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Portland Waldorf School parents elected to Milwaukie Council


In a close race, Mark Gamba, an artist with an environmental bent, beat out Scott Barbur, a lawyer who favored more “business-friendly” initiatives, by about 52 to 48 percent for a seat on Milwaukie’s City Council.

Scott Churchill easily defeated Richard Cayo with more than 60 percent of the vote in early returns.

The election of two Portland Waldorf School parents to City Council represents a sea change in the political and social makeup of Milwaukie. A decade ago, the city suffered deep divisions after the school relocated to the shuttered Milwaukie Junior High building. Now it appears that many Milwaukians embrace the school’s offbeat philosophy, its connection to Portland and its emphasis on social development.

Churchill secured his victory with the endorsements of a wide swath of business and community leaders, including Milwaukie councilors Mike Miller and Dave Hedges, who were both elected in 2010. Churchill will replace Councilor Greg Chaimov, who retires his seat in January and joined Clackamas Community College’s Board of Education last month.

Churchill ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, transparency, small-business growth, sidewalk building, bike-boulevard designations and library renovation. A Historic Milwaukie resident for eight years, of which he was a Planning Commissioner for six years, Churchill, 53, has been married 25 years and has two children, one who attends the Waldorf School in town.

Acknowledging “there’s a lot of work to do,” Churchill said he was excited and hopeful about the new balance of City Council effectively tackling the issues.

“We have some tough decisions to make on how to pay for that $5 million for light rail and/or go out for a bond,” he said the day after the vote. “But I am amazed at the depth of the community, and I’ve always known it was pretty deep, but I’ve been consistently amazed on the campaign trail at what a diverse community we have here and what a capacity we have for positive change.”

'Thinking outside the box'

Barbur and Gamba were competing for Councilor Joe Loomis’ seat, which was open because of term limits.

Barbur’s campaign was hampered by the fact that he only joined Milwaukie’s Design and Landmarks Committee this year. The 1999 graduate from Rex Putnam High School also took a $250 contribution from Tim McMenamin, who lost his race against Gamba-endorser State Rep. Carolyn Tomei (D-Milwaukie) by a wide margin.

During his campaign, Gamba advocated for businesses within walking or biking distances from neighborhoods, the removal of the Kellogg Dam, and the completion of Kronberg and Riverfront parks. With these priorities, Gamba earned endorsements from Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard, Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, Island Station Neighborhood Association Secretary Lisa Batey, former City Councilor and North Clackamas Education Association President Deborah Barnes, Mayor Jeremy Ferguson, Ardenwald NDA Co-Chairman Jeff Davis, Historic Milwaukie Neighborhood Co-Chairwoman Jean Baker and David Aschenbrenner, a Celebrate Milwaukie board member.

“I am a big believer in thinking outside of the box and looking for new solutions to problems that have existed for years because ‘the city can’t afford to address them,’” Gamba wrote in the Voters’ Pamphlet.

Now with a studio in the Historic Milwaukie neighborhood, Gamba, 53, grew up Glenwood Springs, Colo., (then population 6,000) and got his degree in photography from Colorado Mountain College in 1979. He moved to Milwaukie in 2002 to be near the Waldorf school his son was attending.