New councilor wants to boost city’s image

Sean C. Morgan

Bob Briana wants to improve Sweet Home’s image in an effort to shore up its economy.

Briana was appointed by City Council members in October to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Ryan Underwood, who left to focus on personal matters.

Briana, 68, comes to the council after a career as a business owner and, more recently, as a sports official who has refereed basketball and softball games at different levels, including local high school games. Although no longer an active official in those sports, he got his start seven years ago in football and has officiated baseball.

He has lived across the country and worked in several different businesses over the years. He was in construction in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s. In Oregon, he worked with Dish Network for several years. In Los Angeles, he owned and operated a couple of convenience stores, one in a 25-store mall and another in a neighborhood.

Briana grew up in Weymouth, Mass., about 20 miles from Plymouth. He attended the University of Colorado, earning a bachelor’s degree in international business in 1971. He moved to Pennsylvania after spending time in California and Boston, Mass.

“My daughter and fiancée at the time, we had gone and lived in Pennsylvania,” Briana said. “We didn’t want to live in L.A. any more.

He moved to Sweet Home in 1999.

Briana said he had family in Pennsylvania, and his fiancée had family here, he said. They tried Pennsylvania first.

“She didn’t like it,” Briana said. “She came here, and I followed.”

Although they’re no longer together, he stayed here to be near his daughter, Kristen Peterson, who is studying to be a teacher and teaching part-time special education at Hawthorne. He also has a 2-year-old granddaughter.

“I love this town,” Briana said, acknowledging “Sweet Home has a bad rep.”

When he came here he heard the comments – insults like “inbred.”

He thinks they’re wrong.

“The town is such a nice town, I think that more people should know about it,” Briana said during his interview with the council. “And I think I have the energy and the want to make it what it should be.”

Briana told The New Era he wants to “help change that.”

“I don’t know how you change it, but we have all this beauty here.”

Sweet Home is close to the mountains and the lakes, and it’s just an hour and a half from the coast, he noted.

The economy is one of the greatest challenges facing Sweet Home, Briana told the council.

“Which is why I think if we had some sort of resort to bring people in, the revenue would come in quickly and we’d be able to build the city up. I think it all goes hand in hand. If you have something to bring people here, then building – then building will bring more people to town and then it kind of snowballs.”

He told The New Era: “I’d like to see it do better than it’s doing – and be acknowledged.

“This should be sort of an outdoor kind of town. It should be a sports community” focused around nearby hunting, fishing, skiing, camping, boating and natural beauty.

He also wants to bring in more sports tournaments, noting the relatively recent work Karyn Hartsook and Shane Cochran have put into the fields at Foster School for softball.

“If you bring people to Sweet Home, they’ll see Sweet Home in a different way,” Briana said, adding that there may be challenges, but building fields isn’t too difficult.

His goal is to have Sweet Home recognized as a place to go and possibly begin perking up Main Street and filling long-empty storefronts.

“I’m a resident,” Briana said. “I want something better. I might as well try to help that cause.”