Philomath will swear in its first new mayor in six years during the city council’s January meeting and based on the results from the Nov. 6 election, Eric C. Niemann will be the individual holding up his right hand to take the oath.
Based on unofficial results counted by the Benton County Elections office, Niemann received 1,259 votes compared to Jerry J. Jackson Sr.'s 759 votes. That comes out to Niemann receiving 61.6 percent of the vote.
"I think key attributes of being the mayor are one, you have to be a good visionary and get an idea of where we're trying to go as a city. I think we've done some of that in our strategic plan development over the past two years," said Niemann, who learned of the results gathered with family and friends. "But I think you also need to be able to think in terms of bringing people together in a collaborative effort toward those common goals, be an active listener to citizens' input.
"I think that's been one of my distinguishing characteristics that voters have acknowledged tonight and visualize those as we make future decisions," he added.
In the battle for Philomath’s six city council seats among nine candidates, those winning seats include Chas Jones with 1,337 votes, Marion Dark with 1,244, Terry Weiss with 1,225, Doug Edmonds with 1,102, David Low with 1,054 and Matthew Thomas with 869.
The battle for the final seat was close with Thomas edging Noelle Cummings by just 42 votes, her total coming in at 827. Jason Bushnell had 794 and Candy Koetz received 711. There were 151 write-in votes.
Four of the top six will be newcomers to the city council with two of the three incumbents running retaining their seats.
The city’s land-use decisions over the past several months have been a topic of interest. Jackson has expressed excitement over the economic development opportunities awaiting the city. Niemann attracted some attention among constituents after being the only councilor to vote against recent decisions related to the Millpond Crossing housing project.
"I think as I've said before, it's definitely been a hot-button issue," Niemann said. "Over the last year since we've had large land-use decisions around the Boulevard Apartments and the Millpond development, it has really brought that to the forefront as far as the rate of the growth that's happening in Philomath and weighs heavily on the minds of voters."
Land-use decisions will continue to show up on city council agendas in the coming months.
"I think each situation is unique upon to itself and has to be looked at based upon the circumstances associated with that development and the findings of fact as presented by staff, the input of the opponents, proponents and neutral parties that speak at public hearings," Niemann said when asked about his approach to those issues in the future. "I don't try to predetermine how I'm going to vote; I try to take all of those inputs into my decision."
Both Jackson and Niemann serve on the current city council and have been active on various committees.
Jackson, a code enforcement officer in Polk County, has been involved with local government for years, including past stints on the city council. He was appointed to his current position when the elected councilor moved out of the city limits.
"Congratulations to everybody who won and obviously I'll be on the council for the next two months and I'm going to do my job and go about my business," Jackson said. "I've done a lot in 25 years for the city and I know that. I think the town's going to be turning in a direction from what I'm not quite used to."
Niemann, who works for IBM, has been on the city council since 2015, serving this past year as the president.
"I would like to thank the voters for electing me," Niemann said. "I am honored and humbled to represent the city of Philomath as its next mayor. I am deeply grateful for all the wonderful support from residents across the community throughout my campaigning. I am looking forward to working with the new council and city staff for the betterment of Philomath."
For Philomath voters, the Niemann-Jackson race represented the first time since 2006 that they had a choice. Every two years beginning in 2008, mayoral candidates ran unopposed with Ken Schaudt (2008, 2010) and Rocky Sloan (2012, 2014, 2016).
“I’m 62 years old and I’m busy with my business,” Jackson said when asked if he’ll miss public office. "It's something I wanted to do but it's not the end of the world. It's something that doesn't do any good for me to worry about. I'll stay busy with everything I do."
Niemann had kind words for his opponent.
"I would like to think Councilor Jackson for his service to the city of Philomath as a city councilor. I would also like to thank him for his service to our country as an Army veteran, given that Veterans Day is Sunday,” Niemann, who is also a military veteran, said last week. “I look forward to finishing our terms together as councilmen serving the residents of Philomath."
Countywide, voter turnout was 75.4 percent with 44,006 of 58,405 registered voters submitting their ballots.