Former Cottage Grove Mayor Gary Williams has been selected by the Lane County Commission as its fifth and final member.
Williams beat out 27 applicants, nine semi-finalists and three finalists who included fellow Cottage Grove residents Christy Inskipp, Mike Fleck and Cindy Weeldreyer.
He replaces longtime commissioner Faye Stewart who took a position with the city of Cottage Grove as the head of its new joint community development and public works department in March.
"It's about listening," Williams said during the interview when asked what the role of a county commissioner entailed.
He told the commission he would advocate for infrastructure funding, environmental issues and health care on the state and federal level as well as affordable housing saying, "People need to be able to live their lives in dignity."
Williams also noted that he has worked with members of the commission in his previous role as Cottage Grove Mayor and would tackle issues such as infrastructure and affordable housing on the state and federal level if it was appropriate in his seat on the
Williams will finish out the remainder of Stewart's term and has noted he may run for re-election in 2018. He served as mayor of Cottage Grove for 12 years.
Commissioners said attributes such as an individual who could diversify” the board and provide a new perspective were important deciding factors. Williams will join four men on the five-member board.
Prior to narrowing the field to three candidates, commission chairman Pat Farr noted that the board was choosing someone, not to run in 2018, but to fill Stewart's seat for the remainder of the term. He noted the task was a difficult one because, "You can't clone Faye Stewart."
At the final stage of selection, Williams came out on top with Heather Buch following. A three-way tie put Tim Laue, Betsy Schultz and Cedric Hayden in third place. Laue nabbed the third spot after a second vote of the commission.
Each finalist was asked what issues they would advocate for on the state and national level with answers ranging from veteran care to affordable housing.
Williams was appointed with a 3-1 vote of the commission.
Fleck, Nordin and Weeldreyer were eliminated from the final rounds but commissioners encouraged all the applicants to continue in their pursuit of public service noting that the field in 2018 may be a crowded one.
The board noted the original 29 applicants, with two failing to meet the basic requirements, was a sign of interest in the position and it may mean a fight for the seat during the 2018 election. Applicant Kevin Matthews noted that, despite not being appointed, he planned to run for the seat he lost to Stewart in the 2016 election.
In an emailed statement from the county, Williams said of his appointment, "This is a tremendous opportunity and responsibility,” he continued, "I look forward to continuing to serve Cottage Grove and the other outstanding communities in East Lane County – I am ready to hit the ground running.”
The release distributed by the county also included a statement from the commission, noting, "We had a remarkable field of candidates, each of who would have been an asset to East Lane County,” said Farr “Mr. Williams will serve the constituents of East Lane County well and we look forward to working closely with him on behalf of our community.”
Williams was sworn in on Thursday and has been on the run ever since.
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind," he told The Sentinel.
On Monday, April 17, Williams was scheduled to complete his orientation and meet with staff.
As for Williams, his hectic schedule will continue but he says there isn't much more to report.
"The only new news is I'm back in government and here to serve the people as faithfully as I did as mayor. It's just casting a bigger net."