Four Springfield city councilors have submitted applications to serve as interim mayor after Mayor Christine Lundberg’s resignation two months ago. The City Council will vote on appointing a new mayor at the Oct. 19 meeting. At the meeting councilors will decide whether the term starts immediately or in January 2021.
According to the Oct. 19 City Council agenda packet, four councilors have applied: Pishioneri, Leonard Stoehr, Sheri Moore (who’s not seeking another term on council) and Sean VanGordon.
Mayoral candidates answered the same questionnaire that was used 10 years ago when former Sid Leiken left the mayoral office to represent Springfield on the Lane County Board of County Commissioners. Lundberg was appointed mayor then and was later re-elected.
Council president Pishioneri writes in his application that the city has seen unrest lately like it’s never seen before. “We are off balance, it hurts and it needs to end,” he wrote. He added that Springfield has seen growth over the years because of teamwork and he can provide the leadership to “guide us back to stability for everyone.”
In his application, Pishioneri says he doesn’t look for “ways to or attempt to ‘self profit’ through policy decisions or rule changes.” He added that when making policy, he asks himself who benefits from it.
Pishioneri’s 31-year law enforcement career ended after the Lane County District Attorney’s Office concluded that he probably had committed theft and then misled investigators about his conduct, according to a 2017 article from The Register Guard.
The investigation found that he attended a three-day conference as an unpaid Springfield councilor and received per-mile and per-diem money. But he then used a Lane County government-owned vehicle and gas to make the trip. The investigation found that he didn’t reimburse the city of Springfield.
In Stoehr’s application, he says in the past the mayor has done “the yeoman’s work in promoting business interests” in and outside of the city. If appointed mayor, he said he would help the city be more accountable to its least fortunate residents. Out of the applicants, Stoehr has the least amount of government experience, but he says that he has worked for years as a union negotiator, which would translate to the mayor’s duties.
Outgoing Councilor Moore, who served for 10 years on the council, writes in her application that she has a vision for what Springfield could be: a community that works together, which benefits everyone.
She says the mayor should continue to support and communicate state guidelines for a safe community regarding COVID-19. Because of ongoing protests, Moore suggests forming a citizen/police review board that could hear complaints and review police policies and make recommendations to deal with policing issues. And the mayor should help the city deal with social injustices.
“I want all of Springfield to become a HATE FREE ZONE,” she writes, adding that because she’s a person of faith she is obligated “to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.”
VanGordon, who’s seen by many political insiders at the city level as Lundberg’s protégé, says in his statement that the city faces “numerous and complex challenges since the turn of the century.” The city must address structural reform, multiple crises from 2020 and the vision of the community.
VanGordon points mostly to economic issues in the city in his application. He says as mayor, he would “act as a strong voice for regional economic growth and for business support in a challenging business environment.” He does address police issues in the city, which has an ongoing external investigation on the police response to Black Lives Matter-related protests in the Thurston neighborhood.
“I would pursue the Blue Ribbon Commission on equity that former Mayor Lundberg advocated for,” he writes. “I would support work sessions around police policy to ensure that council, police and the community were engaged.”
He adds that the city must be more transparent work the police are doing, such as publishing policies of body cameras online.
On Aug. 15, Lundberg abruptly resigned as mayor. Three days later her son Benjamin Lundberg was arrested on 10 counts of encouraging child sex abuse. As Council President, Pishioneri took on mayoral duties. At the Oct. 19 meeting, the council will also decide whether to create a temporary president pro tem position to fill in while Pishioneri has the acting mayor duties in case more time is needed to appoint a mayor.
Springfield’s policing drew national attention this week, with the story of the SPD shooting and killing a Stacy Kenny, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, appearing as the lead incident in a story on police shooting mentally ill people in small and mid-sized areas in The Washington Post.
The majority of council must agree to appoint a mayor. But the councilors will discuss the appointment of a mayor for two terms — one that ends in December and the following term that begins in January. And unless Moore is appointed, promoting a councilor to mayor means appointing a new Springfield councilor.
This article has been updated