And yes, a new library is one of them

Canby Mayor Brian Hodson talks about the past and the future.If 2013 was nothing else for Canby Mayor Brian Hodson , it was a valuable learning situation – and one heck of a ride.

The first-year mayor and the city council were thrust into a contentious and emotional new library project situation. It was uncomfortable, divisive and got more than a little personal. But the fires of those trials have forged a mayor who enters 2014 not with trepidation, but with continued excitement about Canby’s future.

Hodson sees good things for Canby as a city and its residents. He also sees a real potential for a new library-civic building down the road – if voters give their okay.

That’s what learning on the job does for a new mayor about to enter his second year at the job.

“I very much learned that you can’t please everybody, not everybody at the same time,” Hodson said. “As a councilor I could be pretty dogmatic in my viewpoints and my positions on things. As mayor, though I don’t necessarily have a vote, my words carry impact, and I need to be able to take in and hear all sides of an issue and not only mediate within the council, but mediate the pieces outside in the public eye as well.”

The mayor, like the council, is often inundated with not only pages and pages of information to digest, but has to be available to the community.

Hodson said that being visible and being accessible are important to him, but he’s had to learn to manage the time it requires to hold down a full-time job, be involved in the family and serve as mayor. He wants to do them all at the highest level.

“The balancing of time has been a big learning piece for me,” he said. “There have been a lot of 1 or 2 a.m. emails to the city recorder or department heads with various questions because that was the only time I had free after the day’s activities.

“I really like being able to be visible and available,” he added.

“Again, it’s a balancing time thing. I do have a day job and need to put food on the table and a roof over my family’s head. But, I fully believe people need to be heard and need to feel they are being heard. We can’t always fix things, but we can note them and discuss them. I will listen to everybody, but it doesn’t mean I’ll agree with you. We can respectfully disagree on things.”

Hodson is ready to move ahead and sees plenty to like about Canby’s potential. He laid out much of that last week in his state-of-the-city address at the chamber luncheon. It was a speech filled with humor, honesty and optimism moving forward.

And that’s where Hodson hopes Canby can move – forward.

“I’ve really been talking with council and other entities asking them to not look at the hood of the car, but a mile down the road,” Hodson said. “there will be stuff we have to maintain and we’ve got some projects we’ll be doing.

“The library-civic building will continue to be a big conversation piece for the community,” Hodson added.

A vote in May will determine, in essence, if Canby residents are okay with the city using existing urban renewal dollars to fund the new library-civic facility, which will house city government offices. If so, the work on a new library will continue. If voters say no, the money will be used for other, “less sexy” projects around town, said Hodson.

The city is looking at several pieces of property around downtown that could be used to house the facility.

Hodson noted that while there is still a lot of angst about the loss of the Second Avenue plan for a new library, the current work represents the fourth library plan that has been considered since the Melody Thompson mayoral era.

“I see that over the next 12 months we’ll try to mend some fences that may have been hurt during this process,” Hodson said. “I worry that the greater piece of Canby may not really know about the issues involved. If you don’t read the Canby Herald or don’t watch the meetings on TV, people may not know much about what’s going on. We want to bridge any gap that may exist.

Big issues the city will face is the finding of a new city administrator as current head Greg Ellis plans to retire at the end of the year, and keeping an eye on the fiscal health of the city. Hodson said that while things seem stable, he doesn’t feel the city is out of the woods with its budget.

“The budget will be a concern,” he said. “Our finance director is really trying to drive home the point – as much as we try to do, we have to be cautious. That’s hard when you look at the pieces that you want to be able to do and finish.”

The city, he reminded, has a finite amount of finances to work with.

“Overall, we want to move from survival mode to a position of being able to really look ahead as a city,” he continued. “What projects can we do for Canby that will move us forward from a growth, economic development and even school perspective? Schools are big part of Canby. How do we keep Canby revered for its school system and on the city side and how do we support that?”

Hodson said the city is looking at ways to make those impacts real, including how to leverage SDCs as a tool to attract businesses and building codes.

“Are we doing all we can to be builder and business-friendly?” he said. “Do our building and business processes happen quickly, efficiently and in a timely manner so projects can get done? Can we help those businesses with the county end of things? Some of those pieces we’ll have movement on this year. They are foundational things that help solidify the direction we’re going as a community.”

Hodson pointed to a doubling of housing starts this year over last and other indicators that have him cautiously optimistic that the economy is moving upwards.

“We want to be cautious with what we’re doing and ask what are the right projects and right way to manage Canby’s growth,” he said. “We’re seeing a housing comeback and we have a major focus on economic development. There is interest in the industrial park and we’ve seen the film and music industry do projects in Canby. Oregon is still trying to find its way economically and Canby is part of that, but things seem to be picking up.”

But through it all, Hodson said that Canby continues to stay close to its roots. Key to that are the small business owners who are accessible, visible and involved in the community.

“When people say Canby is losing its small town feel, I say ‘I beg to differ,’” Hodson said. “This is just a friendly place and you can get out and see people and business owners being part of the community. That’s a nice piece of the Canby feel.”

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