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Sep-16-2009 10:44printcomments

Chuck Bennett Says He'll Run for Salem Mayor

Chuck Bennett, Ward 1 City Councilor from inner north Salem, announces his candidacy for Mayor of Salem.

Chuck Bennett
Chuck Bennett

(SALEM, Ore.) - Chuck Bennett, 61, is a former newspaper reporter and editor, state legislator and currently works as Director of Government Relations for the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators. He moved to Salem in 1966 -- 43 years ago -- and graduated from Willamette University in 1970.

“When current Mayor Janet Taylor told me she would not seek re-election I took the time to talk with fellow councilors and citizens and determined that I could bring my experience in public service to the job at a time when it will be needed,” Bennett said. “This is a terrific town to live in and raise a family. I was blessed to have found it so early in my life.”

Bennett and his wife Cherie have one daughter and two grandchildren. They live in the Englewood neighborhood.

Bennett served seven years as a member of the city’s Budget Committee, which he also chaired. He also has been a member of the city’s Planning Commission, Cultural and Tourism Advisory Board, Executive Board of Travel Salem, Library Board, council subcommittees on Legislation, Boards and Commissions, Finance and Neighborhood Group Task Force.

In the early 1980’s he was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives from rural Marion, Clackamas, Linn and Lane Counties and served on House Committees on Agriculture and Natural Resources and Consumer and Business Affairs as well as the Speaker’s Policy Committee.

He has been on the board of Pentacle Theatre where he founded and directed the Northwest Playwrights’ Workshop at the theater for five years. He also was a founding member and treasurer of Friends of Opal Creek, which led the effort to create the Opal Creek Wilderness Area 50 miles east of Salem.

“Salem’s next mayor confronts major challenges as we emerge from the current recession. The city’s economic growth, creating more private sector jobs to balance our strong public sector employment base, is essential,” Bennett said.

“We are scheduled to rewrite the city’s zone code and determine the state mandated requirement that the city have an inventory of industrial, commercial and residential lands. This will have a long-term impact on Salem’s general livability. I intend to make this an open and inclusive process,” Bennett said.

“Salem city government has a reputation for delivering its core services -- police, fire and public works -- efficiently and cost effectively. Public safety in our homes and neighborhoods is the council’s number one priority. At the same time we expect city government to provide an excellent park and recreation system at both the neighborhood and community levels. Our library has been a point of local pride that we all expect to be open and up-to-date. Smart planning, well-considered decisions and wise investments will keep these services strong and capable of meeting our citizens’ needs and expectations.

“City government has developed an excellent working relationship with our local business community. This has led to vitality in our downtown that other communities use as a model. We are on a path to meet goals for housing, cultural, shopping and dining opportunities that make Salem not only a delight to live in but a destination for the region. We also are supporting redevelopment of the Boise Cascade site, Broadway north of downtown, Gaffin Road, the Mill Creek industrial site, and the Fairview sustainable community. Our conference center has been a remarkable success and the new Kroc Center will spark a renaissance in the Northgate Neighborhood off Portland Road.

“It’s difficult to catalog all of the positive activities under way in Salem. Look at the inner city neighborhoods, the ones I represent on the council, where individual citizens are investing in older homes, building new ones and opening small businesses at a remarkable pace. Confidence in Salem’s future is high.

“We also have a variety of challenges remaining unresolved. Along the railroad tracks our neighbors are awakened many times nightly by train whistles because we don’t have a quiet zone. Residents of West Salem face a huge bottleneck trying to cross the river to and from work each day, an issue we’ve been talking about for 40 years. We have yet to reach an agreement with the state to meet its impact on local services at the same time it pays no local taxes. Recent events have shown a real need for the city to develop public information and involvement strategies that go beyond the traditional news outlets,” Bennett said.

Bennett will need to collect signatures from at least 500 registered voters in Salem to qualify for the ballot. He has until next March 9 to collect the petition signatures. The election will be May 18. If no candidate receives at least 50% plus one vote, there will be a run-off in November 2010 between the two candidates receiving the highest percentage of the vote.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.