Bruce Ellis, who is running for the Brookings mayoral seat in the Nov. 6 general election, says he is a man of the people.
He touts his promotion experience, his eagerness to work with people “in the know,” and his excitement about bringing visitors to the city.
“That’s my reason for running,” he said. “I already know what I want to do for this town.”
Ellis, the owner, CEO and president of Insider magazine, has lived in Brookings for 6 years. The 50-year-old is the founder of the Pirates of the Pacific festival, a volunteer event consultant for the Port of Brookings Harbor and a volunteer with the Knights of Columbus.
And he’s getting to know his daughter, Mariah, as he’s been estranged from her for years.
But these days, his attention is on the Nov. 6 elections, where he wants to start shaking up the city. He is running against incumbent Ron Hedenskog.
He feels his experience – particularly as a promoter of Virginia Renaissance Festival in Spotsylvania, Va., for eight years – can help the city council attract visitors, jobs and money to Brookings.
Ellis admits not being knowledgeable about many issues – Salmon Run golf course’s financial plight, how to address the needs of those with specialized medical care requirements, and even what the Urban Growth Boundary is – but says that, as mayor, he would bring to the table people who can advise him and the city the best courses to take.
The best example, he said is the municipal pool. He had his accountant look at the city’s budget, and noticed the pool doesn’t turn a profit. He wants to address every line item on the budget and analyze it to get the most out of the money spent.
“We need to get the people together that are involved, discuss what we can do,” he said. “There is stuff we can change, stuff that needs to be addressed.”
Ellis expounds on marketing the city and its amenities and how his experience could be invaluable in that arena. He envisions the empty storefronts filling up with businesses, the streets thronging with shoppers.
He didn’t apply for the city’s newly-created Tourism and Marketing Committee because he wants things done – now.
“I want to see merchants and hotels survive,” he said. “I am nothing if not about promoting the economy. I want to make this the tourism capital of Oregon. I don’t see why we can’t. I have a lot to bring people here.”
In regards to the golf course, which faces its own agenda of issues, Ellis believes marketing will solve its problems.
“That’s the only thing we can do,” he said. “Make it where they want to come here. We can have everything done to it we can, but we still need to market it. And I am a marketing tool.”
Ellis acknowledges that many begin their municipal career at the planning commission level, learning about the issues and idiosyncrasies that make a city run.
“Not me,” he said. “I can adapt real well. I didn’t say it was going to be easy. But I can make a difference right here.”
He views the job of mayor as one with an open-door policy headed up by someone who has a hands-on approach to getting things done.
“I will be out there,” he said. “I’m up for anything positive for this community. Let’s move things along. Let’s get things done. I really believe I can make a difference.”
Ways he would get people involved – he’s seen the empty council chambers audience seats – is to hold community forums, barbecues, town parties and unite the community and get them talking about issues that concern them. He wants to start a weekly talk show on the radio to address those concerns.
He also wants people to know he’s not a politician.
“I’m going at it as a director of operations,” he said. “As a diplomat. I’m good at that. People don’t want a politician now. Not someone who keeps talking and talking and talking and not doing anything.”
Ellis realizes the state of the economy weighs heavy on the minds of many here, and he’s got plans for that, too.
“I want to get corporations to look at our empty buildings, and see if a manufacturer can set up a business and our locals can work it,” he said. “If we’re out there fishing, someone will bite.”
Change would be imminent in town, he said.
“I was serious when I threw my hat in the ring,” he said. “Now I’m passionate. Let’s see what I can do.
“If you like things they way they are now, and you don’t want things to change, then you don’t want to vote for me,” he said. “I will be asking for the community to help. I can’t do it alone. But together, we really can make a difference.
Ron Hedenskog believes his role as mayor of Brookings is multi-fold, and its success is proven by his experience, background and a strong foundation in Brookings.
His family moved here in 1966, and still live here – his mother and her three siblings, his brother, sister, wife, Rose, their son and daughter, a grandson, two granddaughters and two great-grandchildren.
He started in his municipal career in 2006 as a city councilman and, two years ago, was encouraged by then-Mayor Larry Anderson to take his seat when he resigned this spring. He faces Bruce Ellis, publisher of Insider magazine, in the Nov. 6 election.
Hedenskog said he was a bit unsure if he should run for mayor two years ago, as the position is such an undertaking; the 64-year-old still refers to a two-page document given to him by City Manager Gary Milliman called, “What makes a good mayor?”
“I’m following it,” he said with a smile. “This is my mayorship bible.”
A good mayor, it reads, must represent the city in the community, attending events and being available to meet with citizens to discuss their concerns. Hedenskog admits he’s more of a modest homebody.
“I’m not a self-promoter,” Hedenskog said. “I’d be perfectly content sitting in the back and letting everyone else have the fun.”
His actions show otherwise. Recently, he was invited to attend the 100th Second Saturday Art Walk and judge the Harvest at the Harbor apple pie contest. Yesterday (Oct. 26), he participated in the schools’ homecoming activities, and recently at an Outreach Gospel Mission fundraiser. He also helps at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church’s free lunches program, and was responsible for expanding the program there to four other churches and Azalea Middle School, collectively called the Community Kitchens.
A good mayor, the document reads, must represent the community, reaching out to elected leaders of other departments in local government to seek a cooperative approach to dealing with issues. He must be the city’s spokesman on regional matters.
In that arena, he has most recently been involved trying to implement suggestions made by Southern Oregon Economic Development, Inc., whose CEO told council this summer they need to invest their energy in existing industries before luring others to town.
A good mayor must manage city council deliberation, fully participating in debate and encouraging council members to express their views. Hedenskog can be seen center-dais at every-other-week city council meetings.
A good mayor must select appointees to commissions and committees, drawing upon the city’s vision for the area.
Thus the city’s newly-created Tourism and Marketing Committee. The city is also trying to fill vacancies on the budget and arts committees, bringing in stakeholders to direct the council.
“A good mayor understands his role as the political leader of the city,” the document continues, “is a policy maker who chairs a team of policy makers, a team that provides policy direction to and conducts oversight of the city’s management.”
This job is not just about “gathering citizens around a bonfire and singing Kumbaya,” he said, adding that his former work in surveying, planning and administration have well prepared him to continue in his position as mayor.
Hedenskog studied math and engineering in college, joined the U.S. Army and served from 1969 to 1971 and then worked for South Coast Lumber for nearly 20 years. He started his own construction company and worked for the Richard B. Davis Co. Inc. in Gasquet – key in furthering his planning skills, he said.
In his tenure with the city, Hedenskog has been involved with revising the city’s municipal code to help stimulate growth, recently getting $35,000 in grant funds to make Mill Beach ADA-accessible and securing a college, among other items.
If elected, Hedenskog plans to continue the council’s work addressing issues facing the city: the golf course problems, resolving medical care challenges, and the possible repercussions of a fiscally tapped county on Brookings and Harbor.
“It’s no surprise to the community that there are issues with the golf course,” he said. “And why don’t we have a hospital? (State law prohibits hospitals from being within 25 miles of one another.) Let’s change the law. If we get enough people asking the Legislature for an exemption on this law, we can do it.”
He doesn’t even want to talk about how the county budget could affect Harbor – and how that, in turn, could affect Brookings.
“Imagine how many factions would go through the roof if you even discuss becoming a city or annexation to Brookings,” he said. “But it’s a challenge facing Harbor and Brookings together. Areas south of Brookings will be challenged greatly by county issues.”
And while Brookings’ budget is in “great shape,” he said, the county’s fiscal precariousness could easily and adversely affect the city.
“We have a huge cloud hanging over our country called the economy,” he said. “The best thing is to have a well-rooted, working council that together can face whatever comes in the door tomorrow.”
While important, he said, tourism is a minor issue in comparison; Hedenskog believes the city needs to invest most of its energy into what it already has. In that regard, however, he’d like to get coastal cities to work together to attract tourists – one way could be to get Highway 101 designated as an Oregon Scenic Bikeway.
“We’re moving along,” he said. “And the citizens of this community know I’m working for them.”