The landscape of Tigard, both the city and the elected officials helping to steward it, has transformed substantially in the decade since former Mayor Jason Snider was first elected to City Council.
As the New Year turned over, Snider passed the baton to the city’s first female mayor, Heidi Lueb, who now leads Tigard’s most diverse council. The group’s make-up – three women, two men of color, and the first openly gay councilor – is a seismic shift from the body seated during Snider’s 2012 council campaign.
“You go back to the city council immediately before me, and it was completely white. Most of it was north of 60 years old,” he said. “When I joined the council, the fact that I was in my 30s actually represented some diversity.”
Snider chatted with Tigard Life over coffee a few hours before Lueb and the three new councilors were officially sworn in to look back at the changes he’s witnessed over the last decade, surprises he found along the way, a few of the accomplishments he’s proud to have been part of and what might come next for him in the world of public service.
Spoiler alert. That last question remains undefined.
Snider cites City Council’s rapid demographic transformation over just a few election cycles among the happy surprises he witnessed while serving. He also sees it as a reflection of the community’s broadening diversity.
“I think the changing dynamics and demographics in the community have led to much more of a culture of inclusivity,” he said. “I think we have people who have chosen to move to our community because of that culture. It’s a vibrant place where people want to be, and there’s an expectation in the community that everybody’s welcome.”
As a man who’s been engaged in community leadership since his days as a teenage school board member in California, he counts helping to create a Youth City Councilor seat among his proudest accomplishments.
“I pushed for the establishment of the youth city councilor role so that our youth would have a voice. That was really important to me,” he said, crediting the whole council with making it happen.
Youth Councilors are appointed to one-year terms in the advisory role, weighing in on sometimes complex and contentious topics.
Tigard High School senior Aishiki Nag is the third person to hold the position and the first to serve twice.
Though the teens don’t have full voting power, Snider said their views have broadened perspectives and helped to point the compass on things like Climate Resiliency and the formation of the Public Safety Advisory Board formed to examine police practices after George Floyd was killed in Minnesota.
City Council received more than 500 comments calling for a closer look at policing in the wake of Floyd’s death. The 15-member Board, a coalition of community members, elected officials, and police, was created in response and met monthly for a year and a half to examine Tigard Police Department practices.
It landed Tigard the League of Oregon Cities 2022 Good Governance Award, an honor that recognizes progressive and innovative city operations and practices.
During Snider’s tenure, the city also began to transform physically.
Ten years down the line, he envisions the trifecta of a revitalized downtown, the Tigard Triangle, and the Washington Square Regional Center as the thriving hearts of the city “where there will be more development that will be relatively affordable and less car-centric.”
“We’ve put all the building blocks in place to make that happen,” he said. “The Triangle is the best example where you’re starting to see the market (developing) without any city support. Downtown’s not quite there yet, but we’re confident it will get there.”
Universal Plaza is on track for a Spring opening, Ava Roasteria recently broke ground on a three-story mixed commercial and residential building downtown, and another small public park is in the works for Main Street.
With all the progress came some challenges and some less happy surprises.
The city’s ongoing quest to build or find a new home for the Tigard Police Department ranks at the top of Snider’s unfinished business list. He says not being able to see that project through to a successful ending is disappointing.
“I was asked (by new council members ) how I recommend we solve the facilities issues,” he said. “That was a good question. There’s not a short answer, and not one I can frankly discuss (in this interview.)”
He did relay some of the advice he shared during transition meetings with his successors.
“Listen more than you speak.”
“Do the most good for the most people,” even in the face of loud objection from some constituents.
“Not only is it impossible to please everyone, working for the greater good of the entire community inevitably means upsetting those who feel their immediate quality of life is at stake in the deal,” he said.
The 57-unit Senior Housing Alongside project currently under construction next to Tigard Senior Center is a prime example.
Snider and the council faced pushback from neighbors who fear it will create an overflow of parking onto their neighborhood streets and argued the area lacks walkable grocery stores and other easy-to-reach amenities.
“The council collectively and I took a lot of heat for that project. It’s still the right thing to do, despite some fairly significant, very localized opposition from people who knew and stated that a senior housing project was needed,” he said.
The affordable units create housing for seniors 62 and older, some living on less than $16,000 annual fixed incomes. Apartments are on track to begin leasing by the end of the year.
Advocating for the voiceless, the older seniors, and the houseless community is paramount, he said, adding those with stronger voices do not hesitate to raise them.
While he says the future of his life in public service remains undefined, Snider has given thought to both the Metro Council and Washington County Board of Commissioners.
For now, he’s content to take a deep breath, focus on his day job in healthcare and spend newly found free time with his family.
“My daughter is a competitive volleyball player, so we’re actually going to travel as a family to more of her events than I could normally do,” he said. “This will allow more family time for those kinds of events.”