Chas Jones, PhD

Q&A with Chas

What credentials would you bring to the position of Mayor?

EDUCATION: PhD Hydrology; M.S. Environmental Science & Policy; B.S. Biology; Professional Certificate in Tribal Relations

OCCUPATION:  Tribal Resilience Program Director; Researcher; Former Environmental Consultant

GOVERNMENT: Philomath City Mayor & Councilor (Budget, Finance & Admin, Public Works, Inclusivity Committees); Liaison between Tribes, Federal, State, County, & local governments

COMMUNITY: Affiliated Tribes of NW Indians Climate Resilience Committee Chair; Oregon Cascade Wests Council of Governments Executive Committee (Board, Finance Committee, Budget Committee); Former Corvallis Environmental Center Board President, Vice-president, Treasurer); Community Garden founder; Volunteer scientist at public schools

What qualities this bring to the mayoral position as a public servant?

  1. Integrity & honesty. I have a strong moral character and believe in leading by example. I value respect and trust. I seek transparency and open access to public information. 
  2. Purpose. I am committed to improving the quality of life for everyone regardless of background. 
  3. Positive mindset. I see the big picture and understand the importance of being inclusive.
  4. Balance. While I have strong passions, I tend to find balanced solutions through collaborative partnerships. 
  5. Critical and strategic thinking. As a scientist, I incorporate the available evidence and the assessed risk into my decisions. 
  6. Communication. Listening and conveying information clearly and concisely are important skills that I use every day. 
  7. Collaboration. I use collaborations to achieve greater results than are possible by acting along. 
  8. Leadership. I believe in participatory leadership and using respect and engagement to harness diversity, build community, and promote shared responsibility in our efforts to achieve our goals.

What kind of leadership can you bring to the City and City Council?

As Mayor, I use my networking & collaboration skills to serve our marginalized residents, while increasing everyone’s access to our local, county, state, & federal representatives. My approach of inclusive governance seeks to elevate the voices of underrepresented groups, rather than only those in leadership. I will stand upon a foundation built on trust, as I work with our residents, staff, & Council to update & implement the City’s strategic plan as we build a more prosperous Philomath.

What do you see as the city’s major needs and goals?

The city needs to continue providing a high quality of life for our residents. We seek to develop a bustling downtown, where people support our local businesses, while strengthening our economy. This needs to be done in a manner that makes Philomath stronger & more prosperous without sacrificing long-term liabilities for short-term growth. We also need to maintain a strong sense of community, while promoting our appeal as a vibrant, rural timber town that celebrates diversity & is safe for all.

How would you address the needs of the homeless in our community?

The City would work with the County & social service agencies to assess the ongoing needs & number of families / people in our community that are experiencing homelessness. Knowing their needs will allow us to better serve them in a manner that maintains their dignity. The City will update our social service database, make it more accessible to the public, & will continue to support those agencies. We will also examine the feasibility of zoning to allow or encourage tiny home developments and other relatively affordable housing solutions.

What are your top two environmental priorities?

As Mayor, my environmental priorities are to 1) help Philomath become more resilient to the impacts of wildfire & drought; & 2) to promote critical thinking & trust in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics in our youth & residents. The country needs to rebuild this foundation so that we can make meaningful impacts on the environmental front. I will do so by promoting science through community engagement opportunities with the Mayor.

How will you help lead your city/count/local jurisdiction toward 100% Clean Energy by 2050?

I lead by example to educate my constituents about opportunities for and benefits of using clean energy. For example, my family drives an electric Ford F150 Truck and a plug-in hybrid vehicle and have installed solar PV on my home, which covers 95% of my electricity consumption. I educate the community about the opportunities for installing solar PV on public buildings or relying on electric vehicles as viable cost saving measures.

Are you committed to actively identifying environmental justice issues in your community, and if so, what would you plan to do to address those issues?

Absolutely, I invite subject matter experts, residents, and marginalized communities to join in conversations about environmental justice (EJ). Such collaborative efforts will further these conversations while promoting community building between diverse groups to help identify EJ inequities and in developing potential solutions. The City can then incorporate these ideas into our strategic plan, where we will work towards making progress on these inequities.

How would you strengthen the council’s working relationships with surrounding jurisdictions on issues such as transportation, policing, social services, and the economy?

I maintain an open a dialogue with the major regional players in these sectors. This informs us about the successes and challenges faced by other communities, so that we can model our efforts on their successes. Communication and sharing are important aspects of developing working relationships with potential partners, and these are two strengths that I bring to the Mayoral office. I have many years of experience building partnerships and collaborations across different organizations and diverse groups.

A recent example lays within the topics of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Many local jurisdictions and regional organizations are attempting to figure out how they can make progress on these challenging topics. At first, it seems that many communities and organizations were attempting to move these topics forward locally, however, I have reached out to other regional leaders within the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments (Benton, Lincoln, and Linn Counties). In late September, a number of community leaders came together to discuss these topics to determine if there could be a model where we work together to identify systemic issues that we can then address in an appropriate manner. I am a member of the local NAACP chapter and have regular conversations with their leadership to explore ideas and concepts that I wanted to learn more about.

I also an in regular communication with our federal, state, and county elected leaders about topics of shared interest. Those topics include, the unhoused Native American community in Benton County (I work as a tribal liaison in my day job); justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion; and our shared interests in connecting marginalized populations with the essential services that they need.

For me, its often about coming together to do great things… Let’s build community, prosperity, and a stronger Philomath.

What role does Justice, Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion play in your life?

I believe that there is opportunity for everyone to benefit by learning more about justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. No matter where we are on this journey, there is always additional opportunity to grow and to learn. Personally, I find it simultaneously challenging and rewarding to openly discuss inclusivity with elected officials and the public within Philomath’s Inclusivity Ad Hoc Committee. I find it invigorating to learn about myself, and what motivates me? I love to explore my deepest memories where the foundations of my beliefs, biases, and stereotypes were laid. Most of all, I enjoy having these conversations with people that seek out the same type of learning opportunities that I do. I look forward to continuing these conversations if elected as Philomath mayor.

Finally, I want to express that I recognize that I maintain privileges that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color do not; however, I will continue to use my privileges to elevate the voices of those that are not typically heard. And I will commit to doing so with integrity, honesty, and respect for everyone.

What had the council accomplished since you were elected?

  • We’ve modified the city annexation criteria so that the city can consider whether a proposed development will benefit the city.
  • We’ve modified the city ordinances so that developers must enact their city-adopted plan within 3 years before having to seek reapproval.
  • We’ve modified City Code to encourage growth and development that is in-line with the our vision.
  • We’ve initiated the process of developing design standards for our core downtown area in an effort to attract more small businesses to Philomath.
  • We’ve decreased the general fund fee by 50% and are on track for abolishing it in 2021.
  • We’ve held public town hall events with Senator Merkley, Representative Defazio, State representative Rayfield, and an informational town hall on Philomath Water Issues.
  • We have given Philomath residents more control of their public utility bills by changing the per unit cost of water.
  • We have offered our city’s social service agencies both city and state funded grants (>$60k) to help them face the challenges of COVID, while they serve our residents in need.
  • We are offering local businesses >$66k in grant funds to help them overcome the difficulties encountered through COVID.
  • We reached out to the Siletz Tribe and developed a city proclamation recognizing Indigenous Peoples day.
  • We’ve passed an inclusivity proclamation and have created an adhoc inclusivity subcommittee to identify opportunities for meeting the city and City governancea more inclusive.
  • We’ve initiated a speaker series for the public to discuss issues related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (180 people attended our first event).
  • I’ve initiated regular opportunities for the public to engage with me over tea, coffee, or a walk (the city added this as a goal for our City councilors in our strategic plan; I believe that I am the only elected official in Philomath to have done this).
  • And much more!

What other evidence suggests that you would be a good mayor for Philomath?

  • I’ve shown that I am adept at providing city leadership through my 2 years as mayor, while having a challenging city council situation, yet the council and city have continued to move efforts forward and continue to act to the benefit of our city.
  • >8 years of experience working with Tribal Nations, federal, state, county, and local governments;
  • advanced degrees in Hydrology (PhD); Environmental & Policy (M.S.); & Biology (B.S.);
  • >4 years serving on local non-profit Board leadership positions (including serving as President, Vice-president, and Treasurer; also served on Executive, Finance, Budget, & Development Committees)
  • Elected as Mayor (2020-2022) & City Council (2018-2020);
  • Invited to present to US Senator’s Jeff Merkley’s staff;
  • Invited to present to numerous Tribal Councils;
  • Advised city and/or members of public about City water (Philomath Town Hall) and river safety issues (Fairbanks, Alaska regarding River ice safety);
  • Invited to participate as an water expert in the Philomath Water Town Hall
  • Endorsed by State House Speaker, Dan Rayfield, all three County Commissioners, and 4 Philomath City Councilors