Council newcomer Hayley Delle brings younger perspective
District 1 representative a proponent of marijuana legalization, alternative housing options in Newberg
Hayley Delle is the youngest Newberg City Council member in recent memory — and although no one has confirmed it with certainty, possibly the youngest in the town's history.
She's never been involved with local government before, but the 23-year-old Newberg resident saw a flier notifying the public of a council vacancy in District 1, in which she lives, and she decided to throw her hat into the ring.
"I saw the deep end and I went for it," Delle said in an interview just prior to taking office Jan. 3.
It turns out, she was the only one to take that plunge: she won the seat unopposed and took office at last week's council meeting.
When she first filed for the position, Delle said she was hoping to "shake things up" a little bit with her position on the council.
"I had somebody call me a rabble-rouser" for expressing that sentiment, Delle said, but that hasn't deterred her from maintaining her ambition.
Delle moved to Newberg from the Newport area five years ago. She attended and graduated from George Fox University with a degree in interior design. Since then she's gone from working as a marketing manager and graphic designer, to working in the wine industry, to working at Social Goods Market in downtown Newberg, and back to the wine industry for her current job.
As a relative newcomer to town, Delle said she's noticed some dynamics in Newberg: as with many small towns, there are some families that have been around for generations and whose names appear all over the city. At the same time, there are newer arrivals to town who aren't entrenched, but who care about the city, start and manage local businesses, and raise their children here.
"There is a significant population of young families, young people, young professionals in this town, doing things and making changes," Delle said.
But sometimes they feel their voices aren't being represented or they're intimidated by the recognizable, entrenched names and families.
"That's great, that's a legacy and that's history of this town," she said. "But you have to consider where we're going. If we always stay focused on the past and the same people and the same things we've always done, how are we really going to grow?"
She's made clear the attitude she'll bring to deliberations, but Delle said she isn't coming on board with an agenda of specific issues she wants to tackle. She said she'll take some time to get up to speed on current council activities, but her interests and positions suggest the perspective she'll take on certain hot-button council issues that will likely pop up over her tenure.
Housing, for instance, is an increasingly popular topic of discussion among Newberg city committees and advocacy groups, and Delle fits the bill of a segment of the population frequently cited as underserved by current Newberg housing.
"There's a lot of focus on family housing or housing for elderly or retired generations," she said. "As someone who came into this town as a single person looking for just a small place to live, there's not a whole lot of that."
She emphasized the importance of diverse housing options beyond single-family homes, but not solely through the often controversial high-density housing. Delle brought up intermediate medium-density housing (which often encompasses duplexes and smaller apartment buildings), and even tiny house communities, as some of the more creative options the city could look into.
"You have people who want to live here because they work here, but they can't because there's nowhere for them to live," Delle said, echoing some of the findings that were put forth during recent local housing forums as well as the stalled urban growth boundary expansion process.
But the locally controversial issue she's most passionate about is marijuana.
"If anything, that's somewhere where I could cause some strife, because I'm very open to the industry," Delle said.
Figures provided by the Oregon Department of Revenue indicate that Oregon brought in more than $54 million in state marijuana taxes during 2016. Delle pointed to those figures, as well as opportunities for hemp production and the medicinal value marijuana provides for some patients, in her support of the plant.
"Open it up, be more welcoming, if nothing else look at the tax dollars it brings in," she said. "It could be a huge financial benefit."
While Delle comes onto the council after many of the local marijuana decisions have been made, taxation is one that still remains to be settled. Newberg has a 10 percent tax for recreational and 5 percent tax for medical marijuana on the books, which may be technically illegal: the state only allows cities to levy a maximum 3 percent tax on recreational and does not allow a tax on medical marijuana, rules that went into place after the 2015 legislative session. Now the question is whether Newberg is grandfathered into the previous taxing system or whether it has to remove those taxes.
Whatever the marijuana-related issue that comes before the council happens to be, Delle said she hopes to approach it through having a "reasonable conversation" about the facts.
"I think that's what people need, is just a logical, well-spoken voice," she said.
Delle's first meeting as a city councilor was Jan. 3.
Mayor Bob Andrews, when asked about the newest member of council in a recent interview, thought for a moment before offering his opinion on what she'll bring to the table.
"I can't say she's experienced … I see her as a person that is willing to learn," he said. "She's very willing to learn and I think she has many strengths she'll bring to our discussion and that will help in our deliberations."
Andrews said he thinks the council will benefit from a younger perspective and was not concerned by Delle's goal to "shake things up."
"I take no issue with that!" Andrews said. "For what it's worth, I take it as, we need a new perspective."