(An open letter to Lake Oswego City Manager Doug Schmitz):

Do you remember hearing, 'You don't miss the water 'till the well runs dry?' Well, that's what happened to me when I began to examine the idea of you, Doug Schmitz, leaving Lake Oswego for a new position as city manager of another lucky community.

I wonder if you remember attending our 'LONAC Awards' breakfast at Lacy's in 1993 when we gave out funny certificates and crooked pencils to all who did things that year. It was a hoot and you laughed and had fun with us.

When you came to town, one of your highest priorities was to visit neighborhood association meetings. The FAN meeting was at our house that year and month and we shared our piles of FAN history stored in Pete Ward's 'Red Sox' suitcase. There were Review articles, letters and documents that covered the formation of FAN, library expansion, annual FANfairs in the vacant lot and references to the safety, beauty, livability and character of the neighborhood we hoped to preserve. Doug, you seemed to understand neighborhood concerns as if you had been part of one -I didn't ask.

There are many things I didn't ask, many things I assumed and too many things I 'made up' in my ignorant mind about you and your intentions for my community. I sometimes thoughtlessly joined others in raising unfounded suspicions, judgments and criticisms. I think we humans satisfy our need for drama by keeping the negative alive and strong.

I regret not asking you more questions, listening to your answers and getting to know you better in order to understand your intentions and realize that what is important to us citizens is what is important to you as well. For example, unlike many communities that are willing to plow their uniqueness and history under, either out of ignorance or for profit, you, Doug, helped us grow our community while paying attention to preserving it's nature.

I think I really get it now - what it means to plan a community. Your focus on buying or improving established open space for public use is the only way to preserve the nature of this city while some housing and commercial developers step in and out with no understanding, knowledge or regard for that need. Your attempt to buy the Ann Schukart property, which is now the Parker property, in 1998, is a stunning example of your foresight and our (citizens') regrettable resistance.

It is, of course, the city council - citizens we elect - who make these decisions. City staff, however, brings us a modus operandi, a way to proceed, they build the track in the direction we choose to take. Doug, your staff and our city councils have taken us a long way and, from my view, the safety, livability, and character of Lake Oswego is still intack and all those flowers and trees, and some of the arts(!) are making us prettier than I ever imagined we could be.

Doug, thank you for everything.

Norma Heyser is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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