Candidates seek Sisters’ votes
Last updated 10/12/2022 at Noon
Hearing from three of the four candidates running for Sisters City Council at last week’s candidate forum, it is evident there is considerable agreement among them as to what the important issues are on Council’s radar.
There are four candidates running for three positions: incumbents Michael Preedin and Gary Ross, and two new candidates, Sarah McDougall and Susan Cobb. The two top vote getters will serve four years, the third will serve two. Mayor Preedin was unable to participate in the forum due to long-held previous plans. All four candidates provided information to The Nugget to help voters make their choices.
When each was asked why they are running for City Council, their responses all indicated an interest in being of service.
Preedin had two reasons for running: “I love interacting with people, serving the community, and helping plan for our future… I’d like to help complete some of the ongoing projects started during the last four years.”
Those ongoing projects include the Highway 20/Locust Street roundabout, Explore Sisters (the new destination management organization), the East Portal multi-modal hub, various street improvement projects, instituting housing efficiency measures, and wildfire mitigation.
Cobb told The Nugget, “We are in very dangerous times, and I want to help Sisters approach our shared future bravely, proactively, compassionately, and inclusively… Looking at challenges in advance assures we can talk about solutions rationally, implement what we can to be prepared, improve as needed, and therefore not be scrambling to address adverse events while in them.”
McDougall began watching Council meetings last spring via Zoom to get a better understanding of how the city runs. After being asked to run, which she hadn’t previously considered, she decided she is “very interested in being part of the process in the role of City Council.” She has an extensive volunteer resume and sense of community
“Sisters is going through a period of rapid growth and needs residents to invest time to insure we plan for additional growth and manage change well,” she said.
McDougall thinks she is up to speed on most topics, and is “fascinated with how the City runs.”
Current Councilor Gary Ross offered, “There are several activities and critical projects that the City is currently involved in that I would like to follow through to completion. Concurrently, we are in the process of hiring a new city manager. I think all of these are important enough for me to want to see them through to completion. I believe that continuity of the Council will be important to ensure that all of this has the best chance of success.”
All four of the candidates identified as concerns Sisters’ rapid growth, the lack of affordable housing, and our residents who are houseless.
Issues you would like to see the Council address in the next four years:
Gary Ross: “Top of the list is providing affordable housing to individuals who wish to live in our community. The proliferation of short-term rentals (STRs) and rarely occupied second homes has removed significant rental and ownership opportunities from our current housing inventory. This has been successfully addressed in other tourist destinations and we need to examine all avenues to address it here. This issue drives so many other topics the City has been discussing and struggling with, including our houseless population, attracting and retaining essential workers, and potential boundary expansion.”
Sarah McDougall: “Sisters’ most urgent need is affordable workforce housing. People who keep our city open and vibrant often cannot afford to live in Sisters, including teachers, medical professionals, and restaurant and retail workers. The answers are complicated and multifaceted. While it is important to keep Sisters’ charm and character by not losing our old-growth trees or allowing tall buildings, we must be at least open to discussing all reasonable solutions, including those that are new or unfamiliar.
“I have been working with the Sisters Cold Weather Shelter (SCWS) for about a year. I have watched how the City has addressed the needs of our local unhoused. Without placing blame, what I have seen are missed opportunities to work together toward solutions. While it is not the place of the City to become a service provider, I would like to see the Council work more with local non-profits such as SCWS to find right-sized solutions to assist our unhoused neighbors.
“In general, any topic discussed needs to be seen through the lenses of planning for growth and managing change.”
Michael Preedin: “New things we should consider doing include assisting the school district in future uses and long-term planning of the elementary school property; look even harder at fire mitigation, and defining what that means to local homeowners and business owners; look at UGB expansion as directed by state land use laws, and the ongoing Comprehensive Plan strategies. We should try and get urgent care/medical laboratory facilities into town. I think we have the bandwidth for a new public amenity. Something like a community center or pool facility or indoor sports courts. The key will be to work with other partners to gauge community interest/priorities and combine resources.”
Susan Cobb: “We are all going to be facing weather temperature extremes, droughts/flooding, increased fire frequency and duration, increased migration to Northwestern states, and many more challenges. I hope to influence forward thinking such that planning based on past rates of growth, past weather patterns, past water flows, etc., are given more frequent updates based on the latest known scientifically proven resolutions and reports.
“Wisely managing growth is the key… I will advocate to be prepared for the worst. That means looking at growth through the lens of the climate crisis, which shows increased risks. Affordable housing is indeed a priority for Sisters… I am additionally concerned about houseless people… More and more people moving west and north in U.S.A. will be coming with less. We need to have a plan for them, which is also good for Sisters.”
What do you like about living in Sisters?
Susan Cobb: “Fresh air, dark skies, good people, four seasons, lots of ways to be involved, quilting, and being with family”.
Sarah McDougall: “My husband and I moved to Sisters for a quieter life and the ponderosas. We were both ready for the small-town vibe of Sisters. We enjoy walking the trails and around town, sitting on our porch drinking coffee and saying hello to people and dogs walking by… I also have found people to be very friendly, which makes me happy.”
Gary Ross: “Small-town friendliness. People know you by your dog, car, bike, house, or yard, even if they are meeting you for the first time in person. (Oh, you have the Dalmatian…) A town full of laidback events where you can walk or bike everywhere. Great businesses where they know and greet you when you walk in or have your favorite beverage waiting before you order! It’s like my childhood in Maine, amongst the birches and ash trees, was dropped in the ponderosas and junipers of Oregon.”
Michael Preedin: “As an Air Force veteran, I have lived all over the world and chose this particular city above anywhere else. I love it that much.”
The last day to register to vote is October 18. Ballots will be mailed out October 19. There is a ballot drop box in front of City Hall, which will open on Friday, October 21, and close on November 8 at 8 p.m. You may also mail your voted ballot in your postage-paid return envelope by 8 p.m., Tuesday, November 8. Ballots that are mailed, postmarked by the United States Postal Service by 8 p.m. on Election Day, and received by the Clerk’s office by November 15 will be accepted. Remember to sign your ballot envelope.