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Former mayor remembered as advocate for parks, city development


Alice Schlenker died Saturday

Stalwart Lake Oswego public servant Alice Schlenker died of cancer on Saturday. She was 71.

Born in San Jose, Calif., on Sept. 23, 1941, Mrs. Schlenker graduated from Marylhurst University with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and moved to Lake Oswego in 1975, setting up house in the North Shore neighborhood. It was there she cultivated an enduring passion for community activism and local government; serving as media director of several political campaigns and as president of a local women’s club set the stage for a successful bid for a seat on the Lake Oswego City Council in 1981.

Her term ended in 1984, but Schlenker’s work with the city council was to continue. In 1988, she was elected mayor of Lake Oswego, the first woman to hold the position in the city’s history. She served two terms as mayor, from 1989 to 1996.

“She worked to assemble the individual lots on Block 130 that were privately owned so that we could market it to a developer,” said Mary Puskas, a former city councilor whose term coincided with Schlenker’s time as mayor. “She was a real advocate for seeing our downtown be greatly improved, and also she was a real supporter of parks and open space.”

Former councilor Heather Chrisman agreed.

“She was big on parks and pathways, and she advocated for the sister city program,” Chrisman said. “She really cared about the town and put in a lot of time for Lake Oswego. That’s what I remember about her.”

“We shared a passion for ... getting the pathway system in around the city,” said Mary Olson, a former city councilor whom Schlenker appointed to the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Advisory Board in 1991. “We would go out, and Alice — the mayor — would come with us to meet with the neighbors along a street that we wanted to put a path down on, and maybe that involved taking some of their front yard or something, and she would come along and meet with those people.”

One of Schlenker’s most marked characteristics, according to her former colleagues, was diligence.

“She was a very tireless worker,” Puskas said. “She would get in there and she worked very, very hard when she started on a project.”

“This woman was a dynamo. Really, she was just a bundle of energy,” Olson said.

During her mayoral tenure, Schlenker also served as president of the League of Oregon Cities from 1995 to 1996 and sat on the board of directors of the National League of Cities from 1993 to 1996.

After her time as mayor ended, Schlenker worked on the Oregon Government Standards and Practices Commission beginning in 1998, and in 2000, she threw her hat in the ring as a Republican candidate to represent Oregon’s 1st District in Congress. This was prior to redistricting as Lake Oswego is now part of the Fifth Congressional District.

“No matter how busy she was running the city or running for Congress, she would always ask me about my family,” Olson said, “and she didn’t just ask; she really wanted to know what they were up to, how they were doing. She always wanted to know about my boys. That’s how she was. She just had a huge heart.”

After losing the primary election to Charles Starr, who then lost to incumbent David Wu, Schlenker and her husband became frequent travelers, journeying to Athens to watch their daughter Lisa compete in rowing at the 2004 Olympic Games and spending time at their home in Longbranch, Wash. In recent years Schlenker remained involved in Lake Oswego, as president of the Lake Oswego Heritage Council.

“Aside from all these accomplishments and everything she did, she was just a wonderful person,” Olson said. “She touched a lot of people in the town.”

Schlenker is survived by her husband of 53 years, Harold Schlenker; son, David Schlenker of Gig Harbor, Wash;. daughter, Lisa Schlenker of Madison, Wis.; and siblings, Richard, Robert and Phyllis Harper. Her brother, William Harper, preceded her in death.

A celebration of Schlenker’s life will take place on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at Lake Oswego Methodist Church, 1855 South Shore Blvd. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to Oregon Humane Society, 1067 NE Columbia Blvd., Portland, or Oregon Food Bank, 7900 NE 33rd Drive, Portland.