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Volunteers help lift entire community


When we bought our house in Hillsboro, I would walk to the New Leaf Greenhouse nursery at the pink house with my little boys and a red wagon in tow. I felt a sense of belonging by planting our own roots in the community. While I have lived in Oregon all my life, it felt great to own a little piece of dirt and plant our feet firmly in the community.

One of the easiest ways to meet people and take part in your community is by volunteering. The city of Hillsboro is actively seeking residents to apply to volunteer for commissions and boards. There are what I like to call “one-hit wonder” opportunities, where you sign up for a limited commitment — say, a three-month planning program — to commissions that require more time and energy.

Many of the current Hillsboro City Council members volunteered in such groups prior to running for city council. I served on the Planning and Zoning Hearings Board and on a Hillsboro 2020 Vision Action team for arts and education. Mayor Jerry Willey was a council member in the 1990s and then served on the Library Board. Councilor Darell Lumaco was on the Parks Commission for 15 years. Councilor Steve Callaway was a planning commissioner and Hillsboro 2020 chairman for many years. Councilor Olga Acuna served on Hillsboro 2020 as well. Acuna is a Glencoe High School alum, while councilor Megan Braze and councilor Fred Nachtigal are Hilhi alums. They have all volunteered for the Hillsboro community their entire lives.

Let me be clear: You aren’t being asked to step up, change your life and ultimately run for an elected office — but we do need help and every bit counts.

The voices of volunteers are what drive Hillsboro. Where the sidewalks end and the bike lanes start; to build a baseball park (Go Hops!); design new uses in Orenco Woods — these all come from residents. We hold open houses for general dialogue and suggestions as well.

The Parks & Recreation Commission is our only charter-protected committee. Although some would balk at the 7 a.m. meetings, this is the perfect place to make a huge impact and then head into work. Members decide on future park acquisitions, upgrades to facilities and programming of current facilities.

The Planning Commission is a major commitment to the community and to your calendar. The city council receives and reviews the final action minutes of the commission’s agendas, and the details are incredible. If you like the idea of shaping your community and the look of it, this is for you. It was the Planning Commission that worked through the new Kaiser Hospital plans and ensured that even the parking garage was appealing to busy travelers on Evergreen Parkway. Some of the decisions they make are difficult. They work closely with city planners and follow city and state planning laws, and meetings are twice a month on Wednesday evenings.

If you want to know Hillsboro on a more creative level, the Hillsboro Arts & Culture Council (HACC) might be for you. HACC members manage public art, facilitate trainings for artists and nonprofits, and organize a variety of art shows. They have brought color and spirit into the entire community of Hillsboro.

The unsung heroes of Hillsboro are those who volunteer for these and other commissions. The city councilors value these efforts and ask for more people to step up. Come work with us. Share your opinions and ideas.

Aron Carleson is president of the Hillsboro City Council.