The manager of last year’s successful campaign to recall former Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay has been appointed to fill a seat on the city commission that was made vacant by his ouster.
The removal of Mayor Holladay by 68% of voters in November’s recall election did not directly open a seat on the Oregon City Commission. But that did happen in the special election in March, when then-City Commissioner Rachel Lyles Smith was elected to fill Holladay’s unexpired term.
In Wednesday’s Oregon City Commission meeting, commissioners interviewed and reviewed applications by six hopefuls to replace Lyles Smith, ultimately settling on Adam Marl, a legislative intern for State Representative Jack Zika, R-Redmond, a senior at Willamette University and former campaign manager for the Committee to Recall Dan Holladay.
“It’s imperative that our policy-making processes include diverse perspectives who have a stake in our city’s future,” Marl said in his application for the position. “My track record of advocacy makes me suited to begin on day one. I’m not done fighting for my community and I’m ready to do it on the other side of the dais.”
Marl faced fierce competition for the job, including former City Commissioner Betty Mumm (also the owner of Ultimate Team Spirit in Canby), Pamplin Media Group Operations Director Vance Tong, longtime community leader and civic organizer Bob La Salle.
The field also included businessman and author Leslie Wright Jr. (who finished second to Lyles Smith in the special mayoral election) and former Oregon City School Board member and current Parks and Rec Chair Troy Bolinger.
In a letter to the mayor and current commissioners, Marl said he had been thinking about his role in local government following the campaign to remove Holladay — which managed to collect 1,000 more signatures than were needed to trigger a recall election — despite the Covid-19 pandemic and September wildfires that sparked mass evacuations.
He said he was initially reluctant to apply for the position given his age and seeming lack of experience.
“As I reflected more, I realized I was selling myself short,” he said. “I am in the middle of working my third session at the Oregon State Legislature and have a strong grasp of the issues. I have pre-existing relationships with many of our regional elected officials from having been involved in local government since high school.
“My studies at Willamette University in policy and communications have given me the necessary skills to do the job effectively. I have demonstrated my commitment to bridging divides as a community organizer.”
Most importantly, he added, he is a “product of Oregon City,” having grown up there after being adopted from South Korea at a young age.
“Oregon City is my home,” he said.
At 20, Marl was easily the youngest candidate in the field — indeed, he was the only hopeful not old enough to legally celebrate his appointment with a glass of bubbly. He may even be the youngest in the city’s history — though the records needed to verify that are scarce.
“Anecdotally, I would assume he is, but we don’t collect date of birth information from our candidates or commissioners,” explained Oregon City Community Communications Coordinator Kristin Brown. “Commissioners have to be at least 18, the legal voting age in Oregon, but we don’t hold date of birth information.”
But, in the end, Marl’s youth actually appeared to have been a strong point in his favor.
“I’m thrilled,” Lyles Smith said after the unanimous vote to install Marl in her former post. “I hope you’re ready. You’re going to have to jump in with two feet.
“It’s a lot of work, but clearly, there is a lot of confidence in your ability to step in and represent a component of our community that isn’t currently represented — the youth — and I’m excited about having that different perspective.”
Marl will indeed hit the ground running: His first commission meeting will take place immediately after he is sworn in at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 30. He will serve in the position through December 2022.
Lyles Smith and the other commissioners also expressed their appreciation to all who had applied, as well as their hope that they would continue to be involved in local government.
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