A darned good mayor.
Being mayor of a city like Eugene - wait a minute, there is no city like Eugene - is a tough assignment. The city's yeasty political culture ensures that any mayor will have loud critics, left, right and sideways. Eugene is big enough to ensure that the mayor will always have plenty to do, but not so big that he's given a salary and staff to match the responsibilities. Yet through nearly two terms, Eugene Mayor Jim Torrey has done more than make it look easy. He's made it look fun.
Torrey's announcement Wednesday that he will not seek a third term as mayor comes as a disappointment. No one has ever worked harder at the job. He's succeeded as well as anyone could at holding a fractious City Council together. His skills in local politics, and his connections at the state and national level, have served Eugene well.
The disappointment, however, is not a surprise. Eugene hasn't had a three-term mayor in 60 years. Torrey has considered seeking other political offices, including legislative seats - it's clear that he's never been interested in being mayor for life. The surprise in Wednesday's announcement is that Torrey won't seek any political office at all, but will continue his freelance work for statewide school finance reform.
From the start, Torrey was pegged as a pro-development antagonist of the progressive bloc on the City Council and its active constituency in Eugene - partly because he first won in 1996 over former Congressman Jim Weaver, who would never be mistaken for anything but a liberal. This stereotype enclosed a grain of truth: Torrey is a Republican, he is a businessman, and he believes good jobs are central to Eugene's quality of life.
But Torrey often confounded attempts to pigeonhole him. He has proved himself able to work with all members of the council, reaching across ideological chasms to get things done. He has also showed himself willing to stand up to allies. And no matter what, he has always been willing to listen.
But there is more to Torrey than pure pragmatism. His commitment to the well-being of Eugene's children has been demonstrated again and again - when he vowed to read to every kindergarten class in Eugene and then kept that promise, when he pushed for and won a city levy to support after-school programs, when he backed a larger levy to supplement budgets in the Eugene and Bethel school districts, when he proposed inviting children who live outside the city limits to use the Eugene Library. In all these ways and more, Torrey put the limited power and high visibility of the mayor's office to good use.
The scramble to replace Torrey as mayor now begins, with early indications of a tough contest between City Councilor Nancy Nathanson and former state Rep. Kitty Piercy. They and other candidates will have a hard act to follow.
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|Title Annotation:||Editorials; Torrey limits himself to two terms|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jan 15, 2004|
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