Councilor Tom Andersen has resigned from the Salem City Council to focus on his campaign for Oregon House District 19 state representative.
He'll be missed.
Andersen was the most unforgettable councilor, in my decidedly personal opinion. I'm not great at remembering how I met people (other than my wife, I hasten to add), but I have no problem recalling what I'm pretty sure was my first face-to-face with Andersen.
It was at a Salem City Club meeting. Someone introduced us. I was instantly taken by Andersen's intensity. His eyes were unusually alive when he spoke to me. He struck me as kind of crazy, in a good way.
Meaning, Tom Andersen was comfortable in his own skin. I'm kind of reticent. Tom surely isn't. Once in a while I'd run into him at LifeSource Natural Foods. I'd hear a booming voice in the parking lot say, "Hey Brian...", followed by whatever was on his mind at the moment.
He was the perfect guy to kick off the renaissance of progressives on the City Council. Andersen's force of personality was instrumental in leading liberals from council irrelevance to their current 7-2 majority.
In March 2014 I attended a house party for his initial candidacy. I titled the blog post I wrote about the party, "Tom Andersen would be a great Salem City Councilor." Good prediction.
In February 2019 I wrote a blog post about a talk Andersen gave to a Progressive Salem audience at the Marco Polo restaurant (photo above), calling it "Tom Andersen: progressivism is alive and well in Salem."
True, in no small part due to him. Some excerpts:
He was the lone Progressive Salem-backed councilor when elected in 2014. As he put it, "organized people beat organized money." That formula has been successful ever since, with progressives now being a 6-3 majority on the City Council following the election of Cara Kaser, Sally Cook, Matt Ausec, Chris Hoy, and Jackie Leung.
What a difference five years makes. Elections matter.
Running unopposed for re-election in 2018, Andersen joked that he was disappointed to only get 99% of the vote. Someone did write in the name of his wife, Jessica Maxwell. It could have been Andersen himself, though.
...Here's some other accomplishments during Andersen's first term as a councilor that he mentioned in his talk today.
-- Salem is officially an "Inclusive City."
-- Supported DACA and Dreamers.
-- Opposed the Trump administration's border plan and Measure 105.
-- Voted to develop an Environmental Action Plan for Salem.
-- Defeated a sit/lie ordinance.
-- Said no to the Salem River Crossing project.
-- Established a downtown Congestion Relief Task Force.
-- Banned most plastic bags in grocery stores.
-- Increased system development charges to pay for new parks and traffic improvements.
I didn't agree with Andersen on everything. But then, I don't even agree with myself on everything. Even when I disagreed with a position he took on the City Council, I admired how Andersen would set forth cogent reasons for his point of view.
Hopefully he'll win his House District 19 race and go on to be a great member of the Oregon legislature.