Mersereau: 'A person can be in office maybe too long' -

In a move that promises to shake up city politics, Gladstone City Councilor Tom Mersereau quietly filed last month to challenge Mayor Wade Byers, who announced in January plans to run for a record 10th term.

Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO - Wade Byers2006 was the last time Byers faced an opponent, when he defeated Councilor Len Nelson by a 10 percent margin.

Mersereau, a retired quality assurance manager, “won’t engage in any finger-pointing,” but he says it’s “time for a change” so that Gladstone citizens feel more proud of their city and become more engaged in making it a better place. He said it’s admirable that Byers has served the city in an unpaid position for 35 years.

“The information I get from a lot of people … is that a person can be in office maybe too long,” Mersereau said. “I congratulate Wade for being in office so long.”

Gladstone’s City Council appointed Mersereau on Nov. 8, 2011, and then he ran unopposed for the seat in 2012. Mersereau, a former Planning Commission member, replaced Former City Councilor Judith Ervin, who resigned in September 2011.

After finding out about his July 17 filing through a routine public-records request, this newspaper contacted Mersereau with the city’s filing deadline coming up Aug. 26. If Mersereau loses the race, he will keep his seat on the City Council through 2016.

Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO - Tom MersereauMersereau “was asked by a group of people to run,” but wasn’t sure whether they would like their identities publicly known. He plans to announce a list of endorsements as part of his candidate’s statement in the Voters’ Pamphlet.

Byers said that institutional memory is important. He helped write the first comprehensive plan in the city the late 1970s, he was on the delegation in the 1982 to help make sure that the funding came through for the Tri-City sewer plant. In 1974, he was first elected to City Council, and he had served on Planning Commission before that.

“The people who say that someone’s been in office too long want to get elected,” Byers said. “I’ve been a watchdog all along to make sure ratepayers get a fair shake.”

Mersereau thinks communication and decision-making can be improved in the city.

“For many years, the city has been run on a shoestring budget, which is a good thing, but there are some areas where taxpayers might be willing to pay more for improvements,” he said. “I believe the City Hall and police station need to be refurbished drastically. The city needs to change its operations from a governmental organization to a more businesslike model.”

The mayor has one vote on City Council, Byers points out, but the way you run a meeting is important. Byers always tries to give people an answer to their questions and concerns when they come to City Council meetings.

“I’ve had numerous people tell me that I do a marvelous job in conducting meetings,” Byers said. “People have the opportunity to be heard at a City Council meeting and offer their opinion, and I think we've been very consistent with that.”

Mersereau will be running on the same ballot as the library project, and he thinks the current $6.4 million plan is something all citizens will be able to support. A $10 million plan failed at the ballot box in November 2012, but the latest plan will use Clackamas County Library District funds (rather than urban-renewal funds) to pay down a much smaller amount of debt.

Instead of being a 19,000-square-foot facility on Webster Road, as proposed in 2012, the new 13,000-to-16,000-square-foot library would be located closer to City Hall in the “Portland Avenue area between the high school and the Clackamas River,” as stated on the ballot. The City Council will determine the exact location if voters approve the measure.

Byers has been a longtime supporter of proposals to rebuild the city library.

“Per person, it's may be one of the least expensive services with provide with so many people using the library,” Byers said.

Mersereau expects that the combined City Hall and police station project will appear before voters next May.

“We should offer voters the opportunity to vote on those things, but right now we don't have a plan,” Byers said.

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