City News

West Salem Councilor Jim Lewis resigns to spend more time with friends, family

Councilor Jim Lewis during a volunteer event at Orchard Heights Park. (Helen Caswell/Special to Salem Reporter)

There’s a line in a Jackson Browne song that goes, “If I could be anywhere right now, I would want to be here.”

For now-resigned Salem city Councilor Jim Lewis, that describes Salem.

“It may be the best kept secret as far as a place to live. I haven’t lived in a lot of places, but this is the best that I see. Not that we don’t have our struggles and our discussions, but it really is a nice place,” he said.

Lewis announced his resignation in an email to his fellow councilors Sunday. He’s served on the council since 2015, representing west Salem. The council will need to choose a replacement to serve the remainder of his term which ends Dec. 31.

He told Salem Reporter he decided to resign for a number of reasons, mostly other obligations that will take away from his council duties.

Lewis and his wife plan to visit friends they haven’t seen since the start of the pandemic in Arizona for a couple of months. His daughter is getting married this summer and he’s hosting a family reunion in Salem.

While his email to councilors noted “lingering medical issues,” Lewis said he’s not in bad health.

“I’m in relatively good health for somebody who’s almost 72,” he said.

He said rather than not be able to fulfill his responsibilities, he chose to step down.

Lewis was one of the remaining conservative voices on the council, a staunch supporter of a third bridge across the Willamette River. He cites the voting down of the bridge in 2019 as one of his great disappointments while on the council.

During Monday’s city council meeting, council members lauded Lewis. He wasn’t present at the meeting. 

“It’s no secret that he and I were often on opposite sides of many issues but throughout the entire time we have served on the council together we have always treated each other with respect and appreciation for the work we’re each doing and the common goal of serving the city of Salem,” Councilor Tom Andersen said.

“Councilor Lewis and I also did not always agree with one another but in the end, we were always cordial and respectful of one another at the end of the day,” Councilor Jackie Leung said.

Lewis said he’s missed sitting down with other councilors “as people” for a meal before meetings, something that went away as meetings went virtual.

He said councilors will “have disagreements and different philosophies, but if your focus is on the good of the city it helps with compromise.”

The best ideas are collective ones, he said.

Looking forward, Lewis said the city needs to continue working on the homelessness issue that’s top of mind for most residents. A related need is housing.

“One of the difficulties going forward for the citizens is the dramatic need for housing. How that interacts with our physical desires for things like trees, the balance that we need to find to accommodate the new growth that’s coming to Salem,” he said.

Lewis said in his years on council, and 10 years on the Planning Commission, he’s most proud of the council and budget committee working together each year on a balanced budget.

“I can’t express enough my appreciation for the folks in Salem to let me volunteer as long as I have,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous learning experience for me and one that I’ll always remember.”

Those interested in filling the vacancy can apply online until March 8.

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

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