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Race pits newcomer, city councilor

Candidates offer two competing visions for the city's future -

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Casey Ryan says he's not afraid to admit when he doesn't know something. 'I've been a quick learner my whole life,' he said.If one principle unites both sides of the Troutdale mayoral race, it’s their desire to reject easy political labels and simplistic divisions.

“I am not Junki Yoshida’s candidate,” public office seeker Casey Ryan said, full stop. “I want (the Urban Renewal Area) developed because it’s a missed opportunity, but not at all costs.”

Councilor Rich Allen agrees that the stretch of city-owned land between Interstate 84 and the historic downtown should be redeveloped. But he says the process can’t be rushed, and wants more disclosure from the builders.

“I can go along to get along, but in order to do so, I would have to stop representing the best interests of Troutdale,” he said.

It may be true that both leaders have more in common than their supporters and detractors claim. Battlelines are still being drawn.

The Outlook sat down with both candidates for the top job at Troutdale City Hall, as well as their most prominent supporters.

Read on for a deep dive into the Troutdale mayoral race:

Click here for part two, and here's a brief explainer on the difference between a city councilor and mayor.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Casey Ryan has been endorsed by Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis. 'I support Casey Ryan for Mayor because Troutdale is ready and deserves a fresh perspective,' Bemis said in a statement. Casey Ryan

If Casey Ryan is a political newcomer in Troutdale, he certainly isn’t acting like one.

The 45-year-old senior vice president at Gresham-based MBank has already earned the endorsement of four East Multnomah County mayors, including the outgoing city leader in Troutdale.

“The number-one thing (a mayor needs) is the ability to be a good leader, specifically a good team leader,” Mayor Doug Daoust said. “Casey has shown that time and time again.”

“I see Casey having a really strong vision, but Rich (Allen) gets mired in the details,” Daoust added. “He wants answers to everything right now... and that’s just not the way development happens.”

Ryan’s opponents claim they’ve never seen him attend a council session or committee meeting. Many feel there’s an established protocol for joining local government, and dislike the idea of any person skipping straight to the top-dog spot.

In response, Ryan points to his experience as a past leader of the Mt. Hood Community College Foundation, East Metro Economic Alliance and numerous other nonprofit and civic organizations.

“I’ve dealt with pressing issues and big decisions my entire life. This isn’t my first rodeo,” Ryan said. “Maybe (my opponent) doesn’t know this, but council meetings are on TV, so I don’t have to be sitting right there.”

Ryan’s primary argument to voters is that he will end the rampant dysfunction and bad feeling that has dogged the Council for years.

Unlike the usually cordial atmosphere at Wood Village and Gresham City Hall, Troutdale Council meetings are often punctuated by harsh disagreements and uncomfortable animosity.

It is not uncommon for councilors to talk over one another, and these fights can spill off the dais and into the pages of the local newspaper. One recent after-hours dispute at Skyland Pub ended with a call to the sheriff’s office.

Ryan refuses to believe that these problems are perennial and can’t be solved. He has pledged to lead by example and never call out a fellow councilor in a public setting.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Rich Allen“It’s keeping my side of the street clean,” he said. “We need to be good winners, and we need to be good losers.”

In person, Ryan displays a lively sense of energy and purpose. The government officials lining up behind him say they’ve seen his drive and leadership abilities in action.

“He does his homework,” said Wood Village Mayor Patricia Smith. “He’s a hard worker... and I know he’d have an open ear to problems or people that were coming before the Council.”

“I encouraged him to run for City Council years ago,” Multnomah County Commissioner Diane McKeel said. “He has a very inclusive leadership style, a lot of energy, a lot of passion for Troutdale and a wonderfully positive attitude.”

When it comes to the Urban Renewal Area, Ryan has a simple line of reasoning: It has been 10 years since the URA was established, and little progress has been made. He says he lacks a vested interest, and therefore can move the project forward impartially.

He has convinced Troutdale General Store owner Terry Smoke as well.

“He can fix things. He’s good with people,” Smoke said. “(His opponents) are not going to think independently — they’re all going to group together. It’s not that way with Casey.”