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New role, new faces – Mayor Freilinger, four new Silverton councilors

By James Day

Silverton installed a new mayor and four new councilors on Monday, Jan. 9, signaling the beginning of a new political era in town.

Jason Freilinger, the new mayor of Silverton, receives the oath of office from city clerk Jamie Ward at Jna. 9 council meeting. Freilinger replaces Kyle Palmer in the mayor’s chair.   James Day
Jason Freilinger, the new mayor of Silverton, receives the oath of office from city clerk Jamie Ward at Jna. 9 council meeting. Freilinger replaces Kyle Palmer in the mayor’s chair. James Day

Jason Freilinger, who had served as council president, was sworn in as mayor, replacing Kyle Palmer, whose elected office experience dates to 2004. In addition, outgoing councilors Jim Sears, Dana Smith and Crystal Neideigh were replaced by Marie Traeger, April Newton and Eric Hammond. Freilinger and the three councilors won their seats in the Nov. 8 election.

Because Freilinger was a sitting councilor whose seat had not expired he needed to be replaced as well and the new council voted unanimously to add Matt Gaitan to the council. Gaitan also was sworn in by city clerk Jamie Ward. His term, along with those of returning councilors Elvi Cuellar Sutton and Jess Miller, will expire at the end of 2024.

In one final piece of the electoral puzzle Sutton was elected unanimously to replace Freilinger as council president. Sutton will take over the mayoral duties when Freilinger is unavailable.

The evening contained a bit of ceremonial pomp as gifts were offered to the outgoing officials, cake and snacks were served and Freilinger’s daughter presented him with a gavel.

Freilinger offered words of thanks for the outgoing councilors, praising Neideigh for the challenge she faced in juggling council duties with her work as a nurse, noting Sears’ attention to detail and Smith’s contributions on housing issues and her valuable engineering expertise.

Freilinger then expressed his appreciation for Palmer’s work, noting the recent challenges of social problems, the ice storm and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You have handled it with such grace and left me with some really big shoes to fill,” Freilinger said.

Palmer, who received a standing ovation from the standing-room-only crowd in the council chambers, said there were “too many people to thank” while also praising the leadership of predecessors Ken Hector and Rick Lewis.

Palmer also noted that “this job is hard on families. I appreciated them hanging with me during all the nights I wasn’t at home and all the events I couldn’t get to.”

Key challenges that the new team will face moving forward are housing and homelessness, parking, growth and infrastructure pieces such as parks, streets, sidewalks and the water system.

The severity of the test ahead was perhaps best expressed by Sears, who said he wishes “the best of luck to the new council. They say all of the easy problems already have been solved.”

In other council actions:

Mayors Ball funds: Palmer passed out checks to recipients of money raised at the Oct. 22 Mayors Ball, which brought in more than $32,000. The Silverton Rotary Foundation received the largest check, $10,000 for the planned all-abilities playground next to the swimming pool parking lot. The Chamber of Commerce received three checks, $4,000 for general use, $1,000 for Paws in the Park and $1,000 for the Christmas tree lighting event.

Also receiving funds were Silverton Cat Rescue ($1,000), SACA ($1,000), At Risk Teens  ($1,000), ASAP (After School Activities Program, $1,000), Sheltering Silverton ($1,000), Silverton Rotary Foundation second grade readers program ($1,000), Silverton Hospital Foundation ($2,500), Silverton Arts Association ($1,500), We All Dine in Silverton ($1,000), Tree of Giving ($1,000), Silverton Kiwanis Dolly Parton Imagination Library ($1,000), Elizabeth Ashley Hoke Memorial Trust ($1,500), and Oregon Garden Foundation ($2,000).

Parking: The council also continued its discussion of upgrading its parking regulations. The final tweaks that were discussed at the meeting led the council to postpone a final vote so that legal counsel can review the most recent changes.

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