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Political musical chairs

EAGLE POINT — In one of the valley's more interesting elections this November, six contenders will vie for four positions, offering some familiar names though not necessarily any incumbents from which to choose.

Mayor Leon Sherman and councilman Rick Tree will run for one another's current seats, with Tree facing a challenger, while three new faces will bring the number of contenders for three council positions to four.

Tree, a Qwest Communications technician, will run against council newcomer and Butte Creek Mill owner Bob Russell for the position of mayor.

Both cited a desire, if elected, to boost communication with citizens and improve pedestrian safety near the city's schools.

Tree said his election as mayor would provide needed continuity in finishing current projects such as Centennial Park and sidewalks near the city's schools.

Tree, 58, is originally from Michigan and came to the Rogue Valley in 1990. His background includes a stint on the Planning Commission.

A year older than Tree, Russell came to Oregon five years ago when the historic mill was posted for sale. A self-proclaimed former "suit and tie," Russell, who has served on the Economic Development Commission for four years, said it was time for some new faces at City Hall.

"I just love this town and I think sometimes you need some new eyeballs to look at things," he said. "I think, right now, that there's a real disconnect with average folks. It boils down to communication."

Russell said a recent decision to retrofit a water reservoir on the Eagle Point Golf Course caused controversy that would likely still be discussed.

Born and raised in Portland, Russell was formerly a district manager for Canon USA but said his new job as a mill owner provides some unique perspective "and a chance to meet a lot of great people."

Sherman said the fact he is term-bound as mayor is his primary reason for seeking a council seat. The 67-year-old said he was not "quite ready to leave" after serving more than a decade as a council member and then mayor.

Sherman, born in Medford and raised in Sams Valley, said he would bring experience from his years on the council as well as time on the community association and Fourth of July committee. "I've been going to council meetings for 30 years," he said. "It just doesn't seem like you've had a complete day if you haven't had to stop by City Hall for some reason."

Sherman said he would not endorse a particular candidate for mayor.

"If either one of them gets it, it doesn't matter to me. I think they'd both do really well," he said.

In the race with Sherman are 29-year-old Eagle Point School Board member Jonathan Bilden, an operations management consultant; Ruth Jenks, past president of the Eagle Point Golf Community Homeowners Association; and Kathy Sell, owner of Valley Feed & Pet Supply.

Bilden and Jenks did not return calls seeking comment.

Sell said her bid for a seat on the council came from a desire to participate in her community, noting, "I am a person who cannot just sit and complain about something without putting out an effort to help change it."

The 52-year-old is a longtime volunteer for Boy Scouts of America, an Economic Development Commission member and a board member for the Eagle Point Upper Rogue Chamber of Commerce. She has owned Valley Feed and Pet Supply in Eagle Point for 30 years.

Incumbents Terry Christiansen and Wyn Lewis opted not to seek reelection.