New council member believes in public service

PHOENIX — The city's newest City Council member hopes a strong desire to serve his community and several decades' management experience will lend some harmony and focus to a council in turmoil.

Rogue Valley Sewer Services Manager Chuck Root, a 20-year resident, was appointed last week to replace Diane Stewart, who resigned earlier this month after the council fired Interim City Manager Joe Wrabek.

Root, 61, the only applicant for the position, said he agreed to help through a rough period because he felt strongly about being involved in his community.

"I've always believed in public service," said Root.

"I feel that the role of a citizen in the democracy is to give back where he can, and I felt that maybe I had some communication and mediation skills that would help the council."

Wrabek's contract was terminated after a series of executive sessions that centered on a personnel issue involving him and City Recorder Betty Smith.

Council member Gary Reed spoke outside executive session to inform residents that police Chief Kurt Barthel resigned because of incidents with the two city employees but officials have not elaborated on Reed's statements.

Root said the executive sessions were among many issues he felt had put pressure on council members, making the job tougher than it might otherwise have been.

"This past year I think the council's been under a lot of pressure with what's going on in the community," Root said.

Root listed limited revenue, controversy over plans for a new Fern Valley interchange and few staff resources to help with growing development among the pressures council members face.

Root helped guide discussions that led to the city's annexation into Jackson County Fire District No. 5 with 95 percent approval by voters March 11.

Root said he hoped to help the city better match service levels with available revenue and communicate more with citizens.

"I think we need to have more town hall meetings or some other vehicles to make sure that our citizens have a chance to share their ideas," said Root.

Mayor Carlos DeBritto said Root would bring some fresh perspective to the council.

"I think he's good and he brings lots of experience and I think he's a very qualified individual," DeBritto said.

"We're hoping we can all move forward together."

DeBritto acknowledged that the contentious nature of recent meetings had made a council seat less than desirable at times.

"Certainly all the controversial issues that have come up and dealing with various personalities are always a challenge," DeBritto said.

"The positive thing is anybody who comes on the council really wants to do what's best for the city and we're all going to work towards that goal."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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