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Mayor Rowley: He never pulled a punch

by: ARCHIVE PHOTO - Rowley served as City Manager and Mayor of Estacada in the late 1970s and early 1980s.With a town as unique as Estacada, it’s no surprise that its leaders are one-of-a-kind.

And the late John D. Rowley, certainly was.

Rowley, 74, a former Estacada mayor and city manager, died from complications of congestive heart failure on April 7.

Judging from the Estacada News archives, Rowley gave some of the most interesting quotes in the paper’s history.

Rowley moved to Estacada in 1978 with his wife and family after being offered the city manager position.

He was in his 30s when he accepted the job.

Rowley’s widow, Dianne, said Rowley was a very active city manager, with high hopes to help the city in its growth.

With his youth, enthusiasm and penchant for sometimes brutal honesty, Rowley’s style at times rubbed the city’s old guard the wrong way.

Dianne said Rowley represented change, which made him threatening to those who liked the town “just the way it was.”

Despite his youth, Rowley had already had quite the career by the time he became Estacada’s city manager.

by: CONTRIBUTED - John and Dianne Rowley were high school sweethearts. They married when John was on leave from the US Navy Submarine Corps on Septmeber 27, 1958. They lived in Estacada for more than 30 years.Rowley served as a police officer for Eugene after his honorable discharge from the U.S. Navy Submarine Corps and became the first president of the Eugene Police officer’s union.

He went on to be La Grande’s law enforcement planner, temporary police chief of Medford and personnel director of Medford.

Rowley was Estacada’s city manager for a year and a half before leaving to go into private business.

Rowley decided he wanted to run for mayor after Mike Park decided he would not run for a third term in August 1982.

As mayor, Rowley advocated building trails, was involved in the construction of the 300 Main apartment complex and didn’t shy away from controversial decisions.

Rowley was known for saying exactly what he thought and landed in hot water at times when his straight-shooting quips ended up in the paper: the time he called the Chamber of Commerce “a nearly useless organization,” for instance.

Former Clackamas County News Publisher Sidney Mort relayed this incident in a December 1983 column: Mort had attempted to take a photo of the mayor and his son imbibing at a local establishment.

“But look John, even Ronald Reagan has dropped into Boston bars to have a beer with working men, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of,” said Mort, quoting himself. “To the contrary: A picture of the mayor in a local bar would tend to convey the message that the mayor likes all people — drunks included.”

Unamused, Rowley accused the paper of lacking the courage to report anything negative about its advertisers.

“So why don’t you at least say in your newspaper that advertising revenues can affect your editorial,” Rowley was quoted.

And Mort did. Well, he at least admitted to not wanting to make any more enemies than necessary.

Dianne said Rowley’s honesty has been oft mentioned in the cards she’s received since his passing.

But even though Rowley called it like he saw it, the man also was obsessed with having a good time.

He even had a string quartet serenade the councilors during a city council meeting, Dianne said.

“I believe his main goal in life was to make all persons he came into contact with laugh, not for their sake but for his own,” Dianne wrote.

Rita Perry, who has been the Rowleys’ neighbor for 20 years, remembers Rowley’s sense of humor fondly.

One time when Perry was housesitting for the Rowleys, she tied artificial fruit to one of their fruit trees.

Rowley thought the prank was hilarious.

“I don’t think he ever got even with me on that,” she said.

Rowley’s second term as mayor was plagued by controversy due in part to the City Council’s decision to reorganize the public works department and citizens questioning long-standing city budgeting practices.

Rowley maintained that the recall movement was championed by people with personal grudges and the allegations against him had little grounding in reason.

“If I was being paid to do this job, I’d quit and tell people to go to hell,” Rowley told the paper in October 1985.

“I’ll have to admit that I don’t have an ambivalent style. If I think something is right, I don’t sway,” he said. “And I say things the way I believe they are. This can get you into trouble. But I think disagreeing is fine. If everyone on the council agreed on everything all the time you’d only need one councilman. You’re supposed to disagree and compromise.”

Voters recalled Rowley in a special election in November 1985.

Dianne said he didn’t want anything to do with politics after that turn of events.

Following the recall, Rowley worked in a number of jobs. He drove a school bus for a time, used an infrared camera in a plane to identify forest hot spots throughout Oregon, and worked for U-Haul to name a few.

But Rowley’s devotion to public service was not limited to politics.

The Rowleys hosted numerous Japanese exchange students, taking in at least 16 over the years.

They served as a foster family for two years for a Chinese boy as he completed an immigration program.

by: CONTRIBUTED - Rowley was a volunteer badminton coach for Estacada High School and organized high school badminton tournaments.Rowley volunteered for several athletic programs in the Estacada School District and for Philip Foster Farm and was involved in starting the annual Best Dam Run.

He was a member of Peace Lutheran Church in Estacada and served as president of the congregation at the time.

Rowley is remembered as “the consummate outdoorsman” and enjoyed longbow hunting, fishing, carving, boating and arrowhead hunting.

“His legacy I would say is his stalwart dedication to the Estacada community,” Dianne wrote. “His energetic, determined, honest, upright, reliable, loyal, uncompromising ways gave Estacadians a person they could look up to as a great example of what they should aspire to be. I’m sure he influenced many.”



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