Peterson, on council since 1980s, seeking seventh term

Keith Locke.St. Helens Mayor Randy Peterson is facing a challenge from longtime City Councilor Keith Locke this year, in a rematch of the 2010 election in which Peterson was reelected.

Locke said Monday, Aug. 18, that he is running “to give the people a choice.” While he said he and Peterson agree on many issues, he pointed to his work on community events and features, such as the concert series 13 Nights on the River and the city-published Gazette, to argue he is stronger on what he called “quality-of-life issues.”

“A lot of people came and asked me to run, so I just feel that those people should have a choice on how their city’s run and how the future is,” said Locke. “I don’t know. I’m probably more of a visionary than the mayor is.”

He added, “I know that I get out in the public more than the mayor does, and I think that’s important in the community, also.”

Peterson presented a different view, when asked where he and Locke differ.

“I think that I’m more of a big-picture person, and he’s more of a micromanager,” Peterson said.

Peterson remarked, “I think that the people in St. Helens want a mayor that’s looking to the future and dealing with the big picture and the policy items of the city, and not what the day-to-day operations are, as a focus.”

St. Helens has a council-administrator system. Councilors are given portfolios that give them direct oversight and input into certain municipal departments — Locke, for example, is the city’s police commissioner — but the management of city functions is mostly left to staff like St. Helens’ city administrator, John Walsh, and department heads.

Locke said he also thinks the mayor’s “State of the City” speech, which has been delivered only periodically during Peterson’s tenure as mayor, should be given annually.

“People need to know what we’re doing in the city,” Locke said.

The governor traditionally addresses the Oregon Legislative Assembly each year for the State of the State speech, while the presidential tradition of the State of the Union speech is a well-known, nationally telecast, annual event.

Randy Peterson.If Peterson is reelected, he will receive his seventh two-year term in office as mayor.

Peterson said he is running again in part to continue shepherding the city through the planned redevelopment of the former Boise Cascade Co. veneer plant site south of Old Town. St. Helens has entered into an agreement with Boise Cascade to purchase the property, and the deal is expected to close this fall.

“I think we’ve got a great opportunity to turn that industrial land into a mixed commercial-residential project, and I think that will really start to revitalize the downtown. There will be a mix of public areas there, too, along the riverfront,” Peterson said.

Asked about the city’s recent accomplishments under his leadership, Peterson said he thinks the City Council responded well to the economic downturn, which he said he sees subsiding now.

“We’re in a really good position ... to continue to provide the services that the city needs,” said Peterson.

Peterson swept Locke aside easily in 2010, winning 56.4 percent of the vote to 42.1 percent for the challenger.

The two also faced each other in the 2006 election, with third candidate Tami Dodel also on the ballot. Locke came closer in 2006, winning 35.8 percent to Peterson’s 38.1 percent — a 79-vote difference.

Locke has served on the St. Helens City Council since 2001. Peterson was elected mayor in 2002, but he has been on the council since 1989.

The election will be held Nov. 4.

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