Newcomer David Bajorin was appointed to the Canby City Council Wednesday night, replacing Marine veteran Jordan Tibbals with another service member (Bajorin is a 13-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and Reserve).
The decision came after more than two and a half hours of discussion and interviews of the many suitors for the role (an even dozen had applied for the position, but two — Amanda Short and Alan Gallagher — dropped out before the meeting began).
Bajorin, who is an HVAC technician for Roth Heating & Cooling and a father of two, appeared during the last Canby City Council meeting on Sept. 16 to speak out against an online bullying episode involving the family of Councilor Sarah Spoon.
Though Bajorin did not mention this during his comments Wednesday, Councilor Chris Bangs made the callback, saying the gesture impressed him. Bangs said he admired many of those who had thrown their hats into the ring — but at the end of the day, there was only room for one.
“The truth is we had a lot of good candidates for this,” Bangs said. “Of all these good candidates, only David Bajorin came to our last meeting to stand up when a child in our community was under attack by adults. I really admire that stance that he made. I think that’s a big deal.”
Bajorin’s appointment was something of a surprise, as conventional wisdom would likely have favored the more experienced Jason Padden, a former councilor, Canby Budget Committee chair and current planning commissioner.
Padden had sought the seat during the previous appointment process, and campaigned for it in the general election last November — often aligning with Spoon and Bangs, while the more conservative trio of Tibbals, Council President Traci Hensley and James Hieb ran together.
He filed his application for the seat on Sept. 2 — the day after Tibbals resigned it — and gave a near-flawless interview Wednesday, making the case that his wealth of experience would give him the shortest learning curve for a term that expires in less than 14 months.
Bangs admitted Padden had been at the top of his list before Wednesday night’s interviews, and Spoon also expressed her appreciation.
“I have so much respect and adoration for Jason Padden,” she said. “I don’t want to lose him on Planning Commission right now. He is so good there.”
Bajorin leaned heavily on his military experience in making his case for the job.
“I excel under pressure and duress because that’s what most of my working life has been,” he explained. “I spent most of my career in the Coast Guard doing search and rescue. Everything else seems a little easier by comparison after everything I’ve been through — saving lives in, you know, nature’s worst.”
He also made a strong call for unity, both within the city and the council, and promised that he would be someone who would help get things done and move the community forward.
“One of my biggest frustrations in life is promising talk without any follow-up action,” he said. “So my goal would be to simply get to work and make things happen that the city needs. In my mind, it’s not about what’s good for us in our individual bias or needs — it’s about the legacy we leave behind for future generations.”
Though he was ultimately appointed by a near-unanimous vote, Bajorin was not the first candidate to be put forward Wednesday night. Hensley made the first motion, nominating Hieb, who had also applied for the position.
Hieb finished fifth — just behind Tibbals — in the hotly contested November run-off. And though he had earned only eight votes more than Padden (a difference of .02%), Hensley argued that this should be the deciding factor.
“He would have been next in line as far as the electorate’s choice,” she said. “I want to heed the voice of the community in that, that they would appreciate having a Councilor Hieb on the board.”
Hieb’s appointment failed, 2-3, with Hensley and Councilor Shawn Varwig in favor. Varwig then moved to appoint Brad Clark, a pastor and longtime librarian for the City of Wilsonville, who had also made a stirring case for unity and nonpartisanship on the council.
Both Bangs and Spoon expressed admiration for Clark but admitted that they had other candidates they felt would be a better fit for the city’s needs. In an apparent miscue, Hensley then attempted to put forth another motion before the vote on Clark had actually taken place.
She did not, however, nominate Padden, whom the Canby electorate gave 4,262 votes last November, but instead reached for Cindy Lang, who had not been on the ballot.
Clark’s appointment was also turned down on a 2-3 vote, setting up Spoon’s motion for Bajorin. Varwig joined the progressive bloc in supporting the newcomer.
“I’m going to go ahead and get behind this,” Varwig said. “He wasn’t first on my list or second, but I think that he would make a very good councilor.
“And I just want to put this challenge out to our entire council: Forget the past. Forget the bumps in the road that we’ve had. It’s time for us to move forward in unity and respect for one another — for the greater good of our community.”
Hensley was the lone vote against Bajorin.
“I just feel that we should have gone with Mr. Hieb, because he was the constituents’ choice in the election,” she explained. “And I am elected to represent our constituency, and so, therefore, I feel like I am representing them now, so that is why I’m voting no tonight.”
But Spoon pushed back, pointing out that most of the candidates for the vacancy had not been on the ballot in November, so it was impossible to guess whom voters would have preferred.
She also referred to the controversial decision by the then-conservative majority, including Hensley, to appoint local attorney Tyler Smith to a vacancy in late October 2016 — less than two weeks before a general election in which the voters could have had their say in who should fill the seat. (Smith was not a candidate in that race, and he declined to seek another term in the next election.)
“To me, that has not been part of how we have viewed appointments in the past,” Spoon said. “If every single one of these candidates had run for office, we would have a feeling about how the general electorate felt about them, but that wasn’t the case.”
Bajorin will be sworn in at the next council meeting Oct. 20 and will serve through December 2022.
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