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ENDORSEMENT: In tough mayor's race, Callaway emerges as leader

Steve CallawayBy now, many people already know who they will vote for in the race for U.S. President, or who they'll pick as the next crop of Oregon Congressional representatives.

But in the race to decide Hillsboro’s next mayor, voters are being asked to make a very difficult choice.

Frankly, both candidates — Aron Carleson and Steve Callaway — would be an excellent choice for mayor, and voters can’t make a bad selection by voting for either candidate.

The two are more than qualified for the job and both have plenty of good ideas for how to move Hillsboro forward.

The two share a similar background: They served on the Hillsboro City Council together for years, both at acting as council president. Carleson served eight years on the council (six as its president). Callaway is currently two years into his second term (he took over as president after Carleson left the council in 2015).

Both, too, have a history of community service, and have strong ties to the Hillsboro School District. Callaway retired as a longtime principal and administrator in the district last year. Carleson is currently the executive director of the Hillsboro Schools Foundation, a nonprofit group that raises money for Hillsboro schools.

CarlesonBoth have been planning for this day for a long, long time. Callaway’s retirement was at least partly fueled by his desire to run for the mayor’s office — he said he wanted to devote himself full-time to the job. Carleson has been planning a mayoral run for the past eight years.

The two have similar ideas about the future of Hillsboro. Both agree that more needs to be done to plan for the city’s rapid growth. More affordable housing options are necessary to offer all citizens a safe, comfortable place to live. Both would love to grow the city’s partnerships with the school district to give kids more opportunities inside and outside the classroom.

Both clearly love Hillsboro and have the connections locally and regionally to bring about real lasting change to the city and the region as a whole.

But voters don’t have the luxury of electing two candidates in November, and neither do we.

First, in the interest of full disclosure: Carleson’s son is engaged to the daughter of the Tribune’s former associate editor, Kathy Fuller. Fuller currently works as head of the newspaper’s About Town section and did not participate in the newspaper’s endorsement process.

After considering both candidates' merits, we ask Hillsboro voters elect Steve Callaway as Hillsboro’s 42nd mayor.

Callaway’s sensible, middle-of-the-road ideas for Hillsboro’s future are a perfect choice for voters. His priorities lie with partnering with other agencies and cities to get things done.

Callaway understands that what happens in Beaverton or Tigard affects Hillsboro and wants to work with other cities to bring out not only a better Hillsboro, but a better Washington County as a result. Callaway understands that as the county seat, Hillsboro is seen as a role model by other cities across the county and the Portland area.

As mayor, Callaway said he wants the city to take a hard look at the subsidies it gives local corporations to ensure the city is getting a proper return on its investments. He wants to expand the city’s outreach efforts to minority residents, who sometimes feel left out of the democratic process. He acknowleges transparency issues with how Hillsboro does business and wants to give everyone a voice.

That’s not to say Carleson isn’t up to the task. A tireless advocate for Hillsboro’s future, Carleson has been in the trenches for years and knows the ins and outs of Hillsboro’s plans and projects.

She was the driving voice to bring the Hillsboro Hops baseball team to town. As a councilor she met with league officials to hammer out deals and secure the team’s place in Hillsboro, which she believes has far more of a positive impact on Hillsboro than negative.

Carleson would make a fine mayor, and the editorial board of this newspaper did a lot of soul searching before making this endorsement. Carleson has the chops for the job, surely, and would be great at it.

Her idea to bring more TriMet service to Hillsboro is commendable and she wants to make sure that Hillsboro retains its small-town feel, despite the massive growth expected to make it the second-largest city in the Portland area in the next few decades.

But Callaway has his priorities right when he says that Hillsboro’s future doesn’t lie with annexing Aloha. That’s a long-term goal that should be studied, but not aggressively pursued unless both communities will see a benefit out of the deal. Carleson told the Tribune’s editorial board she believes annexing at least a portion of Aloha is important, because people in the area already rely on Hillsboro for many services.

She admits the prospect will take time, and will likely be expensive, but we don’t believe that is something the city should be putting much effort into right now.

Callaway has his own pie-in-the-sky ideas — he wants to reinvigorate talks of the much-discussed Westside Bypass to help ease congestion on Hillsboro’s roads. There’s little hope of that happening, but it shows Callaway is thinking not only about Hillsboro’s congestion problems but Beaverton’s, Sherwood’s and Newberg’s as well — something we find refreshing in a city leader. City leaders often forget that people moving seamlessly between cities to eat, sleep, work and play. It’s vital that all cities work together on issues like growth and transportation, rather than keep their heads so buried in their own work that they can’t see the effect of those projects on other communities.

The mayor doesn’t have the power to bring about change on his or her own, Callaway stressed during his interview with our editorial board. It takes teamwork. It takes compromise. It takes someone who will listen to the other side and respect their viewpoint, even if they disagree.

Both Carleson and Callaway have that ability, and both would be fine additions to the roster of Hillsboro mayors. For our money, though, it comes down to leadership style — and Callaway’s “we before I” approach to governance persuades us he can manage the challenges Hillsboro and Washington County will face over the next four years.

For more of the Hillsboro Tribune's 2016 endorsements, click here