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New to the team – Matt Gaitan joins Silverton City Council

By James Day

Just like that, the Silverton City Council was whole again.

New councilors Marie Traeger, April Newton and Eric Hammond were voted in on Nov. 8 to replace outgoing members Jim Sears, Dana Smith and Crystal Neideigh, with Jason Freilinger winning election as mayor, replacing Kyle Palmer.

However, Freilinger’s ascension to the mayor’s post left his council seat vacant. The new council, led by Council President Elvi Cuellar Sutton, acted immediately on Jan. 9 by installing Matt Gaitan in the seat.

Matt Gaitan is sworn in on Jan. 9 by Silverton city clerk Jamie Ward for a seat on the City Council, as Council President Elvi Cuellar Sutton looks on.         James Day
Matt Gaitan is sworn in on Jan. 9 by Silverton city clerk Jamie Ward for a seat on the City Council, as Council President Elvi Cuellar Sutton looks on. James Day

City Manager Ron Chandler had advised the council that it had a number of ways to fill the position, including taking applications or forming a committee. But Sutton argued that with so much urgent business ahead for the council, acting immediately would help give the council term a quicker start.

Frelinger told Our Town that he had “found it discouraging that others were not expressing any interest in filling out this term on council” so he began reaching out to individuals in town about the vacancy. One other person, besides Gaitan, expressed interest, but the second candidate wished to be appointed directly rather than going through a competitive process.

“Being a city councilor is not an easy job,” Freilinger said. “I wanted someone that was willing to do the work of being a councilor. Matt clearly showed he was willing to do the work. If another candidate had been put forward and split the votes I would have pushed for an interview process. Since that didn’t happen I was very willing to support Matt with my vote to fill the remaining council seat.

“I know Matt will be an exceptional city councilor.  He has the intellectual humility and passion for the community to be a great addition to the council.”

Gaitan, who works from home for a company that does background checks, said that turning 40 last year and his family’s previous mobility played a role in his decision to get involved in Silverton politics.

“Once we had our kids and settled in Silverton it took a couple years to embrace the fact that we are here to stay, this is home, and it will be for a long time,” Gaitan told Our Town. “Turning 40 was a moment for me to [think] on how I wanted to give back to my community and embrace the responsibility of civic duty and volunteerism.

“Ultimately, I realized that expressing interest in volunteering for city council was the sweet spot in terms of the best way for me personally to give back to Silverton. I am both humbled and honored to have been appointed to work alongside our talented city council and city staff.”

Gaitan, like Freilinger, noted the challenge of the work ahead.

“We have some major issues to address, including how quickly Silverton is growing, an underpaid police force, and components of our infrastructure that are dilapidated, inadequate, and unsafe,” he said. “I would be remiss to acknowledge one specific topic that takes greater credence over another. What I hope to achieve is protecting our quality of life, protecting our city for when the next natural disaster inevitably strikes, and being thoughtful and pragmatic of how Silverton continues to develop as a community that is rich with our diverse citizenry.”

Councilor Matt Gaitan

Age: 41

Hometown: Born in Memphis, Tennessee; in Oregon since 2008

Residence: Silverton since 2016

Education: Bachelor’s International Business, with a minor in Spanish from University of Texas, Arlington

Career: Works from home for Checkr, conducting background checks.

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