved and be a voice for those who are unheard.”

Eric Hammond
Hammond, a Washington State University graduate, is chief horticultural arborist with Trella Urban Forestry Technology. A board member of Sustainable Silverton, he is the lone candidate for council or mayor who is emphasizing climate change as part of his platform.

“I want to be part of ensuring Silverton is a livable and thriving city long into the future,” he said. “We can’t ignore what is coming at us, and we need to be thoughtful and careful about how to prepare.”

Hammond called for planting more trees, boosting the city’s water infrastructure and looking at infill, duplexes and smaller lots in the battle for affordable housing.

Gregg Harris
Harris, owner of Silver Falls Terrariums and vice president of the Silverton Mural Society, describes himself as a “newbie,” having moved to Silverton in March 2021.

“I am running in order to bring a moderately conservative ‘small town’ wise growth perspective to the council,” he said. “My vision for Silverton is a slow-growing town, a town that is so nice to live in that those who want to move here will be required to pay what our quality of small-town life should cost.”

Harris said his key issues include making the basic functions of city government, such as road repairs, run better and more efficiently and attracting more visitors and tourists.

Chuck Hawley
Hawley, who works as an engineer and writes children’s books, moved to Silverton in 2009 “after making a wrong turn while looking for a rental in Woodburn. Best wrong turn I have ever made,” he said.

“I love our little town and want to see where I can help it grow responsibly while keeping its small-town feel and traditions,” he said.

Hawley said he is “also very interested in finding affordable housing options so our long-time residents can afford to live in the town they grew up in.”

April Newton
Newton, a Silverton High grad, received her bachelor’s in psychology from Portland State and her master’s in education at Oregon State. She served as a rural mail carrier for 15 years and currently volunteers with SACA and the Silver Falls School District. She also served four years on the city budget committee.

“This is the time in my life for giving back,” she said.

On the topic of growth she said “We can’t stop it. We just have to make proactive decisions and not just react.”

Helping downtown businesses thrive and increasing green space are among her goals, and she noted that current Mayor Kyle Palmer and the rest of the council were “doing great work.”

Jenny Ohren
Ohren is a Silverton High grad who moved back to town 10 years ago. She has worked in the hospitality, public health and social service fields. She is board president of the Silverton Coffee Club and board secretary for the Silverton Area Seniors.

“I am running to serve our community as a city council member to provide a listening ear to those who may have felt unheard,” she said. “Through sincere and constructive engagement I will build participation in city affairs. By asking more questions I will express the untapped ideas that will bring solutions to our challenges.”

Key tasks for Silverton moving forward, she said, were finding more affordable housing, using economic development zones to create family-wage jobs, protecting property rights and better supporting the youth of Silverton.

Marie Traeger
Traeger works as a correctional counselor at the Oregon State Penitentiary after a 30-year career as a teacher in Silverton schools.

“I have always said that when I have time I will give back to our community,” she said. “I saw this as a great opportunity to give back to a community. In 2005 I lost my husband in a car accident and the community surrounded me and helped me through a very difficult time. I vowed back then that I would always find time to help others and give back.”

Key goals she identified include working hard for the next generation, supporting seniors, keeping businesses open and maintaining growth at sustainable levels.


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