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He's a consensus builder

John Carr has built a career around conflict resolution


TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - A skilled mediator and negotiator, John Carr is running for mayor in the hopes of solving some of West Linn's longstanding problems and strife.John Carr’s skill as a mediator dates all the way back to childhood family dinners.

His family was always politically engaged — his father a registered Republican while his mother sided with the Democratic Party. Healthy debate often emerged around the dinner table, and through the years Carr continued to learn the art of bridge building through student government, community organizing and professionally during negotiations and mediations conducted by his Lake Oswego-based law firm, Carr Butterfield, LLC.

Now, Carr hopes to put those skills to test in a different forum as he runs for mayor of West Linn.

“I do a lot of work with negotiation and mediation,” Carr said. “(I’ve worked in) really emotionally charged situations, and I think I could bring that skillset to the table and help solve some problems.”

Carr, who was born in Portland and raised in Salem, took part in student government during his high school years, while also helping organize for his father.

“My dad was on the school board in Salem for eight years, so I did work canvassing for bond levies for them early on,” Carr said.

Carr would later become president of the student senate at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, where his proudest accomplishment was convincing the Board of Regents to divest from South Africa at the height of the apartheid. When he moved to Portland as a young attorney, Carr was named co-chair of the Portland Organizing Project and led an effort in favor of a $24.6 million housing investment trust fund.

“I’ve always been active and have helped out behind the scenes in some federal campaigns and local campaigns, bond levies,” Carr said. “I’ve always been involved, but not out front.”

That changed, of course, when he decided to run for mayor. As a 15-year resident of West Linn with connections ranging from his neighbors to the West Linn Lutheran Church, youth sports and the school district, Carr observed the comings and goings at City Hall and felt the time had come for him to step up into a leadership role.

“I’ve been watching what’s happening at City Hall, and we had a relative period of calm for a few years,” Carr said. “But...there’s been a lot of turmoil and unneeded strife at the City Council level and the city level period, and I really feel like I could come in there with my background and help make a difference.”

Specifically, Carr cited budgetary concerns and the significant expenditures that came alongside a slew of recent separation agreements for high level City staff members - including City Manager Chris Jordan and Assistant City Manager Kirsten Wyatt.

“There’s finite resources in the city and very little discretionary monies and funds available,” he said. “The handling of the termination of the city managers, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and severance packages ... just for lack of a better word, that was one of the tipping points.”

Carr thinks of himself as a “consensus builder” and also notes that his familiarity with Oregon land use laws would give him a head start as mayor. His overarching approach as mayor would be to focus on process and remain unbiased even in the most trying of situations.

“There’s a lot of emotionally charged issues, whether it be the planning process or what have you,” Carr said. “The mayor has to not get emotionally invested and help bring a solution that works for the city. Not every decision is going to be welcomed or liked by all parties, but you’ve got to do what’s right for the city.

Carr said he has enjoyed the campaign process so far, particularly in that it has allowed him to meet residents and understand what they want from city government.

“The best part has been canvassing and meeting people,” he said. “Meeting our neighbors and listening to them and hearing their stories and seeing how we can help them and work together. Business leaders current and past, political leaders in town, neighbors and friends and acquaintances that have not been involved are getting involved. It’s energizing, it’s really energizing.”

In his spare time, Carr enjoys a variety of outdoor activities, from water and snow skiing to running and “a lot of hiking.” He also enjoys playing golf on occasion and, of course, spending time with family.

“We love our neighbors, love our community and we’re really involved in our church community,” Carr said. “(We) love coaching my kids and their friends in basketball and soccer, volunteering in the schools and helping out wherever we can.”

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..