Council fills vacant seat at special meeting

Alex Dreher was appointed to Councilor-at-Large position in unanimous vote

February 03 - On Monday, Jan. 03, a Special City Council meeting was held to interview and select an applicant to fill the vacancy resulting from the resignation of Councilor Kenneth Michael Roberts at the Jan. 9 meeting. The City received eight applications, seven of which were Cottage Grove residents who met the qualifications of living within the limits for a period of 12 months. One application was rejected due to City Staff believing the applicant may “bark up the wrong tree” at council meetings (See story A3).

Those who applied for the open seat included: software developer and Opal Center founder Ivan DelSol, former councilor and Community Sharing board member Garland Burback, Director of business development and SLF&R board member Christopher Holloman (who recently ran against Dana Merryday losing by only 76 votes in the last general election.)

Interim American Rescue Plan Manager and Be Your Best Cottage Grove partner Alex Dreher was also interviewed. Retired business owner and Chief Deputy of East Texas Constables Office Don Rust also filed, along with Urban Moore, a retired business owner of Eugene Skydivers. Local meteorologist and Bohemia Mining Days organizer Scott Borgioli finalizing the list of applicants.

The meeting began with the same question posed to every applicant, except DelSol, who was not interviewed. Questions ranged from what important issues currently pose a challenge to the city, and what role city government should fill for citizens in a host of hypothetical scenarios — such as whether applicants would support an increase in water billing in Cottage Grove if data shows the need for the increase, or choosing between closing the library or laying off two police officers.

Every candidate was escorted into the council chamber by City Manager Richard Meyers and interviewed by the City Council. Roughly a minute was given to each person to answer but no official timer was set to close questioning. Of the seven strong candidates, one was to be selected. After the interview process was complete, one name continued to come forward during each of the City Councilor’s turn at discussion.

Mayor Candace Solsebee opened the floor to conversation to determine which top-three candidates they could see fill the seat. Councilor Dana Merryday first gave his thoughts.“ I was overall impressed by all the candidates. I’m blessed to have such a wide spectrum of people willing to step up to the plate. I was impressed primarily by the three candidates that really showed knowledge and understanding of the role of government and had a lot of experience locally. And those were Chris Holloman, Alex Dreher, and Donn Rust.”

Councilor Chalice Savaged followed, saying, “I feel like I just wrote notes after notes after notes, and I really appreciate everybody taking the time for coming out tonight. I was really impressed with Alex Dreher, Donn Rust and Scott Borgioli” “Alex Dreher really rose to the top for me, she had a lot of knowledge and information about what we're doing. Garland is probably right up there with me because I know him so well. And I would say my third or of the top three, Donn Rust would be in there.” said Councilor Mike Fleck, who also commented on the “wonderful process” and insight on what other community leaders are thinking.

“I was very impressed with Alex Dreher,” echoed Councilor Jon Stinnett, who was stirred by Dreher’s “depth and breadth of knowledge about what the city does and could do, but also being very solution forward.” he said, “I noticed that at just about every turn.” Stinnett’s additional choices, as with Merryday, were Chris Holloman and Donn Rust.

A similar sentiment was imparted by Councilor Greg Ervin. However, his thoughts were also on different government processes that came to mind for him while considering his choices. He thanked everyone for coming out and interviewing. “For me, I narrowed it down to the top two being Alex [Dreher] and Chris [Holloman],” said Ervin.

When Mayor Solsebee reflected on a previous appointment of Councilor Savage, who ran against Kenneth Roberts in 2020, her choice was to similarly stand by Holloman, who ran a close race with Merryday in the previous election. However, Councilor Fleck did not hold back against Holloman's appointment citing an “unfortunate” experience in the previous election cycle.

“I'm really sorry to say that, but I have to be honest about what I think is best for our city and for this council right now.” Fleck said.

Instead, Councilor Savage prompted a motion to appoint the most popular applicant interviewed by the council, “I really want to break the tension and support somebody who hasn't necessarily ruffled feathers. I would really motion to appoint Alex Dreher and see where we go with that.”

Councilor Mike Fleck responded with a second. “I think Ms. Dreher is the obvious choice. I'd be super proud to support her and I would think we did a great thing for our community,” said Stinnett, who at one point during discussion, expressed enough enthusiasm for her appointment that he would be willing to give up his seat for Dreher to fill.

After additional debate by the council, City Recorder Mindy Roberts called the roll. It was unanimously decided by the council that the appointment of Ward 4 City Councilor-at-Large would go to Alex Dreher, who accepted the position in person and agreed to a morning training today (Feb. 3.)

For more information on the applicants interviewed at City Council Special Meeting, visit the city website at: cottagegroveor.gov/citycouncil/page/city-council-special-meeting-0.