ENTERPRISE — While several city council seats are on the Nov. 3 ballot, the only contested one in Wallowa County is Position No. 6 on the Enterprise City Council. Robert “Rob” Taylor and Richard “Rick” Freeman both filed for that seat.
The Chieftain submitted questions to the two candidates in late September to help voters decide who they prefer to replace Councilman Chris Pritchard, who announced several weeks ago that he would not be seeking re-election.
The questions are the same for each candidate.
How long have you lived in Enterprise?
Taylor: I moved to Enterprise in the early 2000s when I was hired as an ecologist with The Nature Conservancy to lead its science program at the Zumwalt Prairie Preserve. I have lived here ever since, except for a short time when I worked overseas, and have no intention of ever leaving.
Freeman: I have lived in Enterprise for many years. My family has roots in Wallowa County and I graduated from Enterprise High School. I moved back a few years ago.
Have you ever held elective office before?
Taylor: I served on the Enterprise Planning Commission from 2012 through 2015, and served as the chairman of that commission for part of that time.
Freeman: This is my first time running for any public office, but I am excited about what I will be able to do for the city of Enterprise.
What’s your “day job?”
Taylor: I am employed as a restoration ecologist (a type of biologist) with the National Wildlife Refuge Association, a nonprofit organization that works to protect, promote and enhance our National Wildlife Refuge System. In this role I work with wildlife refuges throughout Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest, mostly on issues related to managing weeds and other invasive species.
Freeman: I am the owner of the Enterprise Liquor Store.
Why should voters elect you rather than your opponent?
Taylor: I don’t know much about Rick Freeman, the other candidate for this position, but assume he’s a good guy. What I can tell voters is that I would consider serving in the role of councilor an honor and privilege and would bring my personal ethics of hard work and integrity to the role. If elected, I would act in the best interests of the city and its residents. As far as who to vote for, my advice to voters would be to learn as much as you can about every candidate on the ballot and then vote for who you think will do a better job.
Freeman: As a business owner in the city, I have a different perspective of how to help the downtown business areas.
What do you see as the most important issue facing the city?
Taylor: Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic is a real concern for both public health and our local economy. I think other important issues relate to managing growth, promoting business and maintaining good city services while keeping our community affordable. In solving all challenges facing the city, I believe that resident engagement is essential and, if I am elected, I would work to find more avenues for Enterprise residents to be get involved.
Freeman: One of the most important issues facing the city is the current stress placed on businesses by the COVID-19 restrictions. I will work with all council members and any residents to come up with ways to get more people off the beaten path and into the downtown district.
The city is concerned with the expense of the airport. What are your thoughts on that?
Taylor: Every service the city provides should yield benefits that are at least equal to the costs. According to the most recent city budget, the airport costs around $11,000 per year to run and brings in less than $1,000. Is that appropriate? I don’t know, but if folks have concerns then it is a topic that needs to be discussed. I’m all ears.
Freeman: The Enterprise airport has been a topic of conversation lately. I have not used it and do not know much about the way it is currently being operated. With that said, I believe it is only fair to assess the public benefits and then to address ways to keep it viable and self-sustaining.
With all the business-promoting events canceled because of the pandemic, what would you do as a councilman to boost business?
Taylor: Improving the business climate in the city has been an issue since I moved here and the pandemic certainly has not improved the situation. Downtown Enterprise has a lot of untapped potential but also a lot of vacant storefronts. The city’s slogan is (or was) “The City that Means Business,” though in the past I don’t think we’ve always followed that mission. There are businesses that have thrived during the pandemic and I think looking at those might be a good starting point for understanding how to mitigate the impact that COVID-19 is having.
Freeman: It has been a very hard year on the downtown businesses. The cancellation of so many traditional events has left an emptiness felt throughout the business community. Until the restrictions are lifted and people can gather in safety and camaraderie, I feel that we all, as a community, must brainstorm for ways to support each other. I will be available to residents’ input and ideas as well as complaints. I will be a very proactive council member and would invite anyone who has questions to contact me for a visit.