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Medford mayor: Gary Wheeler

Bob Strosser is a strong candidate, too; the choice was not an easy one

Medford voters can't rely on the usual formulas this fall to help them decide who should lead the city for the next four years.

Here is a mayor's race in which both candidates are experienced leaders. Here are two men who clearly love Medford and want the best for it. Bob Strosser and Gary Wheeler even sound very much alike on the big issues: They want controlled growth, traffic solutions, better parks, more sidewalks.

It's a leaner if ever there was one. In the end, the Mail Tribune leans to Wheeler as our choice in the Nov. 2 election to replace Lindsay Berryman at the end of the year.

The big reasons: We think his quiet, effective leadership style will be best suited to the office, a largely ceremonial post, and we think he has a big-picture vision for the city that he has already helped shape through his work on urban renewal.

Wheeler, 60, an optometrist, is a lifelong resident of Medford except for college and military service.

He's never been content to sit idly by. Since he returned to the area 34 years ago, his causes have included Bear Creek, the Craterian theater, economic development, police department funding, drug-abuse awareness, public television and youth, among others. Wheeler has led a number of boards, including those of the local Red Cross, the Southern Oregon Historical Society, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency and the Chamber. He has, in fact, been heavily involved in MURA since 1991, shortly after the agency was established.

— MURA hasn't been his only role in city government. He was a member of the city's budget committee for three years, chaired a successful effort to pass a levy for police department funding in 1989 and, with Berryman, chaired the effort to get rid of the Jackson Street Dam on Bear Creek.

Berryman, who knows better than most what it takes to be successful as Medford mayor, is supporting Wheeler in the race.

People who have worked with Wheeler regard him as quiet but effective. He is, they say, an honest, fair, open facilitator and a consensus-builder. He sees the big picture and is willing ' eager, even ' to listen.

We should say now that much of that also can be said about Strosser, 59, a real estate broker and a City Council member since 1998.

He has, more than any city official in recent memory, reached out to the newspaper in an effort to keep communication open. He appears to stress communication and respect in all of his dealings, an effort that many in and near city government have observed and appreciated. In this race, he has secured the support of his peers on the City Council and of Jerry Lausmann, who was Medford's mayor from 1987 to 1998.

So why should this seat go to Wheeler? Peers describe both men as effective leaders ' Wheeler quietly, Strosser as something of a bulldog in his pursuit of issues that inspire him. Medford's mayor sometimes needs to set a tone or draw a line, but the role is more often than not one of diplomat or ambassador. We think Wheeler's the better fit.

We also think he has a broader vision for Medford, a product of his dedication to the community and long service in many types of organizations. That's no knock on Strosser; his experience here just isn't quite as exhaustive.

Medford, in fact, ought to cross its fingers and hope Strosser's involvement in city government continues. A transplant 15 years ago from California, he demonstrates exceptional passion for his Oregon home, passion that has helped bring positive change to Medford.

This race represents as tough a call as comes along in politics, and Medford voters are fortunate to have both Strosser and Wheeler step forward. We think, however, that Wheeler is better positioned to serve as Medford's mayor.