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Two Gresham Council seats draw four candidates

A pair of seats up for grabs on the Gresham City Council each has two candidates seeking election. In one race, a seasoned political newcomer is running against another new name to city politics who offers youthful exuberance. The other race pits a longtime incumbent against another newcomer to city politics. Here's more about each candidate:

Position 1

Jerry Hinton

Hinton said he's running for council because, “I've been blessed. I've been able to enjoy a great life, and it's time to give back.”

As a lawyer and the general manager of a business in Wood Village, Hinton said he has a unique perspective to bring to the Gresham City Council. If elected, he'd like to focus on economic development.

“Commerce is what drives job creation and the expansion of our tax base,” he wrote in his application for Gresham City Council. “Gresham is in a state of decay. New business must be brought into Gresham, and existing businesses must be provided a stronger city foundation. This is the key to providing a better quality of life, enhanced city services and infrastructure for all of our residents. Because of my education and business background, I know how to successfully operate a large multi-divisional operation profitably and under budget. Gresham needs this kind of practical leadership.”

Hinton is general manager of Brasher's Portland Auto Action, which employs 150 people and has yearly sales in excess of $135 million. He also serves on Gresham's finance committee, which joins forces with the City Council every year to hammer out a yearly budget.

As such, Hinton has an intimate knowledge of the financial struggles the city is experiencing, leading to his support of Mayor Shane Bemis' proposed $7.50 monthly fee that would be applied to all households and businesses in Gresham. The money would fund current service levels for police, fire and parks.

Hinton said economic development and public safety are the most pressing issues facing the city.

“Economic development is the epicenter of creating solutions for everything else,” he said. Hinton would like to help drive economic development by working with businesses to fill vacant storefronts and property. “Raw land is rare in the city of Gresham,” he said. “We need a long-term strategy.”

Hinton also speaks Spanish and Aymara, a dialect he learned while on a two-year church mission in the Andres Mountains in Bolivia.

Bio box

Name: Jerry Hinton

Age: 51

City of residence: Gresham, nine years with five years in Damascus

Occupation: General Manager of Brasher's Portland Auto Auction in Wood Village

Prior government experience, community involvement: Gresham's Finance Committee and Citizen Involvement Committee, Wood Village's Urban Growth and Transportation Committee; active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Family: Wife of 29 years, Dawn, two grown children, ages 25 and 22

Hobbies, interests: International travel, scuba diving

Mario Palmero

As a new father, Mario Palmero is short on sleep but long on vision.

“Well, it's not for the money,” he said, laughing when asked why he's running for the unpaid volunteer position. “I want to help Gresham with its transformation. And I want to make my kids proud.”

Gresham is a widely diverse community representing many cultures, he said. “I think they need a place at the table,” he said. “They need a voice.”

Palmero said he can help bridge those cultural divides. He lives in Rockwood. He is Hispanic and Puerto Rican. He is learning to speak Russian.

“We all have similar values,” he said. “I don't see how we can't come together and build something better out of our community.”

There's been much talk of needing more Rockwood representation on the council and Palmero calls the neighborhood home.

“I live on 182nd Avenue and I see a lot of kids out past curfew. There's vandalism and other crime,” he said. “But I also see a lot of hardworking people in my community and they aren't saying anything.”

He supports Mayor Shane Bemis' proposal for a $7.50 monthly fee to maintain police, fire and park services. But to really improve public safety, more residents need to trust police enough to call to report crimes taking place in their neighborhood.

Palmero would like to see City Hall "harness the power of church groups" to boost citizen involvement and possibly lower crime rates.

Palmero also said Gresham needs to invest more in education to create a better skilled work force to attract more businesses. Schools need more shop classes — metal, automotive and wood.

“I think kids have too much time on their hands,” he said, adding that such idleness can lead to drug use and gang involvement. “It's horrible.”

He admits that in terms of government experience or policy making, “I have none.”

“I do, however, have extensive experience in working in a bureaucracy and understanding how resources are distributed,” he wrote in his application for City Council.

“That's what I'm asking, for Gresham to take a chance on me."

Bio box

Name: Mario Palmero

Age: 36

City of residence: Gresham, 10 years

Occupation: Welfare caseworker/benefits coordinator for the Oregon Department of Human Service's Gresham office

Prior government experience, community involvement: Volunteer tax preparer for the AARP/Vita Tax Aid, Habitat for Humanity, Rockwood Weed and Seed, SMART reader

Family: Fiancée Becky Southard, stepdaughter Natalie, 13, son Mario Jr., 1.

Hobbies, interests: Camping, hiking

Position 5

Michael McCormick

Michael McCormick is a longtime resident raised in East Multnomah County. He grew up in Rockwood and is retired from the Portland Fire Bureau and Fire District 10.

“I was encouraged to run for City Council by many people,” McCormick said. And after serving in the city's Fire Corps, which promotes the use of citizen volunteers to enhance the fire department, he decided he would throw his hat into the ring for Position 5.

“I'm concerned about Gresham,” he said. “I want to see Gresham thrive. I think Gresham has kind of turned into a ghost town. You see businesses close all the time.”

And yet, “downtown is coming alive,” in part thanks to incentives established by the city to bring home-based businesses out of garages and offices into full-fledged storefronts.

If elected McCormick said he'd focus on promoting small businesses.

“From that, things happen,” he said, adding that when businesses thrive, jobs are created, tax bases are bolstered and schools are better funded. “It's all about jobs really.”

And while economic development is vital to the community's growth and prosperity, he doesn't support projects that could come at the expense of the community — such as a proposed casino in Wood Village.

McCormick also supports fire and police services, or “essential services that I believe all neighborhoods need.” He even suggested that those in the police and fire departments contribute more toward their retirement to save the city money.

He called Mayor Shane Bemis' proposed fee “important,” and said he's in favor of it. “But I think it should be up to the people to vote on,” he said.

In terms of crime, he's like to see turnstiles added at all MAX stations to crack down on fare evaders.

“I offer common sense,” McCormick said. “I'm a novice at this. I'm not a politician. I just care about the city. … What you see is what you get.”

Bio box

Name: Michael McCormick

Age: 66

City of residence: Gresham, 55 years

Occupation: Retired firefighter

Prior government experience, community involvement: Gresham Fire Corps, disaster response and preparedness organizations

Family: Wife of 34 years,Kathy, two grown sons

Hobbies, interests: Coffee roasting

Paul Warr-King

In his run for a third four-year term as a Gresham City Councilor, Paul Warr-King said he enjoys the unpaid volunteer position too much not to run again.

Besides, at such a critical moment in the city, his experience is needed now more than ever.

Urban renewal projects are being put on the back burner because not enough tax increment has been generated as a result of the economic downturn, he said. The mayor is proposing a monthly fee for households and businesses to avoid further cuts to police, fire and park services. And if the council doesn't approve the fee, then what? Should the city close a fire station or maybe City Hall should move to a four-day work week?

These are the questions Warr-King is grappling with, but he says it's an honor to do it.

“I see being a city councilor as an opportunity to do this, to make the city a better place,” he said.

For him, the top issue facing Gresham is stabilizing funding for core services, such as police and fire. He supports the mayor's proposed fee. “We have to do something because of our low tax rate,” which is one of the lowest in the state. “I am concerned about maintaining the current service level of police and the gang task force.”

He also wants to continue to build on the cooperative relationships the Gresham council has built with Metro, Multnomah County and cites across East Multnomah County in order to better attract businesses and funding. “If we don't continue to do that, we're completing against the westside,” he said. “Economic development is so important.” In fact, he'd like the city to be “a little more aggressive” in its approach, he said.

Thanks to new enterprise zones and a new industrial park courtesy of a partnership with the Port of Portland, Warr-King said the region is poised for more family-wage jobs.

He said his banking background and financial expertise has been a great help to the council and the city. And it's what sets him apart from other candidates.

“I think it's the experience that I have in the private and public sector, my knowledge of government and how it works,” he said. “All I want to do is make City Hall accessible to people, respond to their questions and concerns. Giving back to the community is important to me."

Bio box

Name: Paul Warr-King

Age: 73

City of residence: Gresham, 22 years

Occupation: Retired banker

Prior government experience, community involvement: Gresham City Councilor since 2004, finance committee since 1995, past president of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, former chairman of the SnowCap board of directors

Family: Wife of 12 years, Mary Jo, three grown children and two grown stepchildren, seven grandchildren ranging from 9 to 16.

Hobbies, interests: Taking banjo lessons



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