John Colgan seeking seat on Cornelius City Council
A middle school math teacher and city volunteer is among the field of candidates for two open seats on the Cornelius City Council this fall.
John Colgan is one of three candidates who have been certified to appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. He's a member of Cornelius' city budget committee who teaches at Neil Armstrong Middle School in Forest Grove, just outside city limits — experience he said he thinks would lend itself well to serving as a city councilor.
"It's not a dissimilar job, really," Colgan quipped with a laugh. "You have to listen to everybody. You have to try to make everybody happy. You have to make sure you're meeting everybody's needs at all times, without upsetting anybody."
Colgan's background is in construction and engineering, although he said a tutoring gig in college prompted him to pursue a career in education, earning degrees in the field from Northern Arizona University and Concordia University. He said seeing the development happening in Cornelius has him thinking about how to preserve the feel of the city to which he moved about two years ago.
"We have 900 new addresses going in," Colgan said. "I'm a little concerned that we're going to start seeing that growth and we're going to get a little bit enamored with it and kind of forget how to … survive when we're not growing, because that will level out. And it needs to continue to be sustainable. There's no golden ring to grasp at. We're not competing with Hillsboro. We just need to focus on maintaining our community and the services that we can actually provide without that growth fueling it. And I think that's a difficult kind of transition for an area to go through."
Following on to his light-hearted comparison of being a middle school teacher to serving on the City Council, Colgan added, "Cornelius is kind of like a middle-schooler right now anyway. A lot of growth. A lot of potential. It's a little ugly here and there."
Still, he continued: "I love it here. I intentionally came here. I'm a transplant, I'm from somewhere else, but I intentionally wanted to be here, and I don't want to turn it into something else. I want it to be what it is — which isn't to say I'm opposing growth or change, but it has value."
Colgan is an unlikely politician, saying he has no plans to run for any other office in the future and doesn't expect to do much campaigning for the job this year. He said he doesn't feel the all-male, mostly white Cornelius City Council represents the minority-majority city's demographics well, and although he wouldn't alter the council's demographic makeup, as he acknowledged, he'd like to see it change in the near future.
"My main goal for doing this is to try and be replaced by someone that does look more like our community in four years," Colgan said.
Asked if that means he won't run for a second term if elected, he answered, "I would love to be replaced by someone else. Yes. I have no interest in continuing and being elected for anything else. I don't have any ambition in that regard. I just — I feel like we need to step up and do this for the community we're in."
In addition to serving on the budget committee, which has given him an opportunity to work closely with members of the City Council, Colgan said he also volunteers through the Cornelius Public Library and does charity work.
"I consider this just a little more volunteer work if I'm elected, as me volunteering my time to help the community," Colgan said. "And I think that I owe that to this community. … I feel at home here, and I never did in the 27 years that I spent in Arizona."
In addition to the responsible growth issue, Colgan said he thinks the city could do more to encourage public participation in the civic process.
A slim majority of Cornelius' population is Latino, according to the most recent available numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, yet engaging with Spanish-speaking residents has long been a struggle for the City of Cornelius, as it has been for other nearby cities like Forest Grove, Tualatin and Beaverton as well.
Colgan said the city needs to ensure that all Cornelius residents feel "safe" going to city facilities and attending public meetings. He also suggested officials could make a greater effort to provide more public notice for meetings — by law, "appropriate notice" must be provided for meetings, with Cornelius typically fulfilling that obligation by posting meeting materials online and having notices published in the News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune — and invite members of the community to attend and make their voices heard, citing this year's budget committee meetings as an example.
Colgan is one of two city volunteers running for City Council this year, and he said he plans to vote for the other, Luis Hernandez, who serves on the city planning commission — and, coincidentally, is also originally from Arizona.
The third candidate in the race is Andrew E. Dudley, who listed his occupation as a security officer on his candidate filing form.
The News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune previously published a candidate profile of Hernandez.
The top two vote-getters will be elected to the council for four-year terms, joining Councilors Steve Heinrich and Dave Schamp, as well as Mayor Jef Dalin, who is running unopposed for another two-year term this fall.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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