by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tigard mayoral candidates Nick Wilson, left, and John L. Cook agree on the majority of issues, but come from two different backgrounds with the city.Voters in Tigard have less than a month before they decide on who will fill the remainder of Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen’s term.

But if voters are looking for major differences in the two candidates for mayor, they might be disappointed.

City Councilor Nick Wilson and lifelong Tigard resident John L. Cook agree on the majority of issues and have similar plans for how to lead the city over the next two years.

“We are on the same page on about 96 to 98 percent of where we feel the city should go,” Cook told The Times on Friday.

Both are in favor of the direction the city is heading and have similar views on the Tigard-Lake Oswego Water Partnership and development of River Terrace, the undeveloped area west of Bull Mountain along Roy Rogers Road.

The two candidates are running to fill the remaining two years of Dirksen’s four-year term. Dirksen is stepping down in January to assume his new role on the Metro Council.

For more on the candidates' views, see our Tigard mayoral questionnaire

Community involvement

The biggest difference between the candidates, Wilson said, is their backgrounds.

“Because I am involved in the city and all the projects that are going on, I know a lot about them,” Wilson said.

Wilson, Tigard’s longest serving city councilor, has been involved in the inner workings of city government for nearly two decades and has been a key player in many of the city’s current projects.

Wilson said that experience on the council was important, and his role in city government was what led him to run.

“Being the longest serving councilor, the finger points at me automatically,” he said. “Even my own finger points at me. There are so many important things going on. I feel a sense of responsibility.”

Cook is an active member of the community and Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce. He has nearly two decades of experience as chairman of Washington County’s budget committee, but has never held elected office.

Cook, the son of former mayor John E. Cook, said he grew up knowing he would someday run for mayor. He has held off running for the seat, or serving on the City Council, to play an active role in raising his children.

Despite his lack of experience in city government, Cook has kept abreast of city issues.

“I’m not stepping into this cold,” Cook said. “I grew up with community involvement. I grew up involved in the city.

“I have been involved in the background, but haven’t been in the chair like Nick has.”

Cook said he wants to make city government more accessible for residents and plans to start monthly coffee sessions to discuss issues informally with residents.

“To me, it’s about the community involvement,” Cook said. “It’s getting citizens from the chamber board, with the Rotary, with the Little League on board when we are talking about developing a field to play on. I have those relationships, and I can bring that to the table already. I know the players, and I work with them on a daily basis.”

Work in progress

Much of the issues the mayor will tackle in the next two years are already in the works.

“There is a lot in the pipeline, like downtown redevelopment, that will happen no matter which one of us wins,” Cook said.

Plans for River Terrace and the Tigard-Lake Oswego Water Partnership will take up much of the discussion over the remainder of Dirksen’s term, as will plans for eventually bringing high-capacity transit to Tigard and beyond to Sherwood.

Wilson and Cook both support a referendum before voters on the November ballot that asks whether voters should, or shouldn’t, have a say in plans for light rail.

Wilson called light rail a “lightning rod issue” for voters, after attempts to stop light rail were passed in King City and Clackamas and nearly made it onto ballots in Tigard.

No plans to build a light-rail line have been made, but officials are talking of building some sort of high-capacity transit in Tigard over the next few decades.

Wilson said he would like to see a light-rail line through town to finish the transit system started in the 1980s.

“One quarter of the (greater Portland area) is not on the system,” Wilson said. “And yet, we all still pay TriMet taxes.

“I live in an area that is not well served by TriMet, but I’ve been paying taxes to TriMet for years. There’s a little bit of an equity issue there.”

Cook said he supports building a rapid bus line through town, similar to lines built in Eugene.

Both agreed whatever type of transit line is eventually approved, the line should not run down Pacific Highway.

“Highway 99W is a mess already,” Wilson said. “People are already thinking they want to get us out of our cars, and no, no, no, that’s not where I’m at. That is more of a Portland sentiment than a Tigard one.”

If elected, Cook said he would seek re-election in 2014.

Wilson said if elected there would be nothing stopping him from running, but stopped short of committing to seek re-election for a full, four-year term.

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