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Damascus election will expand City Council to 7

Two positions will be added to council after election

Imagine 10,500 acres of land dotted with farms, homes and small residential neighborhoods. Imagine a valley surrounded by pristine buttes - an area where wildlife still roams free, and where neighboring urbanized areas are pushing up against city lines. Imagine 10,500 acres, once a rural landscape, now officially a city with the responsibility to build responsibly.

The candidates running for Damascus City Council met during a candidate's forum Sunday, Oct. 15, at Damascus Community Church to share their ideas and dreams about what they'd like their city to become.

'There's been very little discussion about what we want Damascus to be,' said City Councilor Randy Shannon, who is running unopposed for Position 4. He said he envisions downtown Damascus with a commercial center with three- and four-story mixed-use buildings, parking within the buildings or underground, streets with canopies of trees and pedestrian-friendly roads. 'An intense use, vibrant community,' he said.

Mayor Dee Wescott was elected into the four-year Position 1 City Council seat in 2004. He was then appointed by the five-member council to serve as the city's first mayor. He is now running unopposed for a two-year mayoral term. His vacant Position 1 will be appointed after the Nov. 7 election.

Greg Chaimov, chair of North Clackamas County Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Governor Affair's Committee, moderated the forum. Three Damascus City Council positions are being challenged, including Position 6, which is new and, along with the elected mayor and the appointment of Position 1, will bring the five-member council up to seven.

Andrew Jackman is the former dean of science at Mt. Hood Community College and a former Oregon State University professor. He now works as a consultant with expertise in program development, planning, review and evaluation. His most recent contract was as the consulting director for the Desert Studies Center for Practical Alternative Energy Education at Copper Mountain College in California. Jackman is challenging incumbent John Hartsock for Position 3.

Jackman said he decided to run for Damascus City Council because he is concerned about the future of the city and that his position is of conservation and continuing the high quality of life residents now enjoy.

'We need to be thinking like a 21st century community,' he said.

Hartsock said as a City Council member for the past two years, 'being part of the creation of Damascus has been both challenging and rewarding. A distinctive Damascus will require a different way of thinking and innovation,' he said.

Hartsock has overseen a variety of building projects including public buildings, schools, health care facilities, 9-1-1 dispatch centers, public safety communication systems, recreational facilities, corporate office buildings, regional shopping centers, and multi-location retail.

Douglas Walker, who is a retired property manager, DJ and Army veteran, is challenging Position 5 incumbent Jim Wright. Walker wore a black leather jacket and a blue t-shirt that read, 'Vote Walker, 5th seat Damascus City Council.'

'I'm Douglas Walker. I'm your neighbor, I'm a Vietnam vet,' he said. He described the area as 'rich in agriculture, wildlife, deer, pheasants, excellent access to a white water river and wilderness at our back door.' He defended the rights of residents to 'pop a deer because it's still legal.'

Wright has a background in construction and is a real estate broker with Burns and Olson. 'I feel like I need to give something back to the community, that's why I'm doing this,' he said. 'The oncoming population growth threatens to change everything we know and value in Damascus. Rather than sit back and complain about the changes, I want to help guide responsible growth and preserve what we can through the process of eventual build-out in 30 to 40 years.'

Damascus City Council position six is a new two-term seat with three community members running. Candidate Robert Henson was unable to attend the Oct. 15 forum. The two other candidates are Diana Helm and Michael Hammons.

Helm is the owner of a new business in town, a home and garden store called Terra Potta located on the corner of Highway 212 and Foster Road. She's lived in the Damascus area with her husband and two boys for the past 11 years. She described herself as the 'president and CEO of our household.' She said she attended a number of Damascus 'visionary meetings' and was unable to decipher the maps, and that the vision of the concept plan is not the vision of the citizens. 'I'm so passionate about preserving the quality we have now,' she said. When asked what she would bring to the city council, she pointed out that she would only be one of two women (Barb Ledbury serves in position two) on the council, and that she would bring an added voice representing people from other areas of the city. 'A woman's set of eyes would be good on city council,' she said.

Hammons is the owner of Prudential Northwest Properties Damascus. He said he became involved with the incorporation of the city years ago because 'nobody was really speaking for Damascus.'

He said when the area was brought into the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) he became concerned, and that if other government bodies took over the development of the area, then the people of Damascus would have had no say in the planning. 'We have an opportunity to do this right,' he said.

'My job is speaking up for Damascus, and (building a city) that we and our kids can be proud of.'

To learn more about the issues concerning the city of Damascus, visit www.ci.damascus.or.us.