Matt Ausec, Senior Policy Analyst with the Office of the State Chief Information Officer will become Ward 5 city councilor in January 2017. Among the issues he emphasized in his primary run this spring, were the particular challenges his ward faces for safe streets and reliable bus service.

We spoke with Matt recently to see what was on his mind.

SW: How does it feel to be Salem’s next Ward 5 councilor?

Ausec: I am honored at being chosen by the people of Ward 5 to represent them, and I am excited about bringing a voice to the issues that I heard about when I went door to door to meet the people in the neighborhood.

SW: During the campaign, what did constituents most often tell you they cared about, and are you considering ways of addressing these issues?

Ausec: Pedestrian and bike safety was the most frequent thing I heard. Ward 5 is severely lacking in sidewalks and is filled with roads in residential areas that drivers use as high speed cut throughs to major roads. I have already brought this up with city staff, especially regarding the area around Waldo Middle School, which was very concerning to me as I walked those streets talking to people. The staff was engaged and I know that we will work to address this very important safety issue.

SW: Has you vision for Salem, evolved over the months, and if so, how?

Ausec: The city provides orientation for new city councilors regarding the working of each department. Since the election my vision for Salem hasn’t changed, but my understanding of how to make it happen and who to work with within the city government has grown. I am grateful to the city staff for taking the time to provide information to me as well as to listen to the issues I bring to them, even before I am sworn in to office.

SW: What citywide issues are on your mind these days?

Ausec: When I was running, I spoke with people who like me were interested in developing a food hub on Portland Road, acting on an urban renewal plan that has been slow to implement. Now I am seeing a greater connection between food and the health and economy of the city. This food hub could not only bring healthy options to my neighborhood, but also increase those options citywide by improving the supply of produce to Salem. And by improving the supply chain and access to an area with unmet demand we will also help local farmers bring their crops to Salem. I believe this will make us all more interconnected while giving us more good, local food to eat.

SW: What excites you most about your upcoming term?

Ausec: I am most excited by the people I have met, the new councilors and the city staff. These people are all interested in making Salem the best city it can be and we have all made it clear that we want to work together to achieve that goal.