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Political newcomers face off against veterans in Florence.

Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard

E l e c t i o n 2 0 0 6

FLORENCE - A preservationist, a former mayor, a former councilor and a high-tech entrepreneur are vying for two vacant spots on the Florence City Council next month.

With no incumbents - Councilor Nan Osbon decided not to run again and Dave Braley couldn't seek re-election because of term limits - the race is wide open.

New to local politics are George Rogato and Suzanne Roberts, neither of whom have held elected office. Former politicians who are running are Alan Burns, Florence's mayor until 2005, and Donna Lee, who sat on the council from 2000 to 2003, until health problems sidelined her. Incumbent Mayor Phil Brubaker is running unopposed.

Rogato owns the Internet service provider Oregonfast, which has 700 to 800 dialup and broadband customers in the area and partnered with the Merchants of Old Town to provide a free wireless Internet connection on Bay Street.

The Lynn, Mass., transplant sits on the board of directors for the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association. Trained as an electrician, Rogato moved here in 1990 from Eugene to open his own business, George's Reliable Electric.

Rogato said he'd focus on job creation as a councilor by pushing for a business park on Kingwood Street with fiber-optic connections to lure high-tech firms to relocate here.

"Florence has to have something that makes it better than Portland or Seattle," he said. "It can't just be that we have a nice sunset, sand and a quiet town."

Roberts, who was born, raised and educated in Portland, got interested in politics during college at Lewis and Clark University, working for former Gov. Tom McCall when he was running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

After college, she enrolled in officer school with the U.S. Navy and made it a career. Roberts moved to Florence in 1978, after she retired.

She's running for City Council because she's a "political junkie," she said, and she's unhappy with the direction the city is moving in now.

"I go north on the coast and I can't even see the ocean, there's so much neon," Roberts said. "We're getting to the point with condos where I can't even see the river anymore."

Roberts said she also doesn't like that the same people seem to serve on the city's various committees, which makes some disenfranchised voters feel like a few people at the top are just "reporting to each other."

Lee decided to resign from the council in 2003 so she could focus on a non-life threatening health problem, she said. She considered taking a leave of absence but decided against that because it would have left the council with four members and the potential for tie votes.

"When it's a tie it's just a dead issue."

In 2004 Lee joined the Florence Planning Commission, and is ready for a run again at the council. She's running with no set agenda, she said. She said that she's glad that decisions about creating an urban renewal agency and signing an agreement with the tribe that owns the Three Rivers Casino for wastewater services were left up to voters.

One topic that troubles Lee, a retired automotive parts warehouse manager, is the handling of City Manager Rodger Bennett's departure. The council asked Bennett for his resignation earlier this year but agreed to let him serve out his contract until December.

"I'm a little puzzled why they let him stay on until the end of the year," Lee said. "There were qualified people that could have run the city until they hired a new city manager."

Burns, a Florence mortician, said he has more experience now than when he was mayor, having spent two years on the outside of city government, looking in.

He decided to run for the council again, he said, to help clear up miscommunication about urban renewal, a hot topic in Florence these days.

And, with the recent turnover of city staff, it's important to have experience on the council, he said.

Burns said the council has done a "wonderful job" since he was mayor, but that the city's employees have been "micromanaged" lately.

"The rules of the city council and elected officials are very clear," Burns said. "You do not get involved in personnel matters."

Winston Ross can be reached at (541) 902-9030 or rgcoast@oregonfast.net.

ALAN BURNS Political background: Past mayor, councilor, City of Florence; past president, Florence Rotary club and Chamber of Commerce Work experience: Florence mortician Education: San Francisco College of Mortuary Science Family: Married; one son, one daughter

DONNA LEE Political background: Florence planning commissioner, former city councilor Work experience: Retired office manager for automotive parts warehouse Education: High school Family: Married; one son, one daughter

SUZANNE ROBERTS Political background: None Work experience: Retired U.S. Navy Lieutenant Education: Lewis and Clark University, Bachelor of Science degrees, history and political science Family: None

GEORGE ROGATO Political background: None Work experience: Electrician, wireless broadband developer Education: Lynn Vocational and Technical Institute, Mass. Family: Married; two sons, one daughter
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Title Annotation:Politics; Four people, including a former mayor and councilor, are running for two open council seats
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 17, 2006
Words:846
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