Retiring councilor will miss being involved

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Former Mayor Tim McQueary is stepping down after over 11 years as a city councilman.

Also leaving the council is Dick Hill. The two will be succeeded by Scott McKee Jr. and Eric Markell during a special council meeting for orientation scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 6, in the City Hall Annex.

McQueary was appointed to the council from the Planning Commission when the late Don Menear retired from the council. McQueary had served three years on the Planning Commission.

“During my tenure on the council, you find out the details you don’t as an everyday citizen,” McQueary said. He said he was most impressed by the revelations about the city’s wastewater system, which remains a top issue for the council.

The system “was and still is in need of considerable repair,” McQueary said. He said that the council worked on the issue constantly during his tenure, always as a team.

No one, to the man, goes onto the City Council with the idea of raising sewer and water rates, McQueary said, but “DEQ (the state Department of Environmental Quality) isn’t going to let anybody slide by.”

The city’s sewers have a problem called “inflow and infiltration” (I&I). I&I is storm and ground water that leaks into the sewer system through broken, deteriorating pipes and cross connections with storm drainage systems. The city is estimating between $23 million and $24 million to solve the problem to the DEQ’s satisfaction. It has spent approximately $5 million in repairs so far.

This has been the biggest issue for the city during his time on council, McQueary said. Other issues have come up, usually related to planning and growth, as people raise concerns about potential developments.

Usually, people have been concerned about open areas owned by other people, usually off their backyards, and plans to develop them, McQueary said. The new developments would change things for these people, but on the other hand, “they wouldn’t want to have someone else telling them how to use their property.”

The community and city also have been focusing on making town more attractive and bringing more jobs.

The town is more attractive, but the jobs have not materialized, he said. “That’s probably my biggest disappointment.”

The city had two stabs at getting state agencies to locate facilities in Sweet Home during his time on the council – a women’s prison and a police academy, he said. Unfortunately, neither panned out.

“The other types of industries are locating closer to the transportation hubs,” he said. “The only hope we ever have here is the smaller cottage type industries that might employ up to 50 people or so.”

McQueary said he will miss the community involvement he’s had as a council member. He has been actively involved in the Cascades West Council of Governments and through that the Area Commission on Transportation. The last two years, he has been on the COG executive board.

“I will stay involved on the (COG) Senior Services Advisory Committee,” he said. “Of all of the things I’ve been involved with, the services they provide are very needed, and I think they provide the best avenue to solve those problems.”

McQueary is proud of what the Sweet Home community has accomplished during his service on the council. He lists the Jim Riggs Community Center, new Police Department building, the Highway 20 improvements and the beautification committee’s work.

He also praises the Oregon Jamboree, which has grown into a consistently profitable enterprise on behalf of economic development.

“I need a break,” McQueary said. Previous to his service on the Planning Commission, he was on the Sweet Home Economic Development Group Board of Directors, which started the Oregon Jamboree.

“I was there when the original Jamboree came into being,” McQueary said. “I was one of the ones saying I don’t think people will come here for a three-day camping event. They proved me wrong.

“We were looking for something to raise money to help promote the economic health of the community.”

And that turned out to be a huge success after some lean years toward the beginning of the annual event, McQueary said. The community stepped up and got the Jamboree through the toughest times.

With that said, “a time comes when you need to look at new ideas, and that takes new blood,” he said. “I will remain involved. I love this town. This town’s my home and has been since 1952.”

As he departs the council, McQueary offered advice to the incoming councilmen.

“They need to really keep their minds open to the big picture,” he said. “Don’t get hung up on the minutiae where you’re trying to micromanage everything.”

McQueary, 62, recently retired from Wah Chang in Albany after 37 years. He previously had worked for his father for five years making formaldehyde resin, used in particle board.

He graduated from Sweet Home High School and attended college at the Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University), Oregon State University, Linn-Benton Community College and while at Wah Chang, Louisiana State University.

At Wah Chang, he spent 24 years in research and development, two years as chemical sales manager and then manager of powder metallurgy.

He is married to Jo Ann McQueary.