HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

As 2020 ends, a farewell to Albany’s mayor

Written December 16th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Mayor Sharon Konopa tears up as the council and others applaud her for her 24 years on the council during Wednesday’s last meeting of the year, held remotely online.

The last meeting of 2020 was quite an occasion for the Albany City Council on Wednesday. To get the whole picture, you should wait till the video is up on cityofalbany.net and then watch at least the first part.

It was the last meeting for Mayor Sharon Konopa after 24 years on the council, first as a councilor and the last 12 as mayor. She’ll be succeeded by Councilor Alex Johnson II, who narrowly defeated her last month.

It was also the last for three councilors who did not seek re-election: Bill Coburn after 12 years, Rich Kellum after eight, and Mike Sykes after four. As you might imagine, there were lots of thanks and lots of speeches, all of them mercifully short, as well as virtual presentations of “keys to the city” and, in the mayor’s case, a flag.

Sharon Konopa is well known for her love of Albany and her tireless work on behalf of her hometown. She urged the next council to do everything possible to preserve core city services, especially those related to public safety.

She wants to be remembered as the “no-gavel mayor.” Not once during her 12 years as the council’s presiding officer has she banged her gavel to make a point or to shut somebody up. No, she said, all you need is a smile.

Those of us who have followed the council over many years will remember all the things she did for the town, including her dedication to the preservation of Albany’s historic districts and the revival of downtown.

But she’s right. When the issues have faded in our memory, we’ll remember Sharon Konopa’s kindness and above all, her smile. (hh)





16 responses to “As 2020 ends, a farewell to Albany’s mayor”

  1. Bob Woods says:

    When I worked in the City Manager’s office the Mayor’s cubicle was directly across from my office. Whenever she had a question, comment or just wanted to talk a little she was unfailingly polite, honest, cheerful and approachable.

    Sharon was a model for seeking good government, even when she might be wrong, which was very rare. She took disagreement heartfully but with aplomb that made her a great Mayor.

    Sharon take some time before you decide on the next windmill that needs to be challenged. Enjoy your family. Go somewhere you’ve never been before.

    Then find the next challenge with the kindness and honesty which resides in your heart.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The president-elect recently said, “American democracy works because Americans make it work at the local level.”

    Kudos to Albany voters for keeping the flame of democracy burning bright.

  3. Jeff Senders says:

    Somethings got to be dedicated with her name on it.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Currently, she does have her name on 2 needed buildings: the new Police Dept. and the new Fire Station. You’re thinking of something else?

      • Jeff Senders says:

        thanks for the correction. I didn’t know, but I’m glad that was already done.

        Next, the Konopa Prominade?

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Her smile will be most remembered? You frame your article as if she uses only one kind of smile.

    Not all of her smiles are equal. Some are real, some are fake.

    I’ve seen her use the enjoyment smile, the posed smile, the controlled smile, and the contempt smile. All in one council meeting.

    Like most of us, I suppose the type of smile she chooses is triggered by the emotions of the issue or event.

    And her being a long-term politician, it appears she mastered them all AND fooled you in the process.

    • Steven Reynolds says:

      Be nice, Gordon

      The mayor lost support because she was trying to fix the uncontrollable, she took the problem head on and some of her proposals were unpopular like the gas tax. Underfunded mandates and un-funded mandates continue to hemorrhage out of Salem, they’re now trying to force one group of private citizens to directly subsidize the living expenses of another group of private citizens while still trying to continue to increase taxation on those doing the subsidizing. The state has very limited financial means to step in as a public safety net, they’re now consuming the muscle instead of the fat, they spent the rainy day fund plus the rainy day funds of future generations, so the state is looking for those that are financially responsible in their own lives, to take over their obligations. It’s becoming painfully obvious Salem is in complete chaos, just listen to the governor, her entire hope for financial solvency is that the federal government will write a check to save us, other states will now start paying our bills, we ran out of Oregon residents. Maybe they will in some convoluted way, but you think things are expensive at the grocery store now, we are putting a tsunami worth of liquidity into the markets, you don’t think companies will look at even more ways of cutting human capital with AI and automation? Just wait.

      The mayor was merely trying to hold back the tide with more funding mechanisms to cover the mandates but also preserve some of the local services. She’s become the scapegoat for many of our problems, it was in fact the financial moves like the last GAPS bond that caused many of our present issues. Many of us commented we may need those funds in the future, but spenders like to spend… just a different financial philosophy, live for today. Also, the local community is getting tired of more and more community resources being funnelled into the state bureaucracy, it’s hard to differentiate for many between local and state when for the citizen it all comes out of one pot. We spend more yet receive less in local services, in addition there’s very little left for discretionary spending, nothing to support a vibrant community and a healthy small business atmosphere.

      Now we’re talking about implementing $160 to $200 water bills with the caveat of “low income” will be subsidized by other residents for the higher rates, when do you run out of subsidizers? But again there’s always a wrinkle, the subsidy only matters if you pay your own water bill directly, get the picture how this works? You see how this becomes a vicious cycle. At some point you’re going to collapse the community, we’re just breeding poverty, more individuals fall off the bottom of the ladder each time more resources are directed away from the private sector. It doesn’t even give a chance for those to try to start climbing the ladder, the first rung is so far out of arms reach, but don’t blame the mayor because she happens to be the closest person within arms reach, when you finally realize there’s a mess that is now upon us and she actually tried to do something to fix it.

      • H. R. Richner says:

        Thank you, Steven Reynolds, for your profound contribution. In my opinion, our state government is a big source of Albany’s fiscal problems. Unfunded mandates are a disgrace and probably unconstitutional if somebody cared to check. Our best solution will be to get rid of the current state regime by a heart-felt protest vote.

        • Steven Reynolds says:

          H.R.

          The problem with fighting is you’re fighting against an entity with unlimited resources, absolutely they are violating the Constitution in Salem, but do you want to spend everything you have fighting them? They’re just calling it an emergency at this point in order to suspend protections and they have precedent to do so. Lincoln opened up that Pandora’s box, now we executive orders, fiats, proclamations. Everything is an emergency now going forward, the bar just keeps being lowered incrementally.

          You can vote all you want but every republic has failed for the same reason, the failure to protect private property rights. It is inevitable that the majority will vote to take the property of the minority, those that have less vote to take from those that have more, happens every time, two foxes and a chicken deciding what’s for dinner. Our Constitution is our best effort to try and head off this fatal flaw, our republic only works when people believe in it, have a certain sense of a moral compass, and respect the rule of law.

          The biggest issue I see going forward is establishing trust between Salem leadership and the residents again, Salem crossed a sacred line. No one is going to risk anything to start a business or invest in communities when you no longer know what the rules are or you can’t trust leadership that they won’t just go rogue and throw out the laws and principles of the republic just because it doesn’t suite them politically. The next big question will be how much of Oregon will be bought up by the hedge funds after this is over, they’re just waiting on the sidelines to pounce, they can afford to fight the state. Oregon is looking at a major reset, doesn’t look like much of it is going to end up being owned by those that actually live here.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Wow…and I thought Hasso had a rule based on FDR’s quote: “Be sincere, Be brief, Be seated.” Evidently not.

        Back in 1996 (gee…about 24 years ago) voters passed a referendum that became Article XI, Section 15 or the Oregon Constitution. Unfunded state mandates are not the problem with Albany’s budget problems.

        • H. R. Richner says:

          Thank you, Gordon, for this information. It is a disgusting read. Any controls are hard to find. The power of the local governments used to protect our freedom. This explains what happened to that.

      • William Ayers says:

        Thank you! thank you thank you! What he said! Thank you Steven Reynolds! It’s not good news but I’m glad you articulated it so well. Thank you!

  5. Jacobin Hanschlatter says:

    Konopa’s problem is the same problem all long term politicians experience. They invest too much of themselves into the process over such a lengthy period. Inevitably, they start believing their own press releases.

    Some pols fall prey to the self-induced fantasy more quickly than others, but the fall is unavoidable. Time is a cruel mistress.

    Albany is not Konopa and Konopa is not Albany. When pols can no longer separate themselves from the position, the end is certain.

    Some do better than others. It took 24-years before Konopa commingled herself too deeply with city fortunes. It took a very recent sitting president less than 4-years to fall prey to the same hubris and look where the nation is now. We are fortunate, indeed, that Alex Johnson came along and pulled away the curtain.

  6. Robert D Stalick says:

    I will miss not only her smile, but her service to our city. She is a lifelong Albany-ite, having gone to school here and having lived here her whole life. Finding fault with what she has done and has tried to do is easy, doing the right thing, as she always tried to do, is hard. She came through the experience in great shape, and all of us are better for it.

  7. Lundy says:

    I covered the city council for a year and found Sharon to be unfailingly polite and pleasant. Following the last election, a colleague suggested to me that the mayor had made the political too personal, an unhealthy development he thought, and I’m inclined to agree. I didn’t always agree with her regarding her views on what makes a healthy neighborhood, and I think she was at times unable to acknowledge city government faults. But her affection for and dedication to her hometown are unquestionable, and she deserves commendation for her many years of service.

  8. William Ayers says:

    You talk about her like she’s going away. Is Sharon Konopa going somewhere? Maybe she’ll be back. Maybe Albany can hardly wait to get her back!
    24 years and you could be taken for granted. There’s always tomorrow eh? Hey Sharon, come back! We all need a break every 24 years or so.

 

 
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