The Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce endorses a candidate for the first time

The Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce stepped out of its comfort zone by choosing to endorse a political candidate for the first time in its history.

It was a bold step to boot.

The chamber's newly established Candidate Endorsement Council announced Monday its support of City Councilor Dennis Doyle, who is challenging Mayor Rob Drake for the city's top job.

'This represents a risk - to step out there and choose someone,' said Scott Burgess, chairman of the endorsement council. 'It can create awkward moments, but as a well-respected organization, we owe it to our members and to our community to make an endorsement decision.'

The Beaverton chamber has 760 members representing about 35,000 employees in the area.

'It was a tough process and a tough decision, but everyone came away feeling very strongly that it was the right decision to make,' added Lorraine Clarno, chamber president. 'We came at this purely from the business community point of view.'

For the past year, the chamber worked to establish an endorsement council to ensure pro-business candidates are elected to local offices that impact the Beaverton business community.

The council is comprised of seven chamber representatives and the chamber president who is appointed by the board of directors.

The council met with both mayoral candidates last week and after careful deliberation selected Doyle as the 'best candidate to improve the business climate in Beaverton.'

The endorsement surprised Drake, who has served as Beaverton's mayor for the past 15½ years.

'We've done a lot to build our relationship with the chamber and to build local businesses,' Drake said following the announcement. 'Great examples include creation of an incubator - the Open Technology Business Center - and the economic gardening program.

'Personally, I've also been a strong supporter of many chamber events including Leadership Beaverton. I've served on the chamber board for 14 years and attended most of the lunches and ribbon cuttings. I have to ask what more can we do for the chamber?'

Burgess admits it was a tough decision, but ultimately it was Doyle's commitment to making Beaverton a more business-friendly community that gave him the competitive edge.

'The mayor has done a wonderful job creating a solid foundation, but the council really felt that Denny Doyle was more aligned with the chamber mission of promoting a vibrant business community,' Burgess said. 'We really felt Denny's focus on open communication, transparent government and outreach to stakeholders on big issues would go a long way to strengthen the local economy.

'He showed a great willingness and determination to make an open environment in city hall and engage business in open dialogue on issues that affect the community.'

Clarno agreed.

'It is our strong belief as an organization that there is work to be done to improve the perception of doing business in Beaverton,' she said. 'Denny came out clearly as the candidate who would make it a top priority.

'We have a tremendous respect for what Rob has accomplished, but we recognize there is more work to be done, specifically in solidifying Beaverton as the best business environment to grow and thrive. Denny's issues align very closely with our mission and our top priorities. We are excited about mobilizing and are looking forward to what might be.'

The vote of confidence pleased Doyle, who has served on the City Council since 1994.

'I feel on top of the world,' Doyle said. 'It means a great deal to me to know that the chamber, who represents hundreds of businesses large and small, has confidence in me and shares my vision for the business future of Beaverton.

'I look forward to working very closely with the chamber and other businesses in the city to change our reputation to one that is very business friendly, allowing us to bring businesses to our city along with the family-wage jobs they provide.

'This change will allow us to actually begin business development. People will want to continue to do business here, new businesses will want to come and everybody wins.'

Not choosing speaks volumes in council race

While the Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce's Candidate Endorsement Council took a decisive stand in the mayoral race, it chose not to endorse either incumbent Cathy Stanton or challenger Jason Ridge in the City Council Position 3 race.

'After a great deal of discussion, we felt Cathy Stanton's views on promoting business didn't align as strongly as we would have liked with the chamber,' explained Scott Burgess, endorsement council chairman. 'While we appreciate Jason Ridge's view of the city, we feel he needs more specific experience under his belt.'

The news of the neutral position shocked both council candidates.

'You could have knocked me over with a proverbial feather,' Stanton said. 'I've always been a supporter of business ideas and the chamber itself.

'I've always been a big supporter of small business, otherwise I wouldn't have worked so hard to get the Open Technology Business Center going. I believe the city's job is to provide infrastructure, and I saw creation of the business incubator as providing infrastructure.'

Although she was surprised by the chamber's decision, she respected its right to share its opinion.

'The chamber can endorse or not endorse anyone they want,' Stanton said. 'I believe I said nothing wrong.

'I obviously didn't say 'the something right' that the chamber was looking for.'

Her challenger had mixed feelings about the endorsement council's decision.

'It's obvious that Cathy didn't meet their goals, but at the same time I was too new to the process and did not give enough detail in an action plan,' Ridge said. 'If they want to get new people involved in the process, they have to accept that new people have to start somewhere.

'Someone new is not going to come in with the knowledge someone has who has been on the council for so long. I was disappointed that they were not willing to take a chance. Great opportunities can come with taking a chance.'

He said it was 'a shame' the chamber did not choose a candidate to endorse in the race.

'By deciding not to endorse either of us, they are not choosing to make progress,' Ridge said. 'In essence they are choosing to endorse nobody. It's disappointing to me.

'Although it's a big statement that they didn't endorse Cathy, it doesn't strike as powerful of a statement as I would like to see.'

The uncontested Position 4 City Council race has a different story.

The chamber's endorsement council gave Councilor Catherine Arnold a glowing review of her first term in office.

'Arnold has demonstrated her ability and willingness to actively learn and explore all sides of issues, ask challenging questions and regularly pursue dialogue with vested constituents,' the endorsement stated.

The council was also impressed by Arnold's can-do approach to improve relations between the city and business community and aspiration to pursue efforts to attract new business to Beaverton while helping existing businesses to flourish, Burgess said.

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