Coleman wants to keep positive momentum going in city

Sean C. Morgan

Susan Coleman believes things are moving forward positively in Sweet Home, and she wants to ensure it continues.

Coleman, 46, is one of seven candidates seeking four positions on the City Council in the Nov. 6 general election. Also running are Larry Angland, Greg Korn and Cortney Nash along with incumbents Diane Gerson, Bob Briana and Mayor Greg Mahler.

Ballots were mailed Friday, and ballots are due by 8 p.m. on Nov. 6 at drop sites, including City Hall and the Sweet Home Police Department.

Coleman has served since February 2017 when the council appointed her to fill a vacancy left by Jeff Goodwin.

She is legislative assistant to state House Dist. 17 Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, who is currently running for re-election, and is married to Matt Coleman, pastor at Hillside Fellowship church. They have four children, including Emily, an adult; Anna, a high school senior; Nate, a high school freshman; and Madalyn, third grade. They have lived in Sweet Home since 2009.

Susan Coleman earned a bachelor’s degree in Christian education from Simpson College and a master’s degree in international studies from Alliance Theological Seminary.

“I love Sweet Home, and I think that there’s been some good work started,” Coleman said. “I’d like to see it continue.”

The new leadership is doing an excellent job moving resources and employees where they need to be to deal with numerous infrastructure issues, she said, including replacement of leaky water pipes, filling potholes and the new leaf collection program.

“Those little things just add up,” she said, noting the introduction of the new Citizen Portal that can be used to report issues directly to Public Works and, educational videos available through the Public Library.

“I know sometimes it’s hard for citizens to see all that, and it takes a while for things to happen,” Coleman said.

One of her top priorities is to continue infrastructure improvements, she said, including the water and wastewater systems and streets, particularly pavement of streets where there is gravel.

She also wants to address the generational poverty that exists in Sweet Home, and the best way to do that is to improve the economy and train young people to be the next generation of employees, something she said the School District is doing well.

“We’re starting to do things,” Coleman said, pointing to the city’s new Commercial Exterior Improvement Program, which provides up to $5,000 toward aesthetic improvement projects for local businesses.

The city has developed partnerships with the Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network (RAIN), the Small Business Development Center and Linn-Benton Community College, Coleman said, and “I think we’ll see the benefits to that.”

City Hall is currently in the process of updating codes to make it easier to build in Sweet Home, Coleman said. City officials want to make the codes easier to understand and encourage local businesses to improve and other businesses to come to Sweet Home.

She said she is also concerned about rising utility costs.

In the past year, many Sweet Home residents have seen their trash, sewer and water bills and property taxes increase substantially. In addition to an annual increase to cover inflation, trash rates increased another 8 percent based on China’s decision to stop accepting recycling. Sewer rates increased to cover a shortfall in funding and an upcoming improvement project at the Wastewater Treatment Plant; and property tax bills are increasing rapidly – the mayor’s taxes, for example, increased by 15 percent from last year – as compression decreases.

“I’m concerned about the increasing costs,” Coleman said, noting the reasons the different rates have increased. “China not wanting to be a dumping ground, I understand that.”

She said she was a little disappointed that citizens didn’t show up to tour and learn about the Wastewater Treatment Plant, which needs repairs, upgrades and improvement to meet requirements and to handle any large new employers that come to Sweet Home.

“I want to protect the citizens from huge increases like that,” Coleman said, but “it’s hard to foresee the future.”