Craig Dirksen will run unopposed for regional seat
TIGARD - Mayor Craig Dirksen will run unopposed in May's primary election for Metro Council District 3, and candidates are already stepping in to fill his place in Tigard should he be elected.
Dirksen announced in September that he was running for a seat at Metro - the Portland-area regional government that oversees land-use and transportation planning in Portland and the suburbs, as well as operates the Oregon Zoo.
Candidates had until Tuesday to file to run against Dirksen.
With no opponents, Dirksen is all but assured the position currently held by term-limited Councilor Carl Hosticka, of Tualatin.
'What I hope this means is that based on my background and my record, the vast majority of people in the district looked at me and said he is a good guy for the job,' Dirksen said. 'I have the right background, the right attitude and the right position on a lot of the issues.'
Metro District 3 represents Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood, Durham, King City, Wilsonville and parts of Beaverton.
Dirksen compared the regional issues Metro faces with Tigard, which has had to deal with massive growth, congestion and land-use issues.
'We have had to learn to be creative, and on a larger scale that's what has to be dealt with regionally at Metro,' Dirksen said. 'It has given me the right experience at a local level for regional issues.'
Metro council candidates must first run in a primary election in May before the general election in November. If Dirksen receives more than 50 percent of the primary vote, he will be elected outright.
Dirksen is a transportation advocate who currently serves on Metro's Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation. When he announced his candidacy in September, he said that he was concerned about federal funding for transportation projects in the Portland area, such as the proposed high-capacity transit line that could mean MAX lightrail coming to Tigard.
Dirksen also has ideas for Metro's Urban Growth Boundary and rural reserves, and how the programs should be implemented in the future.
As a Metro councilor, Dirksen would earn about $38,156 a year for the part-time position.
Candidates eye mayor seat
With the mayoral position up for grabs, some Tigard residents have already announced their candidacy.
One of those is lifelong Tigard resident John L. Cook, who said he would eye the mayors seat in a special election.
'I've been thinking about it for years,' said Cook, whose father John Cook Sr. served as mayor in the 1980s.
The younger Cook, a certified public accountant, said that he thinks the city is on the right track and would work to continue the city's current projects.
'I'm not running because I think they are doing a bad job,' Cook said. 'I want to continue to focus on things they are working on like the water district and annexation issues (near Southwest Roy Rogers Road).'
Cook said he would also like to see a city parks and recreation district.
'Those are hot buttons for me,' he said.
Cook is a familiar face in Tigard, and has served for 16 years as the chair of the Washington County Budget Committee, treasurer of the Tigard Area Chamber of Commerce, has received Tigard's First Citizen award and serves on a dozen other committees and local groups.
Tigard City Councilor Nick Wilson has also thrown his hat into the ring, saying he will run to fill Dirksen's seat.
Serving city councilors can't run for the mayor's seat under city ordinances, but city councilor Nick Wilson and fellow councilor Marland Henderson are up for re-election and eligible to run.
Wilson said Tuesday that he would throw his hat in the ring if Dirksen were to leave for Metro.
'I have 10 years experience,' Wilson told The Times on Tuesday. 'I think I have a lot to offer.'
Wilson first joined the council in 2003 and served one term. He was appointed to serve the rest of Councilor Sally Harding's term in 2007 and was re-elected in 2008.
'Next to the mayor, I am the longest-serving councilor right now,' he said. 'If I were going to run for something, it would seem weird to run for council again and not go after the mayor position.'
Wilson said that he had been asked by many in the community to run for mayor, and had been considering it for some time.
'It seems a natural progression; that's why people have been asking me,' he said.
Wilson said that he would continue on the same path that Dirksen has focused on as mayor: continuing to address the city's congestion issues and working to improve the downtown area.
'Dirksen has been a great mayor and the city has had an exceptional period of continuity and stability because of that,' Wilson said. 'We've been able to get a lot done.'
Special election could be in time for November
With no official challengers running against Dirksen in the race for Metro Council, Tigard city officials said that a special election to fill the remainder of Dirksen's term could be set up in time for the November general election, but final plans won't be made until after the primary.
Dirksen said the city has plenty of time to create a seamless transition for a new mayor to step in.
'The city won't have to consider appointing someone to fill the term,' Dirksen said. 'It will allow us to be much more democratic and go from one elected mayor to another.'
Dirksen, who is partway through his second term, would leave the council at the end of the year to join Metro.
'That was one of my major concerns was leaving city in the lurch, but having the election tied up this early gives the city time to do a nice transition, and that makes me feel much more comfortable about the whole thing,' Dirksen said.