Councilor counts affordable housing, finding a water partner and a light rail proposal as highlights of his tenure
Heading into the home stretch of his tenure as member of the Tigard City Council, Tom Anderson says he’s pleased to have been aboard during a time when the city oversaw planning for a proposed light rail route through the city, set the stage for growth in the city’s Tigard Triangle area and invested in new drinking water sources.
Still, Anderson lists affordable housing as one of his — and the council’s — biggest accomplishments during his four years in elected office.
“You know, it was a big push regionwide, but we made it a priority,” Anderson said during a recent interview at his business, Tigard Real Estate on Southwest Main Street. “It is a team effort, but I really did prompt a construction excise tax for affordable housing.”
When Anderson arrived, the city had 690 units of housing aimed toward low-income residents — a number that had been stagnant for a long time, according to city officials. Four years on, Tigard now boasts 955 affordable housing units, with 519 more soon to hit the market.
Anderson said that’s important to him — not only as a real estate professional, but also because of the desire for affordable housing for those who want to live in Tigard.
“We just need it,” he said. “You know, it was a big push regionwide, but we made it a priority. We really did make it a priority.”
After serving on the Tigard planning commission for seven years, Anderson was elected to the council, along with incumbent Jason Snider, in a four-way race in 2016. Snider was elected mayor in 2018, and Heidi Lueb was appointed to fill out the rest of Snider’s council term.
Anderson said he thinks his time on the planning commission helped to make him a better city councilor, allowing him to answer many of the land-use questions the council has to address.
Asked to pick a high point of his time on the council, Anderson simply said he’s happiest when he’s representing Tigard. He’s particularly proud of the city’s housing codes, saying Tigard is well ahead of the curve.
“Our code is really good, so I’m always proud representing Tigard when we talk about land use,” said Anderson. “We’re just really good at it.”
Some of the bigger accomplishments Anderson has seen during his time on council has included the changeover from relying on Portland water to partnering with Lake Oswego to tap the Clackamas River as a water source. That project was completed in 2017.
Anderson also advocated for the city participating in an expansion of the Willamette River intake facility in Wilsonville and membership in the Willamette River Coalition. If voters eventually approve, the Willamette River could become another water source for the city over the next two to three decades.
“Councilor Anderson’s time, efforts, and advocacy have helped in ensuring that the Tigard community strengthened its long-term water supply strategies, and that Tigard is an active payer within the region to help meet the challenges ahead regarding drinking water and supply in Washington County and the Metro area,” said John Goodrich, executive manager for Tigard Public Works department.
During Anderson’s time in office, the development of the Tigard Triangle, an area bounded by Highway 99W to the north, Highway 217 to the west and south and Interstate 5 to the east, also became a major issue, Anderson pointed out. The city’s planning staff, with the council’s blessing, created a so-called “lean code” in an effort to attract developers.
With some projects already underway or completed in the Triangle, Anderson said he expects business development in the area to come soon as well.
“The applications don’t flood in right away, but people are interested,” he said. “It’s going to be neat.”
Anderson is also hopeful that the Southwest Corridor light rail project will eventually come to fruition. In November, voters turned down Metro’s Measure 26-218, which would have helped fund the light rail project as well as other transportation-focused projects.
“I think (a bond to fund the) Southwest Corridor light rail project will eventually pass,” said Anderson. “I think they just have to figure out how to finance it.”
Tigard is a major player in that proposal, with five of the seven rail stations planned for the planned MAX line’s 11-mile route running through the city.
If the MAX does come to Tigard, Anderson believes it will change the face of the Tigard Triangle even more, bringing opportunities for “more affordable housing and some cool businesses.”
Still, Anderson said the development of Tigard’s Main Street is an important factor as well. He’s looking forward to the future construction of a four-story-tall building on Main Street, directly next to his office, noting it will change the vertical landscape of the downtown area.
Plans call for Ava Roasteria, a chain of upscale coffee houses, to construct the building, which will include a coffee shop, roastery, tasting room and pastry shop on the bottom floor. The second floor will contain executive office space, including Ava Roasteria headquarters, with the third and fourth floors reserved for 22 apartments.
“It will bring more development,” Anderson predicted. “Once (developers) see that happen downtown, then somebody else will say, ‘Well, yeah, we can build another four-story building,’ or ‘We can build parking underneath something.'”
Regarding the search for a new city manager — the council recently forwarded the names of three finalists — Anderson said it’s really a quest to find someone who is effectively the “soul of the city.”
“We set the vision, but for the morale of the staff, it’s very important,” he said, pointing out Tigard’s city government has more than 300 employees.
This year, Anderson did not run for re-election. Instead, he sought a more regional office, running for the Metro Council. He felt the position would play to his strengths and understanding when it comes to land-use issues, he said.
Anderson ran for the District 3 seat against Gerritt Rosenthal, an environmental consultant and former state legislative candidate. Anderson noted that while Rosenthal previously ran against former Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen and didn’t appear to have a huge backing at that time, things proved much different this time around.
“This time, because I wasn’t a known factor like Craig, the machine, the Democratic machine, really came out hard for him and basically won it for him,” Anderson surmised, reflecting on Rosenthal’s upset victory in this year’s election. “I think Gerritt was more surprised than I was.”
He believes part of that strategy was tying Anderson, a registered Republican, to President Donald Trump, who is deeply unpopular in Washington County. It’s a comparison Anderson said he rejects.
“I’m a moderate,” Anderson said. “I work with both Republicans and Democrats and Independents and everybody. So that was unfortunate, because it’s a nonpartisan position — but I understand why he did it, because he wanted to win.”
For his future, Anderson said he could run for council again or mayor or even county commissioner, but he isn’t committing to any future politics.
Anderson said he doesn’t believe he will have a hard time filling his time with activities once his council days are over, saying he believes he’ll become more involved in the Tigard Rotary Club.
“I’ve always wanted to get into Habitat for Humanity,” he added.
Anderson’s wife, Kelcie, coordinates the homeless shelter outreach at Rise Church, formerly Calvin Presbyterian Church. Anderson said he’d like to help out more with that effort as well.
A music major at Washington State University, Anderson still plays the trumpet and belongs to a funk band, Funktown PDX, a group that often performs at corporate events, big restaurants and hotels, and weddings.
Meanwhile, Anderson is pleased with Tigard’s direction.
“Between planning commission and council, we planned for 10 years ahead,” Anderson said, mentioning the Washington Square area, the Tigard Triangle and downtown Tigard as districts he particularly looks forward to seeing develop. “There’s good things ahead for Tigard.”
Mayor Jason Snider praised Anderson for his time on the council, and the council passed a resolution acknowledging his service.
Snider summed up Anderson this way: “He was the councilor who said more but talked less, and when he chose the moment to speak about a subject, people listened, because what he had to say was always important. His insight and perspective on housing and work with homeless was invaluable to council, and I appreciate his contributions.”
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