A primary election for Eugene City Council will be held on May 15. Four of Eugene’s eight wards are up for grabs, but only two — Wards 3 and 5 — had challengers file campaign paperwork in time. Ward 3, the area around the University of Oregon, is currently represented by four-term councilman Alan Zelenka, who faces two political newcomers who hope to bring their own perspectives to Eugene’s government.
The two challengers, Hugh Paterson III and Tom Bruno, have much in common. Both were raised in military families and spent their lives traveling all over the world. Both have multiple degrees from several universities. Neither of them are Eugene natives, but both have similar stories about arriving in the Willamette Valley and instantly falling in love with the city. And both Paterson and Bruno hope to use their extensive world experiences to bring new ideas to Eugene.
At 35, Hugh Paterson III is considerably younger than his opponents. He also doesn’t look like a typical political candidate, with a voluminous reddish-blonde beard and a pattern of cautious speech. Paterson has lived in Eugene since 2012 but had his sights on Eugene long before then.
“When I first came here in 2005, I wrote in my journal, ‘I want to be from Eugene,’” Paterson said.
A linguist by education, Paterson has spent the last ten years with SIL International, a non-profit organization that works with indigenous populations around the world to develop their written languages. He’s worked with small communities from Mexico to Nigeria and spent the last four years developing business strategies and product and service designs for SIL. According to Paterson, this unique balance of world experience and business savvy makes him an ideal candidate for city council, despite his lack of political experience.
“I’m learning as I go, but I’m very happy to be of service,” Paterson said. “My life, for a long time, has revolved around service to communities. I want to make a difference in Eugene and make a better Eugene today and a better Eugene tomorrow.”
Paterson’s platform is focused on reforming land use policies in Eugene, as well as tackling the city’s growing low-income housing crisis. He’s also calling for improved cooperation between the university and City Hall in order to maintain the livability of the neighborhoods around campus.
“We see, in our community, that prices for students have gone up and prices for small families have gone up,” Paterson said. “Housing has to be solved in a way that impacts students’ livability, and livability for students boils down to cost.”
Tom Bruno, a plain-spoken 70-year old veteran with a hearty laugh and sharp wit – he referred to himself as a “Roads scholar” in reference to his construction experience – is the other new candidate for the Ward 3 council seat. Bruno, who describes himself as “a 60-percent disabled veteran,” spent 22 years in the Army, where he worked in logistics and engineering. Since being discharged in 1992, he’s worked as a civil and government contractor, developing technologies that “mistake-proof manufacturing processes.” According to Bruno, his extensive civilian and military logistics experience would make him an asset on the council.
“I’m all about urban efficiency and planning,” Bruno said. “I’m a big ideas man, and I want to bring in money that isn’t Phil Knight’s money.”