Tigard City Councilor Heidi Lueb is optimistic about the city’s future and having the opportunity to help shape its course after winning a four-year term on the council in November over a large field of candidates. She was appointed to fill a vacancy on the council two years earlier.
Like many, she and her family have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, with both she and her husband having to find different jobs and welcoming their first child, a daughter, three months ago.
In addition to serving on the council, Lueb, who worked as her former employer’s controller, took a college-level course in government accounting and is working toward becoming a certified public accountant (CPA).
With all that going on in her personal life, Lueb also has been giving the city her full attention as the council has worked to mitigate the economic hardship inflicted by the pandemic on both residents and business owners.
The Tigard AID program implemented by the City Council provides financial assistance to residents to help with city fees and charges, and the city partnered with Micro Enterprise Solutions of Oregon to award 94 $1,500 grants to small businesses impacted by COVID-19 through the Tigard CARES program. According to the city, there are more than 2,000 very small businesses in Tigard, with many having limited access to commercial bank loans and federal support.
“We are here to help, but there is a balancing act between having the money to provide services and helping people not financially able to pay for the services,” Lueb said. “We need to help the people in our community who make Tigard what it is and to help them stay in their homes and to prevent houselessness. And part of it is making people aware of programs that they can take advantage of.”
Also last year, the city established a Public Safety Advisory Board, which was the result of community input and council discussion after the May 25 killing of George Floyd, the 46-year-old Black man who was handcuffed and whose neck was pinned to the ground by a white officer’s knee in Minneapolis. The board’s charge is to review public safety practices, and it is part of the city’s Anti-Racism Action Plan, utilizing community input.
“We need this now more than ever,” said Lueb on the morning after a riot was declared by Tigard police around 9 p.m. on Jan. 7. About 100 protestors vandalized downtown businesses before breaking windows and damaging the Police Department building following the police shooting the night before of a man armed with a knife and refusing to be taken into custody, according to police.
With the economy in tatters and coronavirus cases and deaths spiking around the U.S., the city also has been going through the process of finding a new city manager. Lueb said Jan. 8 that council members were interviewing the three finalists that afternoon.
“It is the most important hire we do,” Lueb said. “What tone and goals do we want to set going forward? We really value feedback from Tigard residents.”
January also is a busy month because every two years at the beginning of the year the council sets its goals for the next two years and also decides liaison appointments. “We have had discussions, but we are waiting for the new city manager to be on board,” Lueb said.
Council members voted to appoint Lueb as the new City Council president at its Jan. 5 meeting. Outgoing council President John Goodhouse nominated her, noting that “this is important to further highlight the importance of equity within Tigard.”
In Lueb’s role as a city councilor, she has learned a lot about how the city operates, noting how important the Public Works Department is in making sure that all the components work correctly. “I toured the water treatment plant in West Linn and learned about all the steps in the process,” said Lueb of the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership’s facility that provides high-quality drinking water taken from the Clackamas River.
Tigard’s utility bills include water, sewer, surface water management, street maintenance and parks and recreation. “Water is cheap, but getting it to people and all the other components to the bill do add up,” Lueb said.
She is proud of all the services the library is still able to offer despite being closed because of the pandemic. “People can choose materials online and schedule a pick-up time, and when they drive up, their order will be handed to them through the car window,” she said.
In looking ahead to the new year, Lueb said the city is on a good course but a lot will depend on when the coronavirus pandemic is over and regular services and programs can start to resume.