New City Council Members One Month In: Penny York and Bruce Sorte Weigh in On Their Recent Experiences

This past January 7th, Corvallis’ newest crop of elected officials took office—Penny York and Bruce Sorte are each one month into their terms as new city council members representing Wards 1 and 7 respectively. They spent some time explaining their goals and challenges as city councilors, as well as their visions for the future of the city.

Bruce Sorte is an OSU Extension Community Economist and an economics instructor. He has a palpable energy—he seems to have no shortage of ideas and no problem sharing them. He started our interview by taking out a notebook and asking me what I as a Corvallis citizen thought he should be working on.

Sorte previously served as a Corvallis council member from 1995 to 1999. He lives in the College Hill neighborhood among long-time residents and houses packed full of undergraduates. The tension among these different groups led him back to politics again in 2012. He recognizes the impact that OSU’s growth has had on residents, and he wants to address livability issues while keeping the city financially solvent. He would like to see the university and the city work together to increase efficiency and reduce cost.

Sorte is particularly adept at asking questions, posing new ideas and shaking things up. He noted that he voted against the public safety tax, not because he does not prioritize the issue, but because he does not like the way it is being imposed. He seems driven to create productive tension in order to push the city forward.

Sorte wants the council to work organically and creatively. He would like to recruit younger community members from different backgrounds to key roles in local governance. His teaching background is evident in his non-stop excitement to involve young people in Corvallis, and ask questions about everything.

Penny York comes to the city council from the Benton Center and the Board of Education of Linn-Benton Community College. Her experience in community education has connected her to a diverse group of community members and issues. Her pride for her work is evident when she speaks about students, colleagues and past projects. This, and her experience caring for her daughter who suffered a stroke caused by brain surgery, has obviously influenced her political goals—York is passionate about public safety and public health, and speaks about the need for crisis intervention and mental health care.

York admits that city level politics is not where access to healthcare and education are typically decided. But her support for public safety reflects her motives to serve as a councilor. She decided to run for council after Fire Station 5 was closed, and she recently voted in favor of the public safety tax. Her goals are to help improve city processes and bring efficiency and transparency to the council by keeping citizens involved.

With only one month on the job, she is still getting to know the city and staff, as well as the issues in detail. But she expressed excitement to learn so much. York believes her fellow councilors would describe her as both assertive and a good listener. Her vision for Corvallis is a city that grows intelligently and works with businesses, citizens and the university.

Both York and Sorte encourage their constituents to reach out to them. They can be contacted via the city website,

by Bridget Egan

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