By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes
Dennis Koho was already going to leave the Keizer City Council once his term ended in January.
He’s just moving up the timeline a bit.
Koho, the former Keizer mayor and current city council president, told the Keizertimes on May 13 he’s resigning from the council. This follows a March heart attack that left Koho in the hospital for weeks. He’s been slowly recovering, only to face one setback after another.
“I’m recovering, or at least I think so,” Koho said. “Everytime I think I’m doing better, I go to work for a while, then I find myself back in the hospital a couple of days later. Due to that reason, I am resigning from the city council on June 1.”
After consulting with current mayor Cathy Clark, Koho changed the date on Monday to July 1, since that will get him through the budget season.
Koho said he reached the decision in part after conversations with wife Lori.
“It was an extremely difficult decision,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my wife, I wouldn’t do it. She explained a few things to me as only she can do. If the shoe was on the other foot, I’d probably ask her to do the same thing. For me, volunteer activities are important, but they’re not the most important things. This sort of health issue I’ve been facing makes you evaluate what are the most important things.”
Koho, who was at Monday’s council meeting, doesn’t like leaving commitments early, but also didn’t want to risk things too much.
“Every time I’m in the council bay, I don’t know if I’m going to come back or not,” said Koho, who has had irregular attendance since coming back to council meetings on March 21 and missed both budget committee meetings earlier this month. “I’m not inclined to leave early when I do things, but I kind of have to in this case. This is one of those life or death sorts of things.”
In addition to leaving early, another disappointment for Koho will be leaving this particular group of councilors.
“It has been a lot of fun to work with a council that works well together,” he said. “In previous councils I’ve been on, there was a lot of sniping going on. ‘I’ve got my four votes’ and that was all that was looked at sometimes. I was as guilty as any other member on those councils. This is a much more collaborative council.”
Koho, who rejoined the council following an uncontested 2012 race, also joked about now meeting in the Keizer Civic Center, which opened in 2009 and is a vast improvement over the previous city hall.
“The facilities are far better,” he said with a laugh.
Koho knows he’ll miss the decision-making process.
“What I’ll miss the most is helping to make decisions that affect people,” he said. “There are still some big decisions to be made about parks and funding. I’d still like to see a cow park. I was willing to step up and help if we needed to do something. Not being able to be a part of that decision and work to implement that decision is disappointing.”
One of the main points of discussion during this month’s budget meetings was a desire to add an officer position to the Keizer Police Department. Police Chief John Teague has emphasized the need, while also stressing he understands time could be needed to add officers.
“I think the chief has presented a pretty good plan for how we add officers and when we add them,” Koho said. “I support the plan. It’s slower than a lot of people might like and I recognize that. We just don’t have a lot of resources. His was a good plan, one that recognizes the reality of where we’re at. I’m sure I would have enjoyed that discussion.”
Mayor Cathy Clark called for town hall meetings during budget time to discuss funding options, which Koho also supports.
“I think she’s right on that,” Koho said. “What I hope we don’t do is have a town hall meeting, then focus it all on funding for police. That drives people away. It needs to be about funding in general.”
As of the morning of May 13, a Keizertimes online poll at keizertimes.com asking readers what should be done in terms of adding either a police or parks employee was being led by the choice of no more taxes, with the city living within its current means.
By Monday morning, that option was still the leader, with 43 percent of the vote, with the number up to 46 percent on Wednesday morning.
“I’m not surprised to see living within the means be on top,” Koho said. “I hear that a lot from voters.”
Koho brought up his resignation during the council liaison reports late in Monday’s meeting.
“As you know, I’ve been not able to attend a lot of meetings due to health issues,” Koho said. “So I have made the decision to resign, effective July 1. I submitted that today. It’s been fun – usually.”
“Yeah, it has,” Clark said. “You’ve been part of that fun. You continue to give. You have given tremendously to the community. We all owe you so much, such a debt of gratitude for your service. With a truly grateful heart, thank you very much.”
Councilor Amy Ryan noted it wasn’t fair to be the next one following Koho to give her reports, since she was tearful.
“You have been a wealth of knowledge, Dennis. Thank you,” Ryan said.
Bruce Anderson, who joined the council this spring after the resignation of Brandon Smith, gave props to Koho as well.
“Mr. Koho, I greatly appreciate your service to this community, as mayor and councilor and in other aspects,” Anderson said. “We’ll definitely miss your voice here. But I work with your wife; it’s a good idea to do what she says.”