The top four candidates in the Baker City Council election said they’re excited to work together with the three other councilors when the newly constituted group convenes for the first time in January 2023.
Based on preliminary, unofficial results from the Baker County Clerk’s office, Matthew Diaz, incumbents Dean Guyer and Johnny Waggoner Sr., and former councilor Beverly Calder will be elected. Mail ballots postmarked by election day, Nov. 8, will be counted if they arrive within seven calendar days of the election, County Clerk Stefanie Kirby said. Kirby said there’s no way to say how many ballots will arrive, but based on the May 2022 primary — the first election in which postmarked ballots were counted — the number won’t be large.
In May the clerk’s office received 61 postmarked ballots within seven days of the election. Some of those were from voters who live outside the Baker City limits. Only voters who live within the city limits vote on Baker City Council races.
If the current order of candidates remains, Diaz, Guyer, Waggoner and Calder would join incumbent Jason Spriet starting in January 2023.
Two other current councilors — Kerry McQuisten and Shane Alderson — will both be leaving the council before the end of the year.
McQuisten is moving outside the city limits and thus won’t be eligible to serve as a councilor. Her last meeting is Nov. 22.
Alderson was elected Nov. 8 as chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners. Alderson said he will stay on as a councilor through December.
The city charter states that “a vacancy in the council shall be filled by appointment by a majority of the council.”
As for the term of the appointed councilors, the charter states that if the vacancy is filled more than 90 days before the next general election — which is the case, since the next general election won’t happen until November 2024 — “the appointee’s term of office runs only until the first council meeting in the year immediately following the election, and at the election a candidate shall be elected to the council for a two-year term.”
The closest margin in preliminary results is between Calder, who has the fourth-highest vote total at 1,830, and Katie LaFavor in fifth with 1,779 votes. That’s a margin of 51 votes.
If the current order stands, Calder would serve a two-year term.
The top three candidates would serve four-year terms — Diaz, 2,357 votes, Guyer, 2,068 votes, and Waggoner, 1,893 votes.
Diaz said he’s “pretty excited” about receiving the most votes.
“I think it’s an opportunity to move forward and kind of get past what happened in the previous city council, I think there’s some changes that should be made and probably need to be made but I’m excited for the future,” Diaz said. “I think we have a good team and we’ll have a great opportunity to secure the future of Baker City.”
Guyer, who was appointed on Dec. 14, 2021, to fill a vacancy on the council, said he’s “fine with the group that was voted for” in the Nov. 8 election.
“I think that all of them that, along with the current residing councilors, can work together for the good of the community and I don’t see any problem with that,” Guyer said. “I’m looking forward to working with each of them as we go forward.”
Waggoner, who was elected to a two-year term in 2020, said he thinks the new council will be “a good council because there’s a lot of, I guess I would call us holdovers. So we all have a gist of what’s going on rather than somebody that’s fresh to the council and has no information on anything and hasn’t sat or been to the council meetings in quite a while. I see the biggest hurdle we’ve got coming up is money and how to keep the city solvent. And hire a police officer and maybe increase some of the fire department in the near future. I think police and fire need one or two people so we’ve just got to figure out how to fund that.”
Calder, who served on the city council from 2000-10, said she wants to encourage more public input at council meetings and schedule regular work sessions “where members can fully discuss and explore options, with the goal of becoming a better informed and more productive council. This will allow the council to listen to more public testimony at the council meetings. There should be time in each meeting to hear from people on all sides of an issue. Council can better understand the priorities of the community this way as well as fostering more involvement which leads to better future leaders,” she said.
Calder also said she wants the council to add a Future Committee to its roster of advisory boards and committees.
“I have been so impressed by the young people and their educators in our city and I believe we should get them involved now in helping the council to plan for their future,” she said.
“There is also the opportunity to include many agencies and organizations in our community to better understand the needs of our older citizens, as well as other community members that are underrepresented.”
Calder noted that despite the council setting “prioritizing public safety” as its top goal, “we lost the city ambulance service which subsidized our fire department and left the community shaken and a fire department with many challenges.”
“Our city manager must bring forth plans and solutions,” Calder said.
“That position is tasked with the responsibility of running the business of the city, not just pointing out the challenges. As the creator of a successful business, I know what is involved in anticipating future challenges, planning for how to adapt, and making sure my staff is prepared to seamlessly carry on. It’s something every small business owner in this city knows well.
“This election brings significant change to both city council and the county commission. I am hopeful that we can begin building a working, mutually beneficial and cooperative relationship between the two entities. We consolidated the Emergency Dispatch Center years ago but we need to explore other possible efficiencies that could provide our community with sustainable public safety, good roads and emergency services. Overall, I am ready to get to work and putting the public good back in focus.”