A recent college graduate and a director at the Umatilla Medical Clinic will serve as Umatilla’s newest city council members.
Selene Torres-Medrano and Mark Keith were appointed out of a field of eight candidates during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
“I’m very excited eight community members were willing to step up. That’s amazing. I love that,” Mayor Daren Dufloth said.
Keith was appointed outright after the first round of voting by the council, while Torres-Medrano won her seat after a third round of voting came down to her and former city council member Lyle Smith. At that point Smith asked Dufloth, who was tasked with breaking a tie, to vote for Torres-Medrano and give her a chance to serve.
Torres-Medrano graduated three weeks ago from Washington State University’s Tri-Cities campus with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. She said during her time as a college student she juggled schoolwork, commuting, two part-time jobs, motherhood and participation in five or six different campus organizations. She also served on the last bond committee for Umatilla School District. She applied for the council position because she is looking for new ways to serve now that she is back in Umatilla full time.
“I’ve always been busy and I like being busy,” she said.
Umatilla’s population is now more than 50 percent Latino, but there was no Latino representation on the council. Torres-Medrano said she was raised not only in the community of Umatilla, but also the Hispanic community, and she felt she could be a diverse voice on the council.
“I think I can bring one of those unique perspectives,” she said.
She also said her vision for Umatilla was one of increased community engagement, which will help make Umatilla more successful, and a destination instead of a place just to pass through.
Keith said his inspiration to run for city council started in January, when he had lunch with Congressman Greg Walden while attending President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
“It inspired me to say we need to start doing something really strong locally, because that’s what we can control,” he said.
Keith has a varied background in business and real estate, serves as the clinic director at Umatilla Medical Clinic and as a volunteer firefighter paramedic. He said he is busy, but knows how to balance his time and will make the time to effectively serve as a city councilor.
He said he is interested in helping pull together more community events and social gatherings to bring the city together. He also said that over the next five years he believes two of the most important things the city can do to encourage development is to focus on recruiting new businesses and on zoning issues.
“In order to get built up, you have to make sure everything is zoned right,” he said.
Keith and Torres-Medrano were appointed to fill seats that were vacated by Mary Dedrick and David Lougee in May. Dufloth, who was appointed as mayor in May after the resignation of David Trott, said when he served as a city councilor a few years ago sometimes there were only two or three people in the audience. He said the fact that there were so many council candidates, and about 30 audience members who showed up to watch the process, was a sign things are changing in Umatilla.
Contact Jade McDowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-564-4536.