I moved to Salem in early 2003. Beginning in 2014, I became involved in several projects and organizations to improve the community with a special interest in nature, public health, and Salem's built environment.
After several months volunteering to improve a visible but neglected area of Bush's Pasture, I decided the best thing I could do for the park was to offer my skills as an organizer and manager to the "friends of the park" organization. My timing was good. The Friends of Bush Gardens had recently come to the conclusion that they had to expand to be more effective park advocates. Together we founded the Mission Street Parks Conservancy. I served as MSPC's full-time executive from October 2017 to March 2020 and continue to serve on the board.
In the two and a half years I led the organization, MSPC incorporated, obtained tax-exempt status, and reached an MOU with the City. We also competed a significant new landscape rehabilitation project, commissioned and released a report on the health of the park's native Oregon white oaks, and began the process of documenting the park's collection of trees and woody shrubs.
Friends don't let friends run for public office. But if you can't persuade them to say "no," the next best thing is to help them win. So when my friend Dr. Trevor Phillips asked me (repeatedly) to manage his campaign for Salem City Council in Ward 3, I said "yes."
A 20-year incumbent, a ward evenly divided between D's and R's, a global pandemic? No problem.
Salem's urban forest needs our help. The estimated 9,100 acres of tree canopy help clean our air of pollutants, reduce the urban heat island effect, improve our health, and sequester carbon. Yet they can't vote, lobby their city councilors, or give news interviews. As a result, the City's tree program was underfunded and often overlooked.
My background as a community organizer led me to believe that I could play a role improving the situations. Over the past three years, I've had the privilege of working with Salem City councilors, city staff, arborists, many committed residents, parks advisory board members to improve our urban forest.
The results have been rewarding: a 5-year $550,000 street tree planting plan (July 2018), a commitment by the City to hire licensed arborists for their street crews, a new urban forester (February 2020), the exposure of the City's failure to enforce its tree protection ordinance (2020) and, soon, a City Council work session on Salem's urban forest (May 2020).
I'm pleased to be a member and serve on the Board of Trustees of Temple Beth Sholom, Salem's only synagogue. TBS is affiliated with the Reconstructionist movement. In addition to helping meet the spiritual, ritual, and cultural needs of Salem's Jewish community, TBS has a strong commitment to the local community, social justice, and sustainability. Our latest program to live out our values is the installation of solar panels that not only reduce our congregation's GHG emissions, but can provide emergency power to first responders in times of crisis. You can read more about this project, called MillieWatts after the woman who inspired the project, here. My own much smaller contribution is the installation and maintenance of a pollinator garden, trees, and xeriscape plantings.