LEBANON — Technically, Paul Aziz started his third term as mayor of Lebanon right after voters gave him the nod last November.
But nearly two months of treatment for throat cancer starting a few weeks before the election took much of Aziz's time and energy. He continued to meet weekly with City Manager Gary Marks but wasn't able to get to a council meeting from October through December.
Now, the 56-year-old Lebanon resident has truly begun both the new year and the new term, and he expects both to be busy.
"I'm trying to pace myself, trying not to go too crazy," said Aziz, who also owns and operates a home-based business, Paul's Computer Repair Services.
He said he still hasn't got the energy to go out much. "But I can tell each day it gets a little better."
A persistent sore throat began bothering Aziz late last summer. Antibiotics didn't take it away. When he found a lump in his throat, his doctor sent him to a specialist who diagnosed the cancer.
On the positive side, the type of cancer doctors found — virus-caused and considered highly treatable — meant he didn't have to take ordinary chemotherapy. He never got nauseous or lost his hair, although he had problems with his fingernails and a chronic abrasion on his neck from the radiation.
But 35 treatments over close to eight weeks were exhausting, he said, and sometimes he just didn't feel well enough to do much. He closed down his shop for a few weeks, reopening about a month ago for limited hours each day.
Treatments wrapped up shortly before Thanksgiving, and Aziz gradually began to feel better. He put on his annual Christmas light show at his East Sherman Street home as usual — December marked his eighth year — and brought in a record $2,560 in donations and 188 pounds of food, which went to the school district's snack backpack program, Lebanon Kid Packs.
He also found a new hobby: 3-D printing. The desktop-sized machine spins out a polymer substance similar to thick hot glue, which he's used to fashion gear-shaped holders for his LED Christmas lights.
"It was a fun project to learn when I'm bored and not feeling good," Aziz said.
It's too early to say whether the treatment worked. The lump is gone and Aziz said he's starting to regain his energy, but he won't know whether the cancer is gone until March 3. That's when he's schedule to have a test done that combines positron emission tomography, known for short as PET, with the computed tomography known as CT.
The PET-CT scan overlaps images to give a three-dimensional view of any cancer cells that might remain. Odds are good there aren't any, Aziz said, but he's holding off on celebrating until he knows.
In the meantime, he said, he's excited about working more on the downtown core, finishing work on the tiny park now known as Strawberry Plaza and brainstorming various ways to spruce up business facades.
He plans to ask the Lebanon City Council next month to add a second reading for each new ordinance that gets proposed, to give residents more time to comment on plans between their introduction and the council's decision. Right now, he said, councilors can vote on a first reading, which he feels doesn't always give adequate time for public consideration.
He's concerned about the rising costs of the Public Employees Retirement System — "At this point, I don't know what the answer is," he said — but feels Lebanon's budget is strong and its reserves growing.
"We're just doing so much better than when we had to lay off people a few years ago," Aziz said.
And Aziz is especially looking forward to late July, when Lebanon will play host, for the first time, to the annual Oregon Mayor's Association Conference.
About 100 mayors belong to the organization and more than three-quarters of them usually travel to the conference, usually bringing their families, he said.
Aziz has been to four such conventions and said he loved learning about other communities and seeing all they had to offer. He put forth Lebanon for this year's gathering and the city was selected.
"We've done so much in the last 10 years," Aziz said. "Mayors need to know what we're doing and how we're doing it."
Plans are still being laid, but Aziz said so far he's scheduled a Mayor's Night Out downtown, with Main Street blocked off and a host of classic cars on display for the public to enjoy.
"I'm so excited," he said. "We're going to be doing some really fun things."