Mayoral hopefuls hold initial (non)-debate

Steve Callaway, Aron Carleson appear at ‘Meet the Candidates’ chamber forum.

Created on Thursday, 03 March 2016 13:35

The two candidates running for Hillsboro mayor this year have a lot in common.

Steve Callaway and Aron Carleson both have served on the city council — where their voting records are mostly aligned. They’ve both volunteered their time to several city committees and commissions. And they’ve both spent years in different capacities improving the lives and educations of the city’s youth.

So when city residents vote in November 2016, how should they differentiate between two candidates who have such similar political experiences? 

During a Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce Q&A/Meet the Candidates forum at the Walters Cultural Arts Center Tuesday, representatives from the school district, the Hillsboro Hops baseball team, Bag&Baggage Productions, the city, Washington County and several local businesses had the opportunity to hear from each candidate and then discuss their plans to direct the city into the future.

“We have a similar vision for what we want Hillsboro to be,” Callaway said. “And because we’re so similar, [voters] will really need to look at our experience and backgrounds to see our strengths.”

For the next mayor, “Continuing to work toward common goals will be important,” Callaway added.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - With nearly a decade of city council experience, Aron Carleson plans to focus on serving the underprivileged if elected as mayor. Fifty percent of students are on free or reduced food programs, Carleson said. Were creating a bigger divide in the economy than we had before -- [the minimum wage] increase will hit us all.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE – With nearly a decade of city council experience, Aron Carleson plans to focus on serving the underprivileged if elected as mayor. “Fifty percent of students are on free or reduced food programs,” Carleson said. “We’re creating a bigger divide in the economy than we had before –– [the minimum wage] increase will hit us all.”

“The future will take dedication,” Carleson said. “Being mayor isn’t a natural progression after volunteering. It’s the ultimate volunteer opportunity.”

To sway voters, Callaway hopes to lean on his current, relevant council experience while Carleson believes her business experience and money management skills — as well as years of accumulated council time — will set her apart.

And both know they’ve got big shoes to fill, as current Mayor Jerry Willey has done well to establish his own legacy.

“Regional relationships have grown through [Mayor Willey],” Carleson said. From creating a regional mayor’s group to actually attending other mayoral events, “His work shows how the job of mayor has grown.”

“I’ve always been amazed by the vision our former leaders have had,” Callaway echoed. Complimenting Willey’s foresight in bringing TriMet’s MAX line to the city and the planning of the city’s water infrastructure, “I would like to carry all that forward,” Callaway said.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE - Hillsboro City Councilor Steve Callaway made jokes and was generally casual during his appearance at the Chamber of Commerce Q&A/Meet the Candidates forum Tuesday.  The first 30 of those days will be spent encouraging Willey to keep packing, Callaway joked when asked what he would do during his first 90 days as mayor.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: TRAVIS LOOSE – Hillsboro City Councilor Steve Callaway made jokes and was generally casual during his appearance at the Chamber of Commerce Q&A/Meet the Candidates forum Tuesday. “The first 30 of those days will be spent encouraging Willey to keep packing”, Callaway joked when asked what he would do during his first 90 days as mayor.  

They also addressed the failed two-way street conversion, which both candidates originally supported in May 2014.

“It became a polarizing issue,” Carleson said. “I’m glad they took it off the table.”

Carleson discussed finding the silver lining in the two-way about-face by remaining hopeful other solutions for downtown improvement efforts can be found.

“Downtown revitalization has always been a priority,” Callaway said. “We understood from a business standpoint its necessity … some business loans hinge on two-way traffic.”

But with the conversion conversation in the past, both candidates intimated they’d be looking into other areas where Hillsboro residents need immediate help — specifically issues related to livability, cost of living and minimum wage increases, as well as growing cultural diversity.

Both candidates have until July to formally file to run for mayor, so voters have plenty of time to learn all they can about Carleson and Callaway — who know quite a lot about each other already, Carleson said.

“We’ve been friends for a long time … it should make our campaigns cleaner,” she said. “It’s about doing the work.”

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