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Bemis can lead into the future

It is no discredit to Gresham Mayor Charles Becker to say that the substantial work he has done for this city would best be carried forward by someone else.

That's especially true when the someone else waiting in the wings is City Council President Shane Bemis, who is brimming with energy and capable of leading Oregon's fourth-largest city to better livability and greater regional respect.

Our endorsement of Bemis in the Nov. 7 election is no reflection on Becker, who has faithfully served this city - not only for eight years as mayor, but in two previous City Council stints and in numerous volunteer roles. While we certainly are grateful to Becker for his contributions, it is Bemis who has the potential to shape a more prosperous Gresham in the 21st century.

Bemis is just 34 years old, but he has proven himself as a leader, a businessman and community volunteer. During his past four years on the City Council, he rose quickly from freshman councilor to council president. It is telling that all of his colleagues on the council, except one, are now endorsing him in the mayor's race.

That support from fellow councilors is an indication of the respect he has earned. But this race doesn't hinge on appearances or popularity among peers. It is about focused leadership and the ability to get results.

Bemis has displayed those skills amply in the past four years. He made transfer of county roads to Gresham a top priority, and he fiercely lobbied the Legislature to ensure it happened. He brought stability to a council that previously had been embarrassingly dysfunctional. He made public safety a priority - helping to find ways to increase the number of police officers on a force that was understaffed.

The incumbent mayor also would argue - correctly - that he had a hand in those accomplishments. Yet, we have been impressed with the outsized role that Bemis has been able to play from his No. 2 chair on the all-volunteer council. And we would further point out that it is the future - not the recent past - that is of greatest interest now.

Gresham is on the edge of its next development wave. The new urban areas of Pleasant Valley and Springwater must be carefully planned and developed with community goals and values in mind. The Rockwood neighborhood, where too many people live in poverty, is in the early stages of renewal. Big plans are unfolding for Gresham's central core, which includes Historic Downtown Gresham and the Civic Neighborhood surrounding Gresham Station. When all these initiatives reach their potential, Gresham will be a complete community, with an enviable quality of life.

Bemis has the vision to see this through. Four years ago, he wouldn't have been ready for these monumental challenges, but he now is coming into his own - especially in his ability to articulate what's important and what he proposes to do about it.

Mayor Becker is one of many who have laid the groundwork for Bemis. It is now up to the next generation to accelerate Gresham's progress. Voters should elect Shane Bemis as mayor in the Nov. 7 election.