When I first decided to take the assignment of doing a day in the life of Corvallis’ major, Julie Manning, I had no real clue or inclination of who she was and to be quite honest I have never really been that interested in local politics or city officials. I had always thought that the mayors of small towns like ours were just glorified figureheads that really had little to no impact on the actual running of the town. I had always pictured them attending dinners and making little speeches to puff up their egos–until I had the chance to get to know Julie and saw just how dedicated and involved a mayor could be. As I learned more about her job and the true amount of work she is tasked with on a daily basis, my admiration grew. Coming to the realization that she does this all voluntarily—the office of mayor being a volunteer position—just made her dedication to working to improve her city that much more admirable. At the end of the day we are forced to ask ourselves, how many of us really know who our mayor is or what exactly it is they do?
Julie is unassuming, knowledgeable and always energetic, but unhurried. These strengths undoubtedly aided her official plunge into the world of public office in November of 2012, winning the position by a decidedly large majority, which is made even more remarkable considering the fact that she had never held an elected office prior to her bid for mayor. However, she had made quite the name for herself through her other works within the community, taking on a hefty load of volunteer work. Some examples of this work had her as former president of the Corvallis Area Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club of Greater Corvallis, and the United Way of Benton County. Currently she co-chairs Benton County’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, and she is also the board chair of E3: Employers for Education Excellence. The list goes on from there—it becomes quite clear that she has always had an interest in doing all she can to serve her community, so it came as no surprise that when former mayor Charlie Tomlinson decided to leave his position that Julie would make an ideal candidate to fill the position. However, it took some time for her to come to the conclusion herself. “I ultimately decided to run because I thought it would provide an opportunity to serve the community in a new way and also allow me to build on some of my previous work and interests,” she said.
Those people that have had the chance to meet or work with Julie have had nothing but praise for her, often describing someone that simply gets things done, possessing a deep pool of knowledge on any number of subjects having to do with the city. She has remained engaged with the citizens of Corvallis, keeping herself readily accessible to anyone who has questions for her, despite having a daunting schedule that has her constantly balancing multiple tasks at once. Not only is she willing to respond in a timely fashion but her responses are thorough and well researched, providing in-depth information to any question she is capable of answering. Her continued hard work and dedication have revealed her as a smart and diplomatic representative. One occasion in particular really gave her the chance to flex her mayoral muscles, as she dealt with a situation not many small town mayors are forced to deal with.
In 2012 a mural painted on the wall of a local business owner garnered international attention. The mural, which depicted the struggle for an independent Taiwan and Tibet, caught the attention of the Chinese consulate. Taking offense, they wrote a strongly worded letter to Julie requesting that she do something to remove the mural. She wrote back to them that not only did she not have the power to remove the mural but even if she did she would not, responding back, “As you are aware, the First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech in this country and this includes freedom of artistic expression.” This resulted in two of their representatives making a visit to Corvallis to speak with her, a meeting in which she stressed her previous message and held strong to what she believed was right.
One of the places that she claims the greatest amount of pride is in the city’s ongoing collaboration with the college. “I am very pleased with the progress being made in our collaborative work with OSU. Substantive work is taking place as we reach the halfway point in our three-year effort, and positive results are being reported by community members.” This effort has focused on many different aspects of how the college can help improve the livability of Corvallis.
A large portion of Julie’s work is in making public appearances and speeches in support of the City Council’s goals. “My major priority is doing what I can to support the achievement of the City Council’s goals… because the mayor is invited to many meetings, events, and activities, I try to attend as many as I can—especially those that involve speaking to student groups and those that are related to the council’s goals.”
When Julie isn’t tasked with a seemingly insurmountable amount of work, she takes time to find her own ways to unwind for the day. “I exercise regularly. I also enjoy choral singing, and am a member of the Corvallis Repertory Singers,” she said. She is married to Walter Manning, a dentist with a private practice in Albany. They have two sons, Jackson and Patrick.
Julie is currently serving her third year of a four-year term as mayor and as of yet has not announced her intentions of running for another term.
by John Rosales