By Jenny Greenleaf (Manzanita resident)
“There are no disposable relationships in a small town.” I mutter the words to myself as I type into Facebook—and then press DELETE. Like many others, I don’t want to expose myself to Facebook’s Greek chorus of mean girls (and boys). And it doesn’t matter who you are; we will end up standing next to each other at the grocery store, getting our mail at the post office, or being together at an NCRD performance. We are also each other’s best resources in the event of a disaster. Getting along is a matter of no small importance.
I hear another voice in my head, though. It’s my mother. That voice says, “If you have something to say, you should say it. Your opinion is worth as much as anyone else’s.” This one’s for you, Mom.
Like the nation, our town is beset by division, led here by a group of city office candidates: Mr. Galvin, Mr. Kugler, and Mr. Spegman. This group has decided that our city government is incompetent or maybe corrupt. I heartily disagree. But I didn’t think I should write without talking to the candidates, so I screwed up my courage and went to the beach last week to ask them some questions.
I asked Mr. Galvin why he previously quit the council mid-term. He offered several reasons: He objected to paying previous city manager, Jerry Taylor, on a contract basis to finish a personnel manual. He objected to the council governing rules, in particular a requirement that the councilors go through the city manager rather than asking staff to do work directly for them. He did not like choices the city was making regarding the new city facilities.
I also asked Mr. Galvin about his goals and what he would do as a leader to heal divisions, bring us together as a community, and come to agreement on the city hall project. His approach to nearly every issue was to say he would ask the citizens what they want to do. We discussed the pandemic, and I asked what he would do if we had a serious outbreak here. He said he would follow state and county guidelines.
I believe that Mr. Galvin is a decent, sincere person; he promised to be honest and authentic and fulfill a 2-year term as mayor. However, while I am all for citizen input and adherence to any state and county pandemic mandates, I am looking for a leader in a mayor—someone with clarity and vision and the ability to make quick decisions in a crisis.
When the pandemic hit and we were uncertain and overwhelmed with tourists, Mayor Mike Scott, a former naval commander, took the initiative and closed the town before the state or county closures. Mayor Scott kept us all informed with videos as he adapted to take in new information and balance the needs of citizens, business proprietors, second homeowners, and yes, tourists. Mayor Scott may not be the most touchy-feely guy in the world, but when the proverbial stuff hits the fan, I’d rather have the crusty naval commander’s hand on the tiller than the guy who jumped ship at the first big wave.
I have served on the CARTM board with Mr. Kugler for several years now, and we spent many hours together working in the CARTM warehouse. He’s a steady presence on the board, so I was surprised and distressed by his antipathy toward our city officials. I think Mr. Kugler often has good ideas, but his approach to getting them enacted leaves much to be desired in a community that values comity. Good governance requires a lot of compromise.
Mr. Kugler often sets up an idea with a huge amount of detail that few want to delve into, leaving people with the idea that something nefarious has occurred when it hasn’t. When challenged, he has denigrated the challenger’s credentials and sometimes tried to cause trouble for them. For example, after he didn’t agree with the results of the water cost allocation audit, he threatened to file a complaint with a state office regarding the firm that did the audit. When Mayor Scott did not appoint him to the budget committee, rather than accepting it gracefully, he wrote the committee members a letter that questioned their experience and left at least one of them feeling insulted.
I asked Mr. Kugler how he was going to be able to work with people who disagreed with him. I offered some examples of behavior that I found distressing. Rather than listening to me and addressing my concern, he challenged details of what I said, brought in irrelevant information, and essentially told me I didn’t know what I was talking about. I regret that I lost my temper at that point and left, because I did have more questions.
I had a short conversation with Mr. Spegman, and he seems like he could be an excellent public servant. However, given that we are in the middle of a pandemic as well as a significant civic project, I prefer to stay with our current team.
Mr. Aschenbrener is a thoughtful councilor and one of the best listeners I have encountered.
Mr. Tonjes has served us well, and I believe it’s important to have representation from our business community.
I have always felt that we have an amazing little city here in Manzanita, that it’s very well run, and that we have amenities far beyond the average 600-person burg. Let’s keep it that way. Vote to re-elect Mayor Scott and Councilors Aschenbrener and Tonjes.