Today’s reality of serving in public office means that you will have your words and actions twisted, misconstrued and sometimes misrepresented. Both the extreme-left and the extreme-right do it, and it often keeps respectable statesmen and stateswomen from entering public service.Zupancic

Our Constitution protects our right to offer public criticism, but an eroding societal ethical code rarely restrains political opponents from making untrue allegations or assertions simply to advance a point of view. As important as public criticism may be, and the right to seek redress for grievances, it’s equally important for us to stand up for public servants when they show character, honesty and the guts to try to do the right thing.

Whether any of us do or do not agree with Mayor Kent Studebaker on any issue is not the issue. During a recent “State of the City” address at the Lake Oswego Rotary Club, Mayor Studebaker showed an uncommon willingness to answer questions directly, clearly and succinctly. He was honest and forthright. He did not hide behind talking points or dance around the issues. When asked if he and city councilors supported the Lake Oswego School District, he answered emphatically “yes!”

When confronted with the challenge about reinforcing community unity, he unequivocally responded that he will do all he can to promote such unity. He stated the city’s focused goals and priorities in an address that lasted only minutes, and then welcomed questions, comments and criticisms. What a refreshing openness and transparency.

He spoke of the process to re-examine the city’s comprehensive plan and how it will be open to public comment and debate. He made clear that the comprehensive plan should be a land-use planning charter, rather than a repository for marginally-related policy statements. He was plain and simple, perhaps a little too much so for some who think that government needs to be complicated and confusing.

Thank goodness we have someone like Mayor Studebaker who is willing to bring some common sense to local government. And even more importantly, thank goodness that he is willing to look at issues fairly, openly and is not dedicated to making his political naysayers look like idiots.

He appears as a gentleman, a statesman and shows a willingness to be tested.

In my book, that is the kind of principled person we need and want to be in public office.

As we speak so loudly about the values of this community that we hold so dear, and are engaged in the noble cause of maintaining what is uniquely special about the Lake Oswego community, let’s also appreciate leaders like Mayor Kent Studebaker who do what they do because they are men (and women) of principle, character and unshakable honesty.

Frankly, we need more people like him in government at all levels. Agree or disagree on any given issue, I stand beside him and support him and I encourage others to do the same.

Jim Zupancic, a former resident of Lake Oswego now living in Stafford, has a law practice in Lake Oswego and he and his wife, Marla, recently opened the Stafford Hills Club in Tualatin. He is a former Lake Oswego School Board member.

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