Council names Ullfers to take Ward 2 seat

Position vacated by Rebecca Grizzle

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
The City Council swore in Kim “KJ” Ullfers to replace Ward 2 councilor Rebecca Grizzle during its Oct. 13 meeting.
Grizzle had announced her resignation this summer after selling her house and moving to Ward 3.
Ullfers and Dave Workman applied for her seat and were interviewed Sept. 8 by the council. Grizzle expressed confidence that either candidate would make a good fit.
Following those interviews, the council voted for Ullfers. His term will end on Dec. 31, 2024.
“KJ has a heart of gold, and he definitely has the community’s best interest (at heart),” Grizzle said.

KJ Ullfers is all smiles as he poses for the Lebanon Local. Photo by Sarah Brown

Ullfers moved to Lebanon in 2007 and began attending council meetings to see how the city was run. He participated on the budget committee for eight years and began serving at the Lebanon Soup Kitchen in 2009.
He said he also “helps out around town” where needed, and just celebrated the launch of Crossroads Communities, a housing and stabilization program for veterans and people recovering from addiction. It is integrated with Applegate Landing, a housing complex for veterans.
Ullfers served in the Army for 20 years before retiring to Eureka, Calif., where he worked at the Vietnam Veterans of California office, a homeless reintegration program.
“I was the guy who would go and track down the bush vets and try to talk them back into society,” he said in an interview two years ago. “I didn’t make a lot of money, but, man, I loved that. I was happy with it.”

Ullfers, on the right, attends the groundbreaking at Applegate Landing last year. Photo by Sarah Brown

That passion led Ullfers to where he is now, operating the Crossroads nonprofit.
With such history, it’s no surprise that Ullfers’ interest in city council includes a desire to participate in the city’s future regarding homelessness.
“I know the kind of challenges that we’re going to be facing,” he said. “Things like the homeless issues; I know what the laws are saying, so I know what we’re gonna have to do, the things we’re going to have to look at.”
He also wants to be a part of forming the city’s growth.
“It’s gonna grow,” he said, “so we either manage the growth and do it intelligently, or we don’t.”
The veteran said Lebanon’s strength lies in its ability to embrace newcomers.
“It’s really a progressive city when you look at it, how much we’ve grown, and we’ve really become an education destination,” he said. “The only downside of all that growth right now is that the infrastructure is struggling to keep up with it.”
According to Ullfers, a person is generally either part of a problem or part of a solution, and since Lebanon is his home, he wants to be a part of the solution. Grizzle attested that Ullfers is always the first at the Chamber of Commerce to offer help where needed.
“There’s not much to me, really,” he said. “I am who I am. I’m just here to help.”

Rebecca Grizzle

Grizzle said she first ran for the Ward 2 seat in 2004 because she felt that her predecessor, Mel Harrington, overstepped his role, harassing staff and costing taxpayers money when Walmart attempted to expand its Lebanon store into a supercenter. Although she didn’t think she was smart enough for the council, Grizzle believed Harrington needed to be removed and decided it “may as well be somebody like” her.
“He was too emotionally involved, and I’m a very nonemotional leader,” she said. “You have to be ready for people to be [angry] and screaming in your face, and not get defensive and not get too reactive.”
Grizzle won the election by only 88 votes, and thus began her 15 years serving the City of Lebanon, a period interrupted by a three-year hiatus in 2010 when she published “Mimosa O’Clock,” a memoir she felt might be a bit “scandalous” for a city councilor. However, she again threw her hat in the ring when her replacement, Margaret Campbell, entangled the city in a lawsuit (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 75, Local 2043 vs. City of Lebanon).
“I cannot handle people ruining our city,” Grizzle said. “Both times that I decided to get into it, someone was getting us in legal trouble, and that, to me, is unforgivable. That’s a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.”

REBECCA GRIZZLE has represented Lebanon’s Ward 2 in two stints since first running for the position in 2004. She is the executive director of the Lebanon Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Sarah Brown

Looking back on her tenure, Grizzle cites herself as being responsible for changing the culture of the council from contentious to calm, and shortening meetings to a more reasonable length. She’s also proud to have been a part of numerous key moments in Lebanon, including obtaining the infrastructure deal and urban renewal district (URD) for the Lowe’s Regional Distribution Center; obtaining the URD for the infrastructure that lured COMP-Northwest to town; welcoming the Edward C. Allworth Oregon Veterans’ Home; building a new water treatment plant and ending a contract with the City of Albany for use of the Santiam-Albany Canal; getting a bond passed to build a new library and justice center; and gaining stability in police department leadership.
She praised the work of Mayor Ken Toombs and City Manager John Hitt, who both served during her time as councilor in the first part of the century. She also appreciated the work of current Mayor Paul Aziz, who installed live video stream service for council meetings, making them more accessible for all. So long as city leaders can work together in a healthy environment, Grizzle said, she’s comfortable leaving her seat for someone else.
“I’ve never wanted to be on council,” she said. “It’s a thing I do because somebody needs to do it that’s calm and collected, can get along with everyone, and can move the city forward and set a decent culture.”