Jan. 9, 2023 — “I look forward to working with all of you for the next two years,” newly sworn-in Mayor Rob Ward said during a Florence City Council meeting on Jan. 3, which also saw the swearing in of two new city councilors, including Jo Beaudreau and Robert Carp. “I think we’re going to do some good things. And we have a legacy to follow, we have a lot of work to do — and I’m excited to see how good we really are.”
Ward, who had previously served as both councilor and mayor of Florence over the past couple of decades, swore to “uphold and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, the Constitution and laws of the State of Oregon and the charter and codes of the City of Florence” as City Recorder Lindsey White administered the oath of office.
Beaudreau, who owns a local art store in Florence and has served on the city's Public Art Committee, paused through her reading of the oath, holding back tears while Carp, a retired California law enforcement officer, remained stoic as both pledged to “faithfully perform the duties of Councilor to the best of their ability,” as long as they are in office.
The oath was given at the top of the second City Council meeting of the evening, which was preceded by the final meeting of Mayor Joe Henry and Councilor Woody Woodbury, who were retiring from their positions.
First council meeting
“For the last five years I’ve served on the city council, I have enjoyed it immensely,” Woodbury said in his closing remarks during the first meeting, thanking city staff individually, including Florence Planning Director Wendy FarleyCampbell, whose information made sure the councilors “got it right” when deciding what to do. Public Works Director Mike Miller and his team were “Johnny on the spot whenever there’s a problem,” said Woodbury.
A former law enforcement officer himself, Woodbury began to choke up when speaking about Chief John Pitcher and the Florence Police department as a whole.
“Your Department really has done a fantastic job. I am so proud of all the officers, your sergeants and the job that you’ve stepped into,” he said.
After thanking other staff, whom he said it was a pleasure working with, he ended with praise for City Manager Erin Reynolds, stating “It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you — you’re an asset to the city.”
Councilor Sally Wantz stated it was a pleasure working with Henry and Woodbury, wishing them the best in retirement, while Councilor Bill Meyer thanked them both for their volunteer time, saying, “I think this has been an excellent council. I appreciate working with each and every one of you.”
Both Wantz and Meyer will continue to serve on the council.
Mayor-elect Ward, who began the evening as a city councilor, listed some accomplishments of the council, including Revisioning Florence and the Old Town entrance.
“Your leadership has been impeccable, and it’s very much appreciated,” he said. “I look forward to doing my darndest to keep it going in recognition of what you guys have accomplished.”
Later in the evening, Reynolds thanked both Henry and Woodbury for their service to the city, beginning with Henry, who became Mayor shortly before Reynolds became manager.
“You embraced our city motto, what we have learned to know ourselves as ‘A City in Motion,’” she said. “And you were ready and willing to run hard and fast right alongside of us and supported us as staff, and as a community, to say ‘Yes’ and get things done.”
Henry, who had thanked staff individually in the last meeting, kept comments brief, thanking the council for its hard work over the years.
“I think we’ve accomplished a lot,” he said, thanking the staff and the community for their support. “Florence is a volunteer community and we wouldn’t survive without our volunteers. So, I want to thank everybody out there that does work to make Florence a better place to live.”
In summary, he referred to the saying that one should leave a place better than they found it.
“I think our council and our staff have done that.”
After thanking Woodbury and Henry, Reynolds spoke of the late Chief Tom Turner, who passed away in May of last year.
“It’s been a hard year — this last 2022 was really hard,” Reynolds said, pointing to a picture of Turner driving Woodbury and Henry in a CAT. “That was just really hard to lose a member of our team this year, and your support counselor Woodbury and Mayor Henry while we went through that made it bearable.”
After that, the meeting was closed, followed by a small reception serving cake and tokens of appreciation.
Second council meeting
At 6:30, after rising for the Pledge of Allegiance, Ward opened the meeting to public comments, the first of which was Michael Allen, who welcomed and congratulated the council’s newest members
“I’m officially submitting to you as new Mayor and Council a climate petition of behalf of the
Florence Climate Emergency Campaign with the request that you read it and respond in good faith and in a timely manner,” Allen said, stating that he was open to a meeting with Mayor Ward and any representative of the council.
The second commenter was Michelle Holtsberry, who said “I’m here tonight because I have been homeless for the last couple of years, and there’s a homeless shelter that has been housing people out of Florence, and they seem to be shuttering down.”
The Florence Emergency Cold Weather Shelter, which opens periodically throughout the year during times of dangerous outside temperatures, had been recently opened for a string of freezing days in December. As temperatures warmed up, the shelter temporarily closed down until the next period of dangerous weather.
“What can we do about getting some pods somewhere else so that we can use them?” Holtsberry asked. “Maybe I don’t know what the answers are, but that’s why I’m here, because I don’t like walking the street. There’s a lot of other people that are willing to do work, and we’re willing to make things happen or whatever you need to do.”
After the closing of public comments, the first order of business for the new council was to elect council positions, with unanimous approval for Wantz as Council President, and Meyer as Council Vice President.
The first resolution for the council was Resolution No. 1, Series 2023, which amended some meeting dates and times to work with the new council schedules. Work sessions were moved from Mondays to Thursdays, with the time shifting from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The resolution was passed unanimously.
Reynolds also informed the councilors and Mayor Ward they had multiple meetings ahead of them, including discussing the city’s work plan update, as well as preparing for the upcoming budget.
“There’s a lot of orientation and training in the role as a council and, most importantly, this will all feed into who you are as a council body and how you want to work together,” said Reynolds.
The council then approved the 2023 City Council calendar, which listed times and dates throughout the year for various meetings, including council meetings and work sessions, which were largely canceled during the previous council iteration. The council unanimously approved the calendar, which is subject to change.
Committees, commission and board sign-ups were next on the docket, allowing councilors the ability to give their preferences on a variety of city committees and local area government boards they would like to represent. Only a handful of positions were discussed, as the council had a week to review the material and make their recommendations to give to Ward, who has final approval on selections, per city bylaws.
Ward, who is currently the council representative for Lane Council of Governments, expressed interest in continuing in that role, while councilor Wantz stated she wished to continue being the ex-officio of EMAC, as well as a desire to sit on the Florence Urban Renewal Agency (FURA). Both Councilor Meyer and Ward showed support of the requests.
Carp asked to sit on the Transportation Committee, as well as the Transportation System Planning meetings, while Beaudreau was unsure if she wanted to be the ex-officio of the Public Art Committee, which she was a long-time member of.
“Also don’t forget we’ll be signing up for times on the municipal court, and councilor Woodbury was extraordinary in his dedication to that,” Ward said, adding that the municipal judge is one of only two city employees the council hires, along with the city manager.
The City provided a premade schedule, which included all new councilors and Ward, all of whom agreed to do so. Councilor Carp offered to step in if anyone couldn’t make an appointed time.
The Council then heard updates for department directors, starting with Pitcher, who updated the council on the Florence Police Department, including “some officers delivering gifts to 27 different families, representing 64 gifts.”
The gifts were donated by Three Rivers Casino, Green Trees residents and employees of the police department, among others.
As for New Year's Eve, “It was pretty uneventful, which for what’s happened over the last couple of months, that was a nice little break,” Pitcher said, reporting that no DUIIs were given that night.
FarleyCampbell then announced the final meeting Housing Implementation Project Plan Stakeholder Team would be held on Thursday, Feb. 2, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Florence Events Center.
“They will be reviewing the final work product that will be delivered and noticed for public hearing and for consideration in the work plan,” FarleyCampbell said, also mentioning that the Transportation Systems Plan Stakeholder Advisory Committee will be meeting on Feb. 8.
FarleyCampbell then gave an update on recent approvals made by the Planning Commission, including the rebuilding of the Dairy Queen, which burned down in 2021.
“I don’t typically mention those here, but because one of them does happen to be Dairy Queen and everybody is just dying for that,” FarleyCampbell said, adding “Blizzards are on the way.”
Also approved was a “gastropod food pod court” by Mini Pet Mart.
Miller’s update on Public Works started by stating, “Just so that you know, and the audience knows, we do track the weather.”
Since the last council meeting, a major storm hit parts of Oregon and Washington, which included freezing temperatures and blackouts throughout the state. Mapleton saw several homes without power, but Florence was relatively untouched.
“I was tracking it, getting weather alerts, listening to the National Weather Service broadcasts and getting their information and then keeping my staff, our public safety staff and management team apprised of the conditions,” Miller said. “Thankfully, Florence being where we’re located, we’re in the banana belt. And so further to the north, Newport had freezing rain and slick roads, we stayed above temperatures.”
Reynolds later spoke on the closure of Highway 126 during the storm, a decision that was made by state officials.
“While we were lucky enough not to have it here, it did not make people very happy that they could not travel east on,” Reynolds said. “It was really hard to imagine it was pretty close to fine here, and a few miles east it was just a disaster zone.”
Subsequent rainstorms did create “significant” rain events, with one storm seeing three-and-a-half inches of rainfall. Several strong windstorms did cause over 20 trees down in various roadways, which were cleaned up by Public Works.
The storms did wreak havoc on the Mapleton water system, causing leaks that prevented tanks from being refilled. A community wide effort, including help from the City of Florence, helped bring emergency water to the community.
“It’s been very good to see that commitment and helping coming from a much larger community,” Miller said.
In final comments, Reynolds stated that the staff was “really looking forward to working with the five of you.”
The meeting wrapped up with comments from councilors, including Meyer who spoke of the Port of Siuslaw’s work with derelict ships, while Beaudreau reminded the community to attend the Siuslaw Family Table Event, a full report of which is covered in this week’s edition of Siuslaw News.
When asked for his comments, Carp simply said, “Good meeting.”