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Citizen's View: 'A true leader' in a thankless job

When one thinks of one of the most thankless jobs in our society, being an unpaid mayor or local councilor of a small city has to rank pretty high. Citizens have high expectations of local officials, and snarky comments and outright criticisms are so easily delivered in person because they are our neighbors.

Freedom of speech can also now be exercised in anger on the Internet by “voices” that choose not to be publicly identified. And “Monday-morning quarterbacking” reaches our city leaders in real time. But as I think of our own Lake Oswego mayor and City Council, and evaluate them on performance, they come out far to the plus side.

Let me first share my own evaluation.

Mayor Kent Studebaker clearly did not run to be mayor of the status quo. He ran to be mayor of a Lake Oswego that would have a healthy budget while delivering all the services we demand and a great city needs. His two years as Lake Oswego’s CEO has resulted not only in the financial well-being of our city, but in the emotional health of our community. He’s made tough decisions about the future sustainability of our city. He has involved stakeholders. He has chosen to lead rather than be a caretaker, and our city is regaining a vigor that causes a majority of its residents to be upbeat about the future.

You might question the validity of an evaluation of our city government from one individual, but it really would take a cynic to dismiss the evaluation of a majority of over 1,600 city residents from all neighborhoods. They were recently asked their opinions in a survey conducted by an independent entity. In that survey, a majority of LO residents had a very favorable opinion of their city, ranking it 8.6 on a 10-point scale as a place to live. And satisfaction with our local government has gone up a significant 11 points in the last two years. The majority of Oswegans like the direction in which Mayor Studebaker is leading this city.

Has the mayor and council received criticism from some? Of course! Our local officials have stood up for something rather than nothing. They have made tough decisions and made a few enemies. Leaders are probably not doing it right if everyone likes them. Local leaders in particular are under a microscope, and it is easy for local citizens to be critical of them. Doing the job is tough: critiquing the performance of others is easy.

Composer Leonard Bernstein purportedly said, “I’ve been all over the world and never seen a statue of a critic.” Mayor Kent Studebaker has led the City Council in making hard decisions that have vastly improved the quality of life in Lake Oswego, and we can look forward with optimism to the future. I doubt we’ll see a statue of him, but we should — not as a critic, but as a true leader. Not that Mayor Studebaker would want a statue — it’s a thankless job.

Darrell Brett is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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