by Cara Kaser
This 4th of July will mark exactly six months since I was sworn in as the Ward 1 Salem City Councilor. Serving as a councilor during these last few months has been an enlightening, challenging, and rewarding experience. It has also been eye-opening in that I’ve learned that many Salem residents are unaware of what serving on a volunteer city council is really like. To that end, I want to help demystify the council experience for you a bit.
First off, I am not a career politician, nor do I have aspirations to be one. My council position is an unpaid position in which I volunteer between 15-25 hours a week. I spend those hours preparing for and attending Council meetings, going to neighborhood association meetings (there are six in my ward), meeting with residents about issues, meeting with business owners, and attending events. I’m often asked, “You’re a volunteer, but you receive a stipend, and have an office, and someone to answer your email and phone calls, right?” Nope. I answer all of the dozens of emails and phone calls I get in a week, myself. Perk-wise, I do have a wooden council mailbox in the city manager’s office and a pretty sweet 1970s desk in the council chambers.
I actually work a regular 8-5 job like most of you do. I live in a modest house with my family just north of downtown. I do my own yardwork, vacuum, laundry, feed my dogs, and wonder about what to do for dinner. I like to have lazy Saturday mornings (which isn’t often) where I can lounge and watch that one great show on Netflix everyone’s talking about but I never have time to watch. I like to go for walks at Minto Island. I like to visit my family especially my 88-year-old grandparents who live in Keizer. I also like to get out of Salem to go camping, or to the coast, or to visit my sisters in Portland or Eugene.
To be clear, I’m not looking for sympathy here. I just want to help provide you with a better understanding of what it’s like to be a Salem City Councilor. And this just isn’t my council experience, as I know all of us councilors are constantly engaged in a juggling act of time management, setting priorities, and still carving out some time for ourselves and our family.
To put it simply, I – and I believe all of us councilors – are on the council because I love and enjoy serving my community and I want to work for all of you to make it the best we can. So if I haven’t responded to your email yet, please know that I’m getting to it. I just need to sleep first.
During her free time, you can usually find Ward 1 city councilor Cara Kaser traveling, camping, reading, and trying to beat her high score on AC/DC pinball downtown.
Salem Weekly invites all city councilors to address constituents with Opinions in Salem Weekly. This is one of a series!