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Bennett not taking win for granted

Gresham man is only one on ballot for council position
by: Contributed photo, Mike Bennett

First James 'Mike' Bennett was the only candidate for position 2. Then William 'Bill' Dodds filed to run for the seat, now filled by Councilor Jacquenette McIntire, who is not running for re-election. But election officials discovered Dodds lived just outside the city limits, so he pulled his filing.

Then Tom Giusto filed to run for the position. However, Giusto withdrew his candidacy to pursue the possibility of another upcoming elected position, but in a classy twist, endorsed Bennett for the position.

This leaves Bennett, as he quipped during a candidate's debate, 'the lucky guy in this race.'

Although his name is the only one listed under position 2 candidates on ballots for the Nov. 7 election, Bennett doesn't assume he'll be elected. People could write in another candidate, he pointed out after Giusto's withdrawal.

'I'm still going to do a little campaigning,' Bennett said. 'I think it's worthwhile to get my name out there and get in touch with the community.'

Bennett, 54, began considering a run for City Council in 2004 while helping neighbor Karylinn Echols with her successful campaign.

If elected, he's most looking forward to applying his engineering and consulting experience to development efforts in Springwater and Pleasant Valley.

For example, he worries the city could be too fractured in its efforts to develop both areas, while also providing urban renewal in Rockwood, not to mention continuing development of Gresham Station and historic downtown Gresham.

Perhaps it's too big a bite to chew, he said. For example, how will the city pay for police and fire service in newly developing areas when Gresham's tax base scarcely supports those services now?

Bennett believes the city needs to focus on maintaining current service levels while keeping an eye on over-arching growth plans and seeking state and federal funds to pay for infrastructure and transportation needs.

As for helping businesses move to and be successful in Gresham, Bennett supports simplifying the city's permit process and fee structure.

'There have been some major improvements over the past 10 years in that department,' he said of Gresham's building division, but he noted there's room for even more improvement.

He also supports creating a program to help alleviate fees for qualified businesses and to help them wade through the litany of paperwork associated with setting up shop - a sort of business incubator concept.

Bennett considers himself data driven and organized with a problem-solving approach that will serve the council well. 'Compromise is a two-way street,' he said, adding that he'd rather collaborate with surrounding cities on issues of regional importance rather than stand 'rock solid' on one point of view.