Dynee Medlock, left, and Deanna Gwyn, are running to represent south central Salem, Ward 4, on the city council (Campaign photos)

On May 17, Salem voters will select four city councilors and the city’s next mayor.

Council candidates are running in ward 2, 4, 6 and 8. Voters must live in a ward to vote in that ward’s race. All Salem voters can cast a ballot for mayor.

Races are nonpartisan, which means candidates aren’t running from a political party and voters don’t need to be registered with any party affiliation. 

Salem Reporter sent all nine candidates for city offices the same questionnaire based on reader suggestions and major issues facing the city. We’re printing responses from candidates over the coming days, organized by ward.

Salem Reporter also reviewed records of campaign contributions, criminal and civil court records and voting histories to learn about each candidate.

Two political newcomers are vying for the Ward 4 seat, representing south central Salem. Incumbent Jackie Leung is not running for re-election and is instead seeking a state representative seat in House District 19, running against fellow Democrat and City Councilor Tom Andersen.

Deanna Gwyn, 59, is a principal broker with Blum Real Estate. Dynee Medlock, 42, is a network specialist with Mac A to Z and a web developer.

Gwyn has raised $35,625 in cash and $4,549 in in-kind contributions as of April 18. Her largest donors are in housing and real estate. They include a political action committee affiliated with the Home Builders Association of Marion and Polk Counties, called Mid-Valley Affordable Housing Coalition, with $3,166.67 in cash and in-kind donations; and $2,500 each from Mountain West Investment Corporation and the Oregon Realtors political action committee. (Disclosure: Larry Tokarski, Mountain West president, is also a co-founder of Salem Reporter.)

She’s endorsed by Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett, whose term expires at the end of the year.

Salem Reporter’s review of voter records found Gwyn has voted only twice in the past decade, which she attributed to feeling disenfranchised and like her vote didn’t matter.

Medlock so far has raised $1,833 in cash and in-kind contributions, plus a $2,600 loan from her campaign treasurer, Salem resident Michelle Phillips, who’s married to Salem City Councilor Trevor Phillips. Her only named donors are the Democratic Party of Oregon, with $1,000 in in-kind contributions, and Salem resident Tina Calos, with a $250 donation.

She is endorsed by Leung, as well as city councilors Trevor Phillips, Vanessa Nordyke and Chris Hoy, who’s currently running for mayor.

How long have you lived in Salem?

Gwyn: I have lived in Salem for about 40 years in total. We moved into an apartment in Ward 4 last May. Prior to that, my husband and I lived just outside the city limits off of Riverdale Rd S for 17 years. Before that, we lived in Ward 7 for 14 years. My husband lived in Ward 4 as a child.

Medlock: My husband Mike and I have lived in the same house in Ward 4 just off Mildred Lane for the past 14 years.

Please describe previous civic experience. This could include service on a board or commission, previous elective office, or work or volunteer service in a related field. Please include the year(s) for the work or service.

Gwyn:  I have served on the Board of Directors for MidValley Association of Realtors since 2020. I have been the Secretary/Treasurer since 2021.

Medlock: 

South Gateway Neighborhood Association - past board member in 2009

MOMS Club of South Salem - past board member in 2010

Advocate for individuals and families living with special needs (2017)

Salem-Keizer Schools Parent Volunteer (Current, 5 years) 

Describe one volunteer circumstance where you held a leadership position and used that position to accomplish a specific goal. We are looking for information on not only previous leadership but effective leadership.

Gwyn: Although I have served in many leadership positions throughout my life, most of them have been behind-the-scenes types of leadership. Not always seen, but heard. I am not the type of leader who eats first, I am subtle but profound in my positions served. It is my belief that leaders eat last, they bring people up behind them to serve alongside them while providing a clear direction, voice, and vision for the future of any organization. 

For example, I serve on the Executive Committee of a Local Board. During transition, I was absolutely instrumental in the functionality of our organization, yet again, behind the scenes. Whether I am running the technology for meetings, finalizing accounts or budget details, or simply supporting the President, I am reliable. I lead with intent, heart, and share in the workload. You can count on me to be there, to move us forward, and to serve our community with the utmost commitment. 

Medlock: I took part in a regional "Creating Leaders" program where I met with local and state legislative leaders about issues that mattered to individuals and families living with special needs. Through this work I was able to help connect with leaders and help make real change happen for our community. I learned how state bills become law. There is a lot of work left to do, but I feel confident that in the end we will make things better for everyone.

What motivated you to run?  What specific issue is a priority for you to address if elected and what steps would you take?

Gwyn:  I was motivated to run for city council because of the homeless crisis. The situation has progressively worsened over the past several years, and I believe the current Council has not acted quickly enough. I will continue to work with our local non-profits and neighbors to find more suitable locations to build emergency shelters.  We cannot have people sleeping near roadways or in parks. It is unsafe. 

Medlock: We need someone who has strong ties to Ward 4 to be a voice for our neighbors and neighborhoods. My opponent has only lived in Ward 4 and within the Salem city limits for one year. 

We need someone on Council who understands the community assets that we currently have and will work with Council to protect them moving forward. The Creekside golf course has been at risk of development in the past. I will prioritize its continued protection.  

Homelessness is the number one issue for a majority of residents in Salem. I look forward to the opening for the Navigation Center which will include 40 low barrier managed sheltered beds. I support managed micro-shelters. I will work tirelessly with the rest of Council and City Staff to tackle this challenging issue. 

Improving infrastructure and safety is the other issue that prompted me to serve. We need to continue our efforts to have safe crosswalks and routes to school. We need to advocate for the resources needed to get drivers to adhere to the rules of the road. In general, people are still driving too fast and well above the posted speed limit which places all of us at risk. 

Homelessness remains a major challenge for the community.

What action has the city taken in the past year that you agree with and support?

Gwyn: I agree with moving forward on the navigation center project.  It is necessary to help us end the homeless crisis. 

Medlock: I support the Community Sanitation Response team as a good way to address unsafe unmanaged camping more promptly. I also support having managed Micro Shelter sites and the housing first model that we use here in Salem.  

What action has the city taken in the past that you disagree with and oppose?

Gwyn: The plan to build micro shelter sites in every Ward was not a good idea.  It received immense pushback from neighbors and wasted valuable time that the unsheltered do not have. The most recently chosen site was halted because of legal action.  Finding suitable locations, while difficult, is not impossible.  

Medlock: Unmanaged camping has caused an undue burden on many local neighborhoods and businesses, especially those downtown and communities near parks. We must move toward more managed sheltering options while ensuring that all community members have access to the resources that are our parks. 

What would you propose to address encampments around the city?

Gwyn: Encampments should be short term. Anytime we see new encampments, we need to have case managers working with the unsheltered to get a better understanding of how we can best help them get off the street and into transitional housing. We also need to keep the area around the encampments clean and sanitary.  

Medlock: Again, I support the community Sanitation Response team. I think that this will help by providing additional full-time staff who can respond more quickly to encampments that have clear public health hazards from the onset.

What additional collaboration or partnership do you propose the city expand or initiate to address the reasons people are homeless in Salem?

Gwyn: Continuing to strengthen our relationships with local non-profits such as ARCHES and UGM is key. Members of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency have been working with the unsheltered for years, and they have the knowledge necessary to educate us on ways to prevent people from becoming homeless. In my talks with non-profits, they point to a lack of housing as a key driver of homelessness. We can take actionable information and start working toward necessary solutions. 

Medlock: I support leading the effort to finally get funding for a Sobering Center, and I would redouble city efforts to recruit additional nonprofit resources to our community to help address mental health issues and addiction. I support exploring ways to implement a CAHOOTS model mobile crisis response unit here in Salem.

Salem is continuing to grow and has a shortage of both rental housing and homes. What should city government do to address this shortage beyond what it is now doing?

Gwyn: We need more housing developments that accommodate all levels of income.  The city can do this by working closely with the Planning Commission and local developers to fast-track projects.  

Medlock: We need to grow in a way that is smart. The permitting process at City Hall can be time consuming and cumbersome. We need to continue our efforts to streamline these processes for housing of all types. Additionally, we need more public-private partnerships to ensure that housing really is affordable.

City leaders have developed a Climate Action Plan to guide city efforts to drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions, including a proposal to ban natural gas hookups. How ambitious should the city be with its climate goals?

Gwyn: I believe we should be good stewards of our environment but practical in our efforts to cut down on emissions. Banning natural gas is not practical. Many rely on natural gas for their appliances and to heat their homes. The 2021 ice storm is a good reason for why we should remain using natural gas.  

The City should be proactive in reducing its overall emissions, but not take such drastic measures that will burden families. For example, I think converting the city fleet to electric vehicles is a great idea, if we can budget for it. 

Medlock: My house has natural gas. There is no serious plan to remove natural gas or ban its use at this time. I look forward to working with all of our local partners including PGE, NW Natural gas, and Cherriots to implement the best and most reasonable strategies in the near future. Transportation is the source of approximately 50% of local emissions. I would focus on increased efficiency of transportation and prioritizing charging stations. Personally, we have solar panels at our house. I think that increasing the use of solar panels could really make an impact.

Police Chief Trevor Womack has said his department has had to scale back certain services due to being short-staffed, and identified increasing the size of Salem’s police force as key to implementing his strategic plan. How would you assess such a proposal as a councilor? 

Gwyn: I would first look to see how we can budget to add additional police officers.  Public safety is one of my top priorities, so I will do everything I can to see that Salem Police Department has what it needs to keep us safe. 

Medlock: The data from the performance audit of the Salem Police Department shows that additional officers are needed. I support Chief Womack's vision for community policing. The community Sanitation Response team provides funding for 2 additional sworn officers. I am in favor of providing Chief Womack with the resources he needs to move toward his vision of community policing. I would like to see us hire at least a few additional officers each year within the constraints of the City's budget.

The police department has reported an increase in murders and weapon offenses from last year as the agency prioritized responding to an uptick in shootings at the beginning of 2021. What action, if any, would you propose the city take to reduce gun violence or otherwise improve public safety?

Gwyn: We should be increasing the number of police officers and implement a Mobile Crisis Unit as soon as possible. 

Medlock: We need to prioritize addressing these serious crimes. Salem Police Department (like every department at Salem) is objectively under staffed. Salem has fewer staff in 2022 than it had in 2007 despite a growth of more than 30,000 residents. I am ready to work with my neighbors, City Council and City staff to address these difficult issues. 

What, if anything, should the city do to attract good living-wage jobs to Salem?

Gwyn: By being a business-friendly city, we have the opportunity to attract businesses who want to invest in our community. The city can do this by revitalizing the downtown area and keeping the tax rate low. 

Medlock: The City of Salem should continue to work with regional partners like SEDCOR. I'm encouraged by the community's progress in attracting local commercial air service to Salem. We are the only capital city in the country to not have commercial air service. I'm in favor of exploring having municipal broadband downtown which would attract high-tech workers. 

Should the city be taking steps to recognize and serve Salem’s increasingly diverse population? If so, what steps?

Gwyn: Yes. To best serve residents, the city needs to understand the issues communities face.  Salem should be proactive in creating dialogues with communities to better understand how issues can best be addressed.  

Medlock: My Mother is Hawaiian. My middle name, Keohileleokamaile, was passed down to me in honor of my great grandmother, who was a leader in her Hawaiian community. When my children were born, they also received Hawaiian names. This small step helped pass on the stories of our ancestors. I feel that real solutions are made from numerous smaller steps that we take on together. We will listen. We will learn each other's stories. We will grow stronger together. 

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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