Oregon City voters have selected current City Commissioner Rachel Lyles Smith as their newest mayor, replacing Dan Holladay, who in November became the first mayor in the city’s history to be successfully recalled from office.
In initial results Tuesday night, Lyles Smith was the choice from among a field of five — which also included former mayoral candidate Damon Mabee, Phil Heppner, Alex Josephy and Leslie Wright Jr.
“I want to thank the folks who supported my campaign — I couldn’t have done it without them,” Lyles Smith told The Canby Current Tuesday night. “And, of course, I want to thank the voters who are putting their trust in me to lead our city. After a very tumultuous 2020, I believe we are looking forward to brighter days ahead.”
In the unofficial results, Lyles Smith won in what amounted to a landslide in the crowded field, with 42% of the more than 7,000 votes cast. Businessman and motivational speaker Leslie Wright Jr. was second with 30%.
Josephy and Mabee each pulled in around 11%, while Heppner rounded out the field with 5% of the vote.
Lyles Smith said she is looking forward to working with her current colleagues on the City Commission on a variety of issues that are important to residents, many of which she said she heard from constituents during the campaign.
She said she was motivated to run because she felt like she was qualified for the position, and that she would have a lower learning curve than any of the four newcomers who had sought the post.
Not only is she a sitting commissioner, but she had served as commission president and interim mayor before Holladay’s recall.
“I felt I was the most capable of stepping into the position knowing what was going on and being up to speed,” Lyles Smith said. “I really felt like our community needed some stability.”
Lyles Smith will be sworn in as mayor after the vote has been officially certified — likely in April — after which the commission will need to appoint a replacement to fill her own unexpired term.
She said the city will seek applications and conduct interviews before making a decision.
Overall, she said she believes the greater scrutiny that came onto Oregon City in 2020 was positive for the city, drawing more residents to become interested and engaged in their local governance.
“I think the best scenario is that those folks would all continue to be engaged,” she said. “We need more people to be involved in the workings of our city. The more input we have, the better.”
Holladay had been recalled in a well-organized and well-funded grassroots effort, which appeared to show in the final result, with 68% voting in favor of the sitting mayor’s recall.
A longtime civil servant, Holladay had also served as a city commissioner and on the Oregon City School Board.
But he drew the ire of a wide swath of community members for a series of actions and statements throughout last year, from suggesting businesses reopen early in defiance of state coronavirus orders (which drew a threatening letter from the attorney general) to social media statements that were considered racially insensitive.
Turnout in the November recall — which was separate from, but roughly coincided with the timing of the general election — was much higher than the special election. Nearly 52% cast ballots on Nov. 10 while only 27% of eligible voters weighed in this week.
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