A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany council candidates: No stampede

Written August 21st, 2014 by Hasso Hering
Albany City Hall the day after filing closed for city offices in the November election.

Albany City Hall the day after filing closed for city offices in the November election.

Albany city clerk Mary Dibble was not exactly overrun with new people trying to get on the ballot for city council. And by the time the filing deadline passed on Wednesday afternoon, the list of candidates offered no big surprise.

Of the handful of vocal critics of city programs or policies in recent years, only one, Jim Clausen, put his name on the line. He filed to oppose Mayor Sharon Konopa, who has served nearly six years in that office and about twice that long as a councilor before that. Clausen often talks to the council during “business from the public,” usually arguing against government overreach on all levels.  Two years ago he ran for council and lost to Councilman Bill Coburn in Ward II.

Charley Smith, who has filed for mayor several times in recent years but doesn’t usually campaign, filed again. Richard Justice, a construction worker who has not been heard from before, also filed for mayor.

In Ward I, longtime Councilor Dick Olsen (four terms so far this time, following city service in the 1970s) is opposed by gun shop owner Kevin Manske, a member of the central Albany urban renewal advisory committee.

In Ward II, Councilor Ray Kopczynski is running for the seat to which he was appointed three years ago. He has drawn one opponent, retired audiologist Larry Martin, who also applied for the vacancy when the council chose Kopczynksi after the death of Ralph Reid Jr. in 2011.

In Ward III, Councilor Bessie Johnson, who unsuccessfully pushed for an Albany ban on marijuana dispensaries, is sailing toward her fourth term without opposition at all.

Council terms are for four years; the mayor’s for only two. The pay, if you can call it that, is $110 a month for council members and $165 monthly for the mayor.

I’m not surprised that there’s no intense competition for council seats by lots and lots of candidates. The work is necessary and often helpful to the community, but it’s also thankless and hard, consisting mostly of sitting through long and tedious meetings. If you’ve followed city government in Oregon for a long time, as I have, you have to admire the hardy souls who take on that job, and especially those who have done it for a while and still are willing to do it again. (hh)

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