Four contenders vie for three seats in Prineville race
Mike Wendel also running unopposed for another term as city’s mayor
By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: October 24. 2006 5:00AM PST
In a race that several of the candidates said they did not expect to be contested, four Prineville men are running for three open seats on the Prineville City Council.
Mayor Mike Wendel is also running unopposed for re-election. The council positions carry a four-year term, while the mayor serves a two-year term.
Two councilors, Chet Petersen and Brenda Comini, are stepping down when their terms end this year. Tim Harris, who was appointed to a council seat two years ago, is running to keep his seat.
While most of the candidates said they have not done much campaigning yet, they are excited that the election will offer voters a choice for positions that are often uncontested.
Candidate Dustin Conklin could not be reached for comment over the past week.
Tim Harris knows what it’s like to be a teenager in Prineville, with the closest movie theater half an hour away and few entertainment options in town.
Harris grew up in Prineville and graduated from high school there in 1992. Now, he is seeking election to the Prineville City Council, on which he has served for the last two years.
“I’m the only one who has kids at home on the council so I kind of bring that aspect to it,” Harris said. “I’d like to work toward seeing more things for kids around here, as much as we’ve grown.”
Harris was appointed to the council two years ago after former Councilor Mike Wendel was elected mayor. This is the first time Harris’ name has appeared on the ballot.
If elected, Harris said, he would like to take a larger leadership role on the council. Harris has worked at the headquarters of Les Schwab Tires in Prineville for 14 years total, and describes himself as “just an average guy.”
His accomplishments so far, Harris said, have included cooperating with other council members of a range of issues and serving as the chairman of the traffic safety committee.
“I’ve been very involved, I feel, with the committees I’ve been on,” he said. “(I’m) bringing an open mind and working with the other councilors to make the best decisions.”
Dean Noyes has had his share of living in a big city, but he said that when his third child was born he and his wife decided to settle in Prineville to raise their family.
Now, Noyes wants to help guide the community as a member of the Prineville City Council. He is running against three other candidates for one of the three open seats on the council.
Noyes said he wasn’t expecting the election to be contested, but he is glad that several people want to serve and that the voters will have a choice of candidates.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved in government, I’ve always loved the process,” Noyes said. “This a friendly race, it’s interesting that it’s contested. I don’t think anyone expected it until the last minute, but what a great thing for the city of Prineville.”
Having worked “on both sides of the desk” as a small-business owner and bank loan officer offers him connections throughout Prineville’s business community and an understanding of what businesses need to succeed, Noyes said.
“What better opportunity, I think, to help effect change with a growing community like Prineville than to help understand the socio-economic conditions?”
Noyes grew up in Estacada and worked in Gresham before moving to Prineville in early 2001. He has three children in the local school system and said he has taken an active role in their schools.
“There’s so much growth going on here (and) coming to town,” Noyes said. “I think I can bring a lot to the council just from the personal side of having family interests but also having the professional interests that I do with my career.”
Former mayor Steve Uffelman has seen a lot of changes in Prineville during his almost 20 years in local government, and he said his experience would be his greatest asset if elected to another four-year term on the City Council.
Uffelman stepped down as mayor in 2004. He said he has put his hat back into the ring in this council race because he wants to continue to serve the community.
“I enjoy it,” Uffelman said. “I don’t really have any particular agendas or projects that I want to work on — the council is an evolving type of role that things will come forward that need to be addressed.”
Uffelman said the institutional memory he brings to the role would be important as the council continues to deal with the growth occurring in Prineville.
“I bring an understanding of where the city has been, the history of the city (and) knowledge of why decisions were made the way they were,” he said. “Whether they’re right for today’s times, that remains to be debated.”
His two biggest priorities, Uffelman said, would be keeping the city within an affordable budget and making sure that the City of Prineville Railway is financially profitable.
“I think people pretty much know who I am and what I’ve done in the past and if they would like me to continue in that role then fine, and if they would like other folks to do that then that’s their choice.”
Mike Wendel doesn’t have any opponents in his bid for re-election as mayor of Prineville, but that doesn’t mean he has been taking a breather from city government.
Wendel said his top priorities right now include working on a drug free Prineville-Crook County program and the City of Prineville Railway. He is also on the board of directors for the League of Oregon Cities and was recently named to the board of the Oregon Mayors Association.
“I still have projects I need to try and complete and I think your first term is a lot of learning,” Wendel said.
Wendel completed two years out of a four-year term on the Prineville City Council before running for mayor in 2004. He said he thinks his tenure has seen greater cooperation between the city, county and private sector, a trend he would like to continue by creating a local economic development position.
Like many Prineville residents, Wendel said that one of the greatest challenges facing the town right now is growth.
“You always have growth, but I think a lot of communities have growth, so that’s normal,” he said. “We still have some work to do on our infrastructure.”
Wendel said his Prineville roots make him a good fit for the job.
“I’m a family man, I’ve lived here my whole life,” he said. “I have a desire for the political position and I want to help.”