The Philomath City Council will be getting a fresh perspective from a relatively new resident when Ruth Causey takes her seat at the table beginning in September.
The council on Monday night appointed Causey to the seat formerly held by Terry Weiss with a term that runs through the end of 2020. Four candidates had thrown in their names for the position — Causey, Noelle Cummings, Matthew Lehman and Doug Nelson.
Following interviews with the candidates during Monday's open meeting, the council first narrowed down its prospects to Causey and Lehman. The final vote ended up close at 3-2 with Doug Edmonds, Chas Jones and David Low favoring Causey, and Marion Dark and Eric Niemann going for Lehman. Councilor Matthew Thomas was absent.
“I think it’s heartening that we have a good collection of qualified people who are interested in the city,” Niemann said prior to the interviews. “In some cases in years past, we’ve had to scrape and beg people to step up and serve on city council, so again, that’s a good sign.”
The city had appointed Causey to its budget committee just this past January as a citizen representative.
“My experience on the budget committee has been a very positive one and I believe I’ve demonstrated my commitment to that committee and to the city by virtue of the research I’ve done and my participation in the meetings and suggestions I’ve made,” she told the council.
Causey, a native Oregonian who returned after retiring as a benefits consultant in San Francisco, believes she has the skills to benefit the public process.
“I believe there are two primary concerns that citizens have at this time,” she said. “The first is water supply both in adequacy and its affordability and closely behind that is the growth of the city. I think Philomath is a great place to live; I’d like to continue to see it remain a great place to live.”
Causey has lived in Philomath for nearly two years. During her time following city government, Causey said she believes that a sense of distrust exists toward those on the council.
“I pride myself on being able to get along and work with a lot of different people and I don’t think there’s anyone in this room that I couldn’t work with,” she said, referring to not only councilors but those in the audience who have been vocal during past meetings.
“I believe based on public comment that there are some issues to be addressed and some misunderstandings to be clarified,” Causey said, adding that she’s all for better communication with the public, including a suggestion to implement a “Coffee with a Councilor” program.
Lehman, a 17-year resident of Philomath who works as a regional sales manager, has a public service history that includes time on the city’s budget committee as well as a Philomath Youth Activities Club board position.
Lehman indicated that he wanted to increase his role in local government through what he believes is a transition period. Moving forward with a respectful discourse and as much transparency as possible along with fiscal responsibility were other points he brought up in his application.
Cummings, who works in human resources and administration, is another longtime Philomath resident who has some community involvement service, including as part of the current budget committee. She ran for a city council seat in the November general election and among the nine candidates finished seventh just 38 votes behind Thomas.
Nelson, a retired real estate appraiser, served on a few statewide and Lane County boards that had to deal with contentious issues. He indicated in his application that he wanted to be more involved with his community.