An out of service bus at the Downtown Transit Center on Monday, April 6. Cherriots service will resume on April 7. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Ian Davidson recalled when he realized that if his life were a little different he wouldn’t be able to serve on the board of directors for Cherriots, Salem’s mass transit agency.

In October of 2019, Davidson had to bring along his two daughters to a board meeting because his wife had to work late. His 3-year-old was allowed to gavel the meeting to a start. But she then gaveled a second time. Davidson said his daughter was adorable yet disruptive.

“It made clear to me that if my life were just slightly different I could not and would not serve on the board,” said Davidson.

Davidson said that if he was a single parent who couldn’t afford a babysitter or had an hourly job with varying schedules it would be a barrier to public service.

But Cherriots is hoping to change that with a $376 monthly stipend that’ll be phased in for board members. To avoid a conflict of interest, the payments won’t be available to board members whose terms began before July 1. Other board members will be eligible for the payment if they are appointed by the governor to another four-year term.

Of the board’s seven members the payment will be available to three whose terms begin July 1 including Maria Hinojos Pressey (who will begin a new term), Ramiro Navarro and Sara Duncan. The board will become younger and more diverse after the new members take their seats.

Davidson, the board’s president, said that the idea of “true servant leadership” is often associated with taking some sort of economic cost to be involved with public service. But he said that cost limits who can be involved in public service and prevents the board from reflecting the community.

“It only hurts our board,” said Davidson, who spends 20 to 30 hours a month serving on the Cherriots board and other related committees.

The payments were approved at the board’s May 27 meeting on a 6-0 vote (Pressey abstained citing a conflict of interest). Director Sadie Carney praised it as a “forward-looking” policy that will make the board more inclusive and hoped it would be implemented elsewhere.

The state’s two other transit districts in Eugene and Portland do not offer any stipend, Davidson said at the meeting. Neither the Salem-Keizer School Board nor Salem City Council offers stipends, representatives from each entity confirmed.

The $376 payments are indexed to 10% of the average monthly income in Marion County so future boards won’t have to adjust it. Davidson said the stipends can be used for childcare, internet access or whatever each board member decides. He said if they don’t need it, they could donate it to charity.

The stipends will cost $13,547 this year. Cherriots total approved budget for the year is $111.73 million. 

 Contact reporter Jake Thomas at 503-575-1251 or [email protected] or @jakethomas2009.

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