City News

Mayor Chuck Bennett doesn’t plan to seek fourth term

Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

When Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett ran for a third term in 2020, he made his wife, Cherie, a promise.

He agreed that it would be his last two years.

Now he’s making good on that promise as he doesn’t plan to run for re-election.

It’s time,” said 73-year-old Bennett.

Bennett has been mayor since 2017 and represented Ward 1, the area around downtown and parts of west Salem, on the council for eight years prior to that. His term ends at the end of next year.

“You kind of want to leave on an up note,” he said. “I feel good about where we are.”

When asked which accomplishments he’s most proud of, the mayor pointed to the city’s response to homelessness which he called the most robust in the state.

Bennett said the city’s work is based on the housing-first model, which aims to provide permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness.

“It’s really based on reality. I feel very, very good about that,” he said. “Is it done? No.”

He said he announced the city’s new Homeless Rental Assistance Program, run by the Salem Housing Authority, virtually the first day he was in office.

“Until I got there as mayor, we had not used the housing authority the way we are now,” he said.

In the past five years the housing authority has taken on increasing responsibility, opening the city’s first permanent supportive housing project and hiring housing and landlord navigators.

He also pointed to his relationship with state and county leaders, which he said helped the city secure millions in funding this legislative session.

“Relationships with county and state are better than they’ve ever been. I have the personal and political relationships to make it happen. I really relied on those a lot,” he said.

Bennett is a former member of the Oregon House of Representatives.

He retired from his role as director of government relations for the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators in 2018.

He said he pushed hard to have a professional lobbyist represent the city. Previously that work was done in-house.

Bennett was a reporter at the Salem Capital Journal when the city created the urban renewal area downtown 50 years ago.

“It is going to be a different downtown in the next couple of years,” he said. “It’s that downtown change I’m very, very proud of.”

He said he’ll spend his next year advocating for a $300 million bond measure that will go on the ballot in November, which aims to repair the city’s infrastructure.

Bennett also wants to push for beefing up the police force, adding 60 additional officers in the coming years.

“We need additional police officers very badly,” he said.

In his last year, he also hopes to develop a relationship with Cherriots to better understand what the transit service needs.

Bennett said mayors should like people and “be willing to put yourself out in public all the time.”

He also said those considering a run should figure out if they have an extra 40 hours each week to commit to the unpaid, volunteer position.

“This is not a paid gig. You do this kind of stuff because you love it and you care a whole bunch about your community,” he said. 

So far one candidate has announced their intention to run for mayor in 2022. The filing deadline is March 8, with a primary election May 17.

Hollie Oakes-Miller, who unsuccessfully ran against Jose Gonzalez in the last council election, has announced she’s seeking the mayor’s office.

Bennett said he intends to endorse Councilor Chris Hoy, who hasn’t filed for the race.

When reached Tuesday, Hoy said he’s not ready to make an announcement about whether or not he’s running. 

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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