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Weatherby sees future of the region


Fairview Mayor earns leadership award for ability to bring people, cities together

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - At his office in City Hall, Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby speaks about receiving the Mayors Leadership Award from the Oregon Mayors Association. At a conference this summer, Mayor Mike Weatherby of Fairview was presented the Mayor’s Leadership Award by the Oregon Mayor’s Association.

Weatherby, who has been Fairview’s mayor since 2003, was shocked to learn of his award.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard my name,” he said. “I am really honored. It is something I always aspire to and something that I want to continue to strive for.”

Formed in 1972, the Oregon Mayor’s Association is a voluntary organization for mayors across the state to get together and share ideas. More than two-thirds of city mayors participate.

Weatherby was one of two candidates nominated and selected for his exceptional leadership qualities.

Mayor Don Ware of Brownsville (south of Albany and east of Interstate 5) also took home a leadership award.

In a public announcement sent out by the Oregon Mayor’s Association, Weatherby is praised for promoting positive relationships between city councilors and employees. People describe him as being open, approachable, supportive and genuinely wanting everyone to succeed, including other mayors.

He also is recognized for his efforts in community affairs.

“His leadership is a main reason why the cities in his county are working so well together,” the announcement said.

The Outlook caught up with Weatherby, 71, to talk about his award.

“Leadership is so difficult,” the mayor said.

Whether he’s acting as the decision-maker in the middle of opposing opinions on the council or representing his city among others in East County or Metro regional government, “In order to serve the people,” Weatherby said, “people have to work together even though they may not agree.”

His background

A Cleveland High School and Portland State University graduate, Weatherby earned his master’s degree in psychology education from the University of Portland. He worked as a Multnomah County corrections hearings officer for much of his life and taught community college before he retired.

He served on the State Board of Parole, Reynolds Board of Education, Rockwood Water District Board, Fairview Planning Commission and finally Fairview City Council before he took over for his predecessor, Roger Vonderharr, who served as Fairview mayor from 1995 to 2002.

A mayor with a vision

Outside his own council, Weatherby has been working hard to promote “regionalism” in East County, bringing together mayors and city council members from Troutdale, Wood Village and Gresham to meet several times a year.

The point is to talk about common issues such as transportation and traffic and see how they can better work as a group. He said the health of the region depends on it.

“Working together we are stronger than if we are working separately on the same thing,” Weatherby said.

He hopes the three- and four-city meetings will become a permanent fixture for East County.

Weatherby also has formed the Mayor’s Business Roundtable, which brings together business people and stakeholders from Fairview and neighboring cities to discuss related business issues in the city.

There, citizens can raise questions, comments, concerns and criticism for the city to address.

“It has become a success,” Weatherby said, adding that the meetings are well attended.

Fairview’s Visioning Committee is another of Weatherby’s creations.

The committee is working on a report to be presented to council in September. The report will provide a database of vacant properties and vacant buildings in the city that can be used for future development.

Economic development is on the forefront of Fairview’s long-term future plan, said Weatherby, who plans to run again for mayor. His third four-year term ends in December 2014.

“We’ve got a lot of area to develop,” he said.

Developers already have their eye on several properties in the city, most notably the waterfront property at Chinook Landing Marine Park, the old Bally Total Fitness property and the plot on Northeast Village and Northeast Halsey streets.

Only time will tell what becomes of it, he said.

Fairview is “business-friendly,” Weatherby said.

Though operating with a small staff, the mayor said the city is doing the best it can to help businesses move quickly through the required building permit processes.

Perspective on life

Anyone who knows Weatherby or has sat in on a Fairview City Council meeting has no doubt seen the mayor sporting eye glasses and using a magnifying glass to peer down at the council agenda, printed large for him to see better.

In 2007, Weatherby was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a retina-damaging condition that causes loss of vision and blindness for mainly adults older than 50.

“I have a blur in the center of my eyes,” Weatherby said.

Macular degeneration comes in two forms — “dry” (more common and less severe) and “wet” (advanced stage and more severe).

Weatherby has “wet” macular degeneration in his left eye. His right eye has the dry form of the disease, but doctors said he has a 40 percent chance of it becoming wet.

At first, Weatherby tried to hide the issue, but he’s made his condition public.

“I do not want people to think there is a cognitive issue,” he said. “It is an eyesight issue.

Weatherby said people have been helpful and have shown him understanding.

“It’s just the way it is,” he said.

Last winter, Weatherby’s eyesight began rapidly deteriorating in just a few months.

The mayor started receiving regular shots in his eyes, first every week, then every couple of weeks, and finally every five to six months.

The shots are a chemical to dry the back of the eye and stop the degeneration, he said.

“But the damage is done,” he added.

Weatherby can’t read without a magnifying device. He also can’t drive at night and can’t make out the details of a person’s face standing a few feet away from him.

He is supposed to take a visual test daily: stare at a black graph paper card with a white dot in the center and tell doctors if he sees wavy lines, “which I sometimes do,” he said.

What bothers Weatherby the most is not being able to recognize people’s faces.

He worries people think he is ignoring them, but really, “When I go by people … I just can’t tell.”

Weatherby said his poor eyesight used to depress him.

He recalls a vacation to the San Juan islands in Washington with his wife, Jeannette, and two sons. His eldest, Brian, 39, just earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering. His youngest, Erik, 33, is severely handicapped.

Looking out over the bay, Weatherby said, “You just want to rub your eyes and see.”

One day, Weatherby woke up and saw the glass half full.

Today, he doesn’t let his poor eyesight get him down. He just adopts a positive perspective.

“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”

He listens to books on tape and watches TV (sitting very close to the screen).

Weatherby said his eyesight is “all right.”

Cataract surgery in June helped improve his peripheral vision, and he sees color and definition a little better.

“I just have to be cautious,” he said.

Future plans

Weatherby plans to run for re-election next year.

“At this point, I think it’s important to run again because we are in the midst of some really important economic issues,” he said. “I speak not just from the head, but from the heart. I know my subject. I know my city.”

But he said his “real goal” is to bring the region together.

“I’d like to see a more permanent, ongoing, cooperative relationship between cities that involves the mayors and council members meeting on a regular basis.”