WEST LINN, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — A new mayor. Two new councilors and a third new one to come in a few months.
The 2020 election changed quite a bit for the West Linn City Council.
Jules Walters, a councilor of the past two years, will be sworn in as mayor in January. As of the latest counts from Clackamas County, council newcomers Rory Bialostosky and Mary Baumgardner will join Walters and Councilor Bill Relyea to govern the city (the county said it would next update results Nov. 12).
“I’d like to thank all the voters of West Linn and all of my supporters and my family and my friends,” Walters said shortly after the first returns were released Tuesday, Nov. 3. “I’ve learned a lot while running this campaign. I promised from the beginning to run a positive campaign that’s focused on the issues. I’m glad that I was able to stick to that.
“If the numbers continue to look the way they do now — and it looks positive that I may win — I look forward to getting to work on the issues that drove this campaign including supporting our businesses, improving our roads, making the city a welcoming place to live for all and making sure that all residents of West Linn are represented.”
Baumgardner said she looked forward to working with each of her new council colleagues, as well as whoever may fill Walters’ seat.
For a city that’s been mired by racist policing scandals, city manager changes and a council bogged down by dysfunction, many in West Linn hope the new council will be a change for good.
“I’m looking forward to getting to work and moving the city forward and setting aside this dysfunctional rut that we’ve been in for so many years,” said the 21-year-old Bialostosky, who led a crowded council field with 23% of the vote.
“Maybe this is the turning point we need,” said mayoral candidate Andrew Mallory, who took 8% of the vote, according to the latest numbers from Clackamas County.
Robert McCarthy, who came in second in the race for mayor, besting councilor Rich Sakelik by five votes, said he spoke with many citizens throughout his campaign who were tired of the current leadership at City Hall.
McCarthy said these people told him they were exhausted with the council’s divisiveness, ineffectiveness and long meetings. They also told him they felt their voices were dismissed by those in charge. McCarthy wants to see the new council take these concerns seriously.
“This council has a lot of work cut out for it to regain trust, to change their decision making process so that citizens are involved much earlier and to develop an agenda that they all share,” McCarthy said. “They ran great campaigns. They won. I’m happy for them. I wish them luck and I wish them well.”
Sakelik, who took 24% of the vote in the race for mayor, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
During their campaigns, Walters, Bialostosky and Baumgardner each promised to engage with citizens to learn about their concerns and ideas. Specifically, Baumgardner said she wanted to hear from the community on their ideas for police reform.
Each of the candidates spoke, before and after the election, of desire to move the city forward.
With the West Linn community’s new interest in local politics evident by the number of candidates on the ballot (14), the number of total votes cast and undervotes revealed something more about this community interest.
The 2020 council election saw a higher voter turnout, by at least 5,000 votes, than in the past eight years at least. With 5,000 more ballots left to count in Clackamas County, election results showed that at least 27,000 votes were cast in the West Linn Council election and nearly 15,000 in the race for mayor.
In the 2018 race for council, 14,360 people voted. The next highest West Linn voter turnout in recent years was in 2016, when 22,260 votes were cast in the race for council.
Despite this higher voter turnout, some members of the community, including candidate Kim Bria, who trails Baumgardner by 200 votes, noted the number of undervotes in the council race.
Bria mentioned the undervotes in a post on her campaign Facebook page, adding she was thankful for everyone who voted.
An undervote occurs when a voter selects less choices than allowed for a race. In the case of the West Linn council election, voters were asked to select two candidates.
Election results show 8,413 undervotes for the West Linn council race, meaning 8,413 West Linn voters voted for only one candidate or no one at all.
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