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Experience, new blood for council

Densmore, Strosser offer one, Stout, Truwe bring the other

Among a larger-than-usual handful of candidates to take seats on the Medford City Council come January, four stand out.

Al Densmore, a former Medford mayor who is unopposed in the city's northeast district, Ward 1; Bob Strosser, the incumbent in the southeast, Ward 4; Jill Stout, one of three hopefuls in the northwest, Ward 3; and Ben Truwe, who is challenging the incumbent in the southwest, Ward 2; all should get the nods from voters in the Nov. 7 election.

We won't say much more about Densmore, except to note that he's certainly got the background to handle the job. The sole candidate for the seat now held by Jim Key, who isn't running, Densmore dealt directly with the area's issues for more than a decade in the 1970s and '80s, first as a state representative and then as mayor. Ward — residents would have to look hard to find someone more qualified for the job.

Among the candidates in Ward 4, Strosser brings the strongest resume. But our support for him over challengers Lee Morris and J.J. Owens has more to do with how he has approached his council duties than how long he's been involved.

The Realtor and former cop has been criticized by some &

8212; including a group seeking to recall him and four other council members &

8212; for failing at communication. While we agree that the council is not the most open of public bodies, we have found Strosser to be far and away the most open to communication. He is hardly a rabble rouser on the council, but neither is he a rubber stamp for the administration. He has questioned planning department issues, spoken up on behalf of residents faced with large and disruptive street projects, pushed the state to explain why the Barnett Road interchange must be shut down and pushed for the city to seek a new traffic study for a major Wal-Mart project. Strosser invariably does his homework and comes well prepared to the task at hand.

Morris is an ardent opponent of urban renewal and the Middleford Commons project in downtown Medford. He's bright and well-versed on the issues, but his push to block urban renewal is not in the long-term interests of the city.

Owens has no experience and only a general grasp of the issues. We hope the city can find a way to use his youth and enthusiasm on a committee or commission and better prepare him for a leadership role.

Ward — residents don't have a great deal of experience to choose from among the three candidates on the ballot, but we think they do have a good choice in Stout, a bank teller.

A resident of Medford for just over two years, she has worked in the city for 10 times that long. And since she bought her west Medford home, Stout has moved quickly to immerse herself in the community, both as part of the West Medford Coalition and for a group that paints over graffiti.

She is fluent in some of the top concerns of her ward &

8212; crime, traffic, poverty, the need to build neighborhoods &

8212; and seems to understand that the council, before which she has testified, needs to be accessible to people who don't deal with it every day. She's outgoing and quick, and she doesn't seem to take herself too seriously.

The other two candidates, Brita Entenmann and Kip Grant, can't match Stout's knowledge of the issues and involvement in her ward. A fourth Ward — candidate, Daniel Latham, will appear on the ballot but has dropped out of the race.

The hardest call of the group comes in Ward 2, the southwest district, where political unknown Ben Truwe is challenging veteran council member Skip Knight.

Knight, who says this will be his final council race, has served Medford well. We are recommending Truwe instead for two reasons: He is intent on the idea that city government must be more accessible and responsive to residents, and he is different enough from the council status quo that he is sure to provide the diversity of thought the eight-member group has sometimes lacked.

This idea that the workings of government should be easier for people outside government to become involved with has come up from several quarters in this campaign. Although city government doesn't get all the credit it should for attempting to communicate what it's doing, we believe it ought to do better, and we'd like to see a council member focused on making that happen.

Truwe, a history buff and small-press publisher who lists growth and traffic among his big concerns for Medford, is sure to take council discussions to places the group otherwise wouldn't go. As long as he can keep his focus positive, that will be good for Medford.

And while he lacks experience on such a group, that's all right given that others on the council have it.

Medford voters in every ward have an opportunity to shape the city with their votes next month. We recommend they choose two veterans, Densmore and Strosser, and two newcomers, Stout and Truwe.