The race for the Forest Grove City Council has been a refreshing departure from many campaigns this year. Four people, all wanting to make the city better, are running for three seats, mounting campaigns that highlight their differences without slinging mud on any of their rivals.

Under the city's rules, the top three vote-getters will be seated in January.

Our first pick is easy. Incumbent City Councilor Tom Johnston has done a good job in his first term on the council, studying the issues, asking probing questions and striking a good balance between sticking to his principles and finding compromise. He should return to the seven-member council.

Our second pick is also a pretty easy one. Camille Miller has been one of this city's most effective volunteers, sitting on city panels, the Chamber of Commerce board and church groups. She's savvy, diligent and a logical choice for the vacancy left by Deena Barrett, who's not running for re-election.

That leaves two men running for one seat. Incumbent Ron Thompson made a strong case for re-election during this campaign, knocking on the door of almost every voter and attending dozens of civic forums.

He's brought that same work ethic to the council during his first term. He studies the proposals and, when he sees a problems, quietly makes his point. His background in forestry and engineering has been a big help during some of the contentious development debates. Should he win re-election, Thompson would no doubt continue to serve the city ably.

Challenger Aldie Howard, on the other hand, is a bit of a wild card. It's not that he lacks experience, having served on the city council, local advisory panels, as well as working a couple stints as planning director in other cities.

Rather it's his blunt, blustery style that causes some to cringe. His brashness sometimes bleeds over to belligerence and his recent verbal attacks on city employees working on a client's subdivision were out of line.

So why does he get our nod for the final slot on the council?

Because Howard calls 'em like he sees 'em, and he usually does a lot of looking before he opens his mouth. To be sure, he would complicate discussions, vex his colleagues and, at times, prove to be a royal crimp in our collective keester. Should he be elected, we expect a jump in 6-1 votes on the council.

And that's OK. In fact, as the city grapples with the coming growth, it needs more people who habitually challenge assumptions, folks who not only think outside the box, but relish in asking 'Is this still the right box?'

Don't get us wrong. The current council lineup is solid. But we think returning Johnston and adding Miller and Howard will make it stronger.

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