Ben Simons has been interested in running for Yoncalla mayor longer than he’s been able to vote.
At 18, he’s the youngest of three candidates for the seat.
Simons graduated valedictorian from Yoncalla High School in June. He is a student at Umpqua Community College, where he’s studying for an associate’s degree and hopes to transfer to the University of Oregon in two years to study business administration. If he’s elected, his two-year term would be up by then.
“I’d been looking at this election actually for about a year now,” he said of the mayoral race. “I’ve been friends with the current mayor, Jerry Cross, since I was a little kid, because he used to be a teacher at my school.”
He said it was Cross who suggested he might be interested in the position. Cross isn’t running for re-election. He told The News-Review this week that after 10 years as mayor he’s ready to retire.
“I’m not a career politician,” he said.
Despite his young age, Simons already has the advantage over the two other mayoral candidates when it comes to government experience. Earlier this month, Simons was appointed to a seat on the Yoncalla City Council.
Simons said he likes to claim that everyone in Yoncalla knows him. While he said that might not be technically true, he is pretty well-known in town. He’s been a member of focus groups discussing Yoncalla High School’s fate, and is a regular at the local school board meetings. Simons also volunteers with the North Douglas County Fire and EMS.
As a mayor, he said he’d want to focus on improving city streets and the water and sewer plant.
“A lot of the infrastructure in Yoncalla has really been neglected and is getting outdated and in dire straits actually,” he said. “What Yoncalla really needs at this point is to have some good fiscal management and at the same time look at getting the infrastructure brought into the 21st century.”
A father and daughter will also be on the ballot in Yoncalla this November. Micki Vroman is running for mayor, and her father Gene Vroman is running unopposed for city councilor.
Gene Vroman retired as Yoncalla public works supervisor in July. He said his experience will be valuable, and if his daughter is elected mayor they’ll work well together. He said she’d be good in the job because she “listens to both sides of the story” before making decisions.
Micki Vroman, a certified medical assistant, said it would be very interesting to serve with her dad.
“His opinions and my opinions, we’re not always on the same page,” she said. Even so, she said they can usually come to an agreement.
She has been active locally in the Lion’s Club and other organizations in the past and is eager to get involved in the community again.
“I just feel that our town needs some new blood in there to get some more community involvement and more things for the children and the kids in the community too,” she said.
Amanda Stroud, the third mayoral candidate, has helped revive the Yoncalla Summer Festival. She is a teacher’s assistant and has taught preschool and helped organize her church’s Vacation Bible School classes, as well as a local youth sports program.
She said she really wants to give Yoncalla kids the best town they can have. And she also wants to encourage as many people as possible, including youth, to become involved in bettering the community.
“I just think the town needs some new ideas, some fresh faces,” she said.
Stroud said she doesn’t expect any mudslinging in the Yoncalla mayoral race. None of the candidates are strangers to each other. Vroman was a year ahead of her in school, she said, and Simons is a good kid from a good family.
For one member of the Simons family, the election will present a unique dilemma. Following a divorce about five years ago, Ben Simons’s dad, Todd Simons, moved to a house outside the Yoncalla city limits. If he lived one house over, he’d be in the city, but at his current address, he’s not eligible to vote for his son.
“I might have to move,” he said.
News Editor Mike Henneke contributed to this story.