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fentiman

After 26 years serving on the Sweet Home City Council — including six terms as mayor — Craig Fentiman has decided to retire from public life. His name won’t be on the November ballot for the first time since 1988. (Alex Paul/Democrat-Herald)

SWEET HOME — Seven candidates are seeking four open seats on the City Council, but a familiar name in local politics will be missing on the November ballot.

After 26 years on the council — including 12 years as mayor — Craig Fentiman, 58, is not seeking re-election.

“I always said I would know when it was time to quit,” Fentiman said. “I have missed very few meetings over the last 26 years and I would often schedule vacations around council meetings. But in the last year or so, it was getting to the point that I wasn’t looking forward to meetings.”

Fentiman grew up in La Canada, California, and graduated from high school in 1974. He earned a degree in forestry from Oregon State University and worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Sweet Home before joining his father-in-law Dennis Fisher as a Farmers Insurance agent in 1981. Fisher retired in 1993.

“I’m going to miss working with people throughout the community the most,” Fentiman said. “I’m not saying I’m completely done. I’m going to take some time to do a little more fishing, maybe increase my bowling nights to a couple per week. I might pop up again in some other capacity.”

Fentiman said his wife, Penny, is ready for him to take a breather. Their daughter, Angela, lives in southern California.

Fentiman said that despite often dismal economic conditions, the community has made a lot of progress over the years. He took office shortly before the Northern Spotted Owl was listed as a threatened or endangered species and timber sales on the Sweet Home Ranger District were cut drastically.

The community lost nearly 1,000 jobs that were directly or indirectly dependent on timber.

At one point in the early 1990s, there were 30 empty storefronts in the business district and local volunteers painted murals in the building windows to brighten up the area.

“We’ve built a new police department, new fire hall, new community center, remodeled City Hall, built a new $12.5 million water plant, made more than $12 million worth of improvements to our sewer plant and lines and more,” Fentiman said with pride.

The business district has spruced itself up considerably, ranging from new building facades to irrigated planters and hanging plants in the Highway 20 median strip that had at one time been an asphalt catch-all for trash. The council has worked hand-in-glove with the community’s beautification committee on that effort.

And, the city has been supportive of the Sweet Home Economic Development Group, which operates the annual Oregon Jamboree country music festival.

Before serving on the council, Fentiman served on the Traffic Safety Committee and represented the council on the Cascades West Council of Governments.

Fentiman has been a strong supporter of the Chamber of Commerce, the Sweet Home Economic Development Group and more recently of the Sweet Home Active Revitalization Effort.

Fentiman has emceed the annual Chamber of Commerce community awards banquet numerous times over the years. He was also honored as a Junior First Citizen by the Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce in 1994.

Two years ago, Scott Swanson, editor/publisher of The New Era, Sweet Home’s weekly newspaper, noted in an editorial that Fentiman, “has been a thoughtful and level-headed community leader, bringing thoughtful discourse to a wide variety of topics, some of them heated.”

Swanson also noted that Fentiman, while tactful, seldom minced words.

“One thing we really appreciate about Mr. Fentiman is that unlike too many politicians, he doesn’t constantly stand with a proverbial finger in the wind, gauging public sentiment and seeking the warm breeze of community favor. True leaders are those who demonstrate integrity, even in the icy winds of unpopularity. Fentiman shows up to vote even when the issues are contentious.”

ON THE BALLOT

Seven candidates — including two incumbents — will seek four seats on the City Council and will have their names on the November ballot.

Incumbents are Bruce Hobbs, real estate investor and Greg Mahler, general manager of Hoy’s Hardware.

Newcomers are Aaron Pye, a community volunteer; James Goble, who works at ti Squared Technology; Jeffrey Goodwin, attorney; Anay Hausner, Oregon Department of State Lands; and Ryan Underwood, employed at Hoy’s Hardware.

The three candidates who get the most votes will receive 4-year terms and the fourth candidate will serve a 2-year term.

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Alex Paul is the Linn County reporter for the Democrat-Herald. He can be contacted at 541-812-6114 or alex.paul@lee.net.

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