In what is proving to be a hotly contested race, five Sisters citizens are vying for three seats on the Sisters City Council.

Incumbent Lon Kellstrom is running for re-election to the city council after a decade of service. Sisters businessman Pat Thompson has thrown his hat in the ring, along with builder/designer Jerry Bogart.

The three candidates are backed by Citizens for Sisters, a Political Action Committee (PAC) that has raised funds for advertising and signage.

A second PAC, Friends of Sisters, was formed on September 30 (see related story, page 10). That PAC is backing the candidacies of incumbent Mayor Brad Boyd and citizen activist Wendy Holzman.

The Nugget interviewed all five candidates last week, discussing a range of issues affecting the City of Sisters.

Transportation

All five candidates cited transportation as a key issue facing the city. After almost two decades of false starts, a city transportation planning committee is close to offering a new Transportation System Plan (TSP) for managing traffic in Sisters.

The favored option at this time is the use of an alternate route along Locust Street to Barclay Drive and through the Sisters Industrial Park - a route that is already being used.

The route would be improved with roundabouts or other traffic control devises, with an estimated price tag of $41 million.

"When I heard the price tag, I about fell over," Bogart said. "$40-plus million: Where's that money coming from?"

However, Bogart said, Sisters clearly needs to do something to address traffic through the downtown core.

"We have to make a decision; we can't keep visioning and consulting," he said.

Kellstrom and Thompson both flinched at the proposed cost. Kellstrom said that "that's so far out of the realm of possibility it might as well be $100 million." He thinks a couplet may be more "doable."

Holzman, who has served on the TSP committee, said, "I think that it (the alternate route) makes sense. I think that's a good way to move toward getting trucks out of downtown Sisters."

She did not have any specific ideas about how to fund the project, but said, "ultimately, it's what you have to do to maintain the livability of the town."

Boyd said, "I think there's some details that need to be worked out, but I'm strongly in favor of it."

He said that the option was the least expensive of those explored - with a split couplet coming in at $48 million and a true bypass exceeding $100 million.

"I just can't believe any of those price tags," he said. "I was shocked by all of them. The nice thing about it is that (the alternate route) can be phased in."

Economic Development

"It's all about the economy right now," Bogart said.

He believes that the City of Sisters should take the lead role in making Sisters business-friendly and recruiting businesses into the area.

Mayor Boyd has a different view.

"I really think that having the Chamber lead this... makes more sense," he said.

Boyd thinks the Chamber should dedicate a portion of the room tax revenues it receives to creating a position for an economic development director. The city could perhaps provide additional funding for the position. That director could actively recruit businesses.

Thompson and Kellstrom said that Boyd's outlook, which is shared by Holzman, is evidence for the need for what Kellstrom calls "an attitudinal change."

"I think the biggest thing that's lacking is a positive attitude for anyone who is looking to expand into Sisters," Thompson said. He believes that a change in leadership is required "so that Sisters is viewed as a place where (economic) expansion can happen."

"We think there is enough public sentiment to support our change in direction and leadership," Kellstrom said. "One of the main things being, being more open and receptive to economic development opportunities that come our way. Our first reaction has been, we immediately find reasons not to do something."

Boyd and Holzman see the city's role in a fundamentally different light.

"The most effective economic development is to maintain the atmosphere and quality of life that makes this a great place to live," Boyd said. "We're never going to be the low-cost option."

Holzman said that she accepts that Sisters will grow and change, but she thinks citizens want to go easy on the throttle.

"People want it to be change that enhances and doesn't detract from what we already have," she said.

Leadership

The three newcomers to the race bring a range of experience and attributes to bear in their bid for a council seat.

Holzman, returning to community activism after a long break for children and career, is the council liaison for Committee for Citizen Involvement (CCI) and has served on the TSP committee.

"I'm a regular, everyday citizen," she said. "I have no special-interest ties."

She believes Sisters is at a "tipping point" and hopes to serve on the council as a way of moving toward the future articulated in the Sisters Community Vision project.

Holzman feels well-prepared for the job.

"There's a lot of everyday stuff that goes on that I have familiarity with now," she said.

Though he has not been a regular at city council meetings, Pat Thompson feels he is well-versed in the issues that confront Sisters.

"I talk to people about city issues on a daily basis," Thompson said. "I hear the voice of the people off the record as to how they're feeling about city government."

He believes he can bring good business sense and better communication to the city. He emphasizes that he is committed to Sisters for the benefit of everyone.

"I'm just a simple businessman and family man who lives in the community," he said. "I plan to stay here for the rest of my life. I have kids in school here and I'm very concerned about the direction of the city."

Jerry Bogart believes the key to leadership is taking in information, then making a good decision quickly. Like Thompson, he's only recently become involved in city politics, but he believes he understands what needs to be done.

"Catching up on the issues, I think, is the easy part," he said. "The tough part is to roll up your sleeves and get the job done."

Bogart says he can help Sisters develop better relationships with the agencies that impact the city's future and help to weed out unnecessary red tape.

He emphasizes that, though there are a lot of people backing him, he is independent.

"I looked (Citizens for Sisters backers) Curt Kallberg and Bill Willitts in the eye and told them I couldn't care less if (their property) McKenzie Meadows gets in or not," he said.

Bogart thinks the city needs to focus on jobs, not bringing in more buildable land.

As for the incumbents, Lon Kellstrom has served for a decade and seen a lot of change in Sisters. He believes the city has some significant accomplishments to be proud of, including professionalizing planning staff, partly through improving pay scales, and building a new, modern City Hall.

He is concerned about sustainability of budgets and infrastructure and is interested in continuing to serve to keep an eye on such considerations.

Mayor Boyd said he recognizes that what he calls his "blunt" style can be abrasive and understands that some people see him as arrogant.

"I'm not a born politician," he said. "I don't mean to be rude; some people take it as rude; some people take it as arrogant. It's not meant that way at all. I need to soften my edges a little bit to try and get along better with people, bite my tongue sometimes."

Boyd bristled at the accusation that he had said something to the effect that "if we don't like a business in Sisters we just burn it down."

"I never said it, even in jest," he said. "I remember saying the opposite, that that's not the way to do things."

Boyd said the city is getting things done in a positive way.

"I think the city's headed in the right direction," he said. "I think we represent the citizens and that's who I was elected to serve."

All five candidates will participate in a forum at FivePine Convention Center on Monday, October 13, at 7:30 p.m. (see related story, page 3).