Controversial Roseburg City Councilor Ashley Hicks was defeated Tuesday by challenger and political newcomer Patrice Sipos in the race for the Ward 4, Position 2 seat.
As of unofficial returns released early Wednesday morning, Sipos, a retired bookkeeper with no previous government experience, received 57% of the votes compared to 42% for Hicks.
In the second city council race settled Tuesday, Glide and Roseburg school district employee Sheri Moothart defeated retired businessman Patrick Lewandowski in the race for the Ward 1, Position 2 seat. Moothart won with 54% of the votes to 45% for Lewandowski.
Sipos and Moothart were both elected to serve four-year terms. They will be sworn in and take the oath of office at a ceremony in city hall in early January.
“I’m thrilled and I feel like it’s a privilege and an honor to be elected to serve,” Sipos said Tuesday. “But now the real work begins and I just want everybody to know I’ll do the best to meet their expectations for the community.”
Moothart said Tuesday that the reality of her victory was just beginning to sink in.
“I’m kind of surprised and at the same time kind of humbled,” she said. “I spent weeks walking the ward and talking to people. I’m very thankful that people voted for me.”
Hicks has been a lightning rod for controversy since even before she was elected in the fall of 2016. She owned a coffee shop downtown and made friends and enemies in her efforts to clean up the area, which some construed as displacing the homeless.
The controversy only intensified once Hicks took her seat on the city council in January 2017. Within months, a petition drive to have her removed from office was launched, but fell short. More recently, Hicks was sanctioned by the City Council for comments they said she made on social media in support of a homeless camp near the airport, which prompted protests from a nearby senior mobile home park. She lost her ability to travel on behalf of the council and was stripped of her chairwoman position on the Historical Resource Review Commission.
Hicks continued to be critical of Mayor Larry Rich and other city councilors on a regular basis, most of her complaints having to do with their lack of urgency on addressing the issue of homelessness.
Hicks has also been critical of City Manager Nikki Messenger, who officially took over the post just over a year ago. At Messenger’s job evaluation in June, she and Hicks reportedly exchanged heated words, prompting Messenger to serve notice to the city that she intended to sue.
In August, Messenger sent a letter to the city notifying officials of her intent to sue on several grounds, including gender discrimination, retaliation and defamation. The letter mentioned Hicks’ comments and social media posts as a reason for the lawsuit.
With Tuesday’s defeat, Hicks will now become a one-term city councilor.
She said at times it felt as though she was running against the entire City Council.
“She had a team of people and the mayor was out helping her put out her signs and letting her put her signs on his property,” Hicks said Tuesday. “She had a team of people, the same people that tried to recall me. I don’t have a team of people.”
Hicks said she couldn’t sleep overnight because she was so distraught by her loss.
“I’m upset about it of course, because I love doing this job and I care about it,” she said. “I care probably more than I should. It’s a cruel world.”
Hicks also said she wishes Sipos and the city council the best of luck moving forward.
Sipos attended Redwood Business School, where she studied bookkeeping. Before retiring, she was self-employed as a bookkeeper for her own business, Sipos Enterprises.
Sipos said the time she spent canvassing the community really paid off.
“I’ve been getting to know people and it helped a lot,” she said. “But I also know I’ve got a lot to learn. I’ll be cracking the books.”
Moothart has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Anthem University and an associate degree in general studies from Umpqua Community College. She served on the Douglas County Transportation Board.
“Roseburg has always been my hometown and I want to promote it as an amazing town to live, but also start getting our youth staying,” Moothart said. “That’s my big thing, making opportunities for them.”
Moothart will replace councilor Linda Fisher-Fowler, who decided not to seek another term.
Mayor Larry Rich and city councilors Sheila Cox, Andrea Zielinski and Brian Prawitz ran unopposed and retained their seats. The mayor’s term is two years and city councilors are elected to four-year terms.
Rich has held the Mayor’s post since 1998; Zielinski has held her Ward 2, Position 2 seat since being appointed to fill a vacancy in June 2015; Prawitz has been in his Ward 3, Position 2 seat since January 2017; and Cox was appointed to her Ward 2, Position 1 seat in February, as a replacement to Tom Ryan. He retired in December after serving on the council for nearly 20 years, and with three years left on his term.
As a replacement appointment, Cox’s initial term ends Dec. 31 of this year. Her new term runs through Dec. 31, 2024.
City councilors Bob Cotterell, Beverly Cole and Alison Eggers have terms that expire Dec. 31, 2022.
Elsewhere, voters in Winston voted against easing restrictions on where dispensaries can be placed, with 55% voting against the measure and 45% voting for it. The vote is only advisory but city officials have said they plan to abide by the results. Winston voters also approved a measure to impose a local tax on dispensary sales.
In Reedsport, voters also approved adding a 3% local tax on sales of items at non-medical dispensaries, with 57% of voters supporting it.