“A discussion with Mayor Frank Bubenik,” with the mayor interviewed by Larry McClure, was held at the Tualatin Historical Society’s Heritage Center on Oct. 6 and is now available online on the society’s website.
Bubenik covered a wide range of topics from his early years and military service to how he got into politics to his passion for continuing to make Tualatin the best city it can be.
Born and raised in New York, Bubenik was in the ROTC in college, entered the service as a 2nd lieutenant and was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. Back in the States, Bubenik earned an MBA at the State University of New York, where he also met his future wife Donna.
They moved to Washington, D.C., for two years, where Bubenik worked for the IRS. The future mayor and Donna found the city pretty violent and decided to move to the West Coast. Bubenik’s job was in Salem, and the “cute little town” of Tualatin was recommended to them as a good place to live and commute from. They moved into an apartment and later bought the house they still live in today more than 20 years later.
An IT consultant, Bubenik co-founded Compass Computing Group Inc. while becoming more involved in volunteering inside and outside the city.
His stint in politics started with volunteering for the city’s visioning process, the Tualatin Tomorrow Steering Committee, and he went on to serve on multiple Tualatin and Washington County committees ranging from the Tualatin Library Advisory Committee to the Washington County Commission on Children & Families.
While Bubenik enjoyed his initial stints serving on committees and helping shape the future of his city, “I wanted to sit on the other side of the table so I could decide what gets done,” he said.
Bubenik was elected to the City Council in November 2010 and re-elected in November 2014. Next, he was elected mayor in November 2018 and has continued to volunteer in other positions.
Bubenik said that when his predecessor, former Mayor Lou Ogden, told him being mayor was a full-time job, he didn’t really believe him, “but when Covid hit, it became a full-time job, so I had two full-time jobs.”
Thankful that his business partner has been supportive of his many volunteer efforts, Bubenik has been able to focus his attention on the demands of the city. While being mayor is considered a ceremonial job, Bubenik runs the City Council meetings and works with City Manager Sherilyn Lombos on making sure the city runs smoothly.
“I cut ribbons at public events, I get emails all the time with questions and concerns, I get negative reviews and positive reviews, and I am the interface between the community and city government,” Bubenik said.
“I have a daily routine. I get a lot of phone calls. I have two phones – business and city. I represent the city in two counties. There are lots of meetings, and I might meet with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) or Washington or Clackamas commissioners or commission chairs. I meet with people at all levels of government.”
When asked what he thinks is the most important ability he has to do the job, Bubenik said it is the ability to listen.
“I pride myself on my ability to listen,” he said. “My style is I listen and I don’t talk.”
Bubenik said that he and the other City Council members have great teamwork. “We respect each other, and we are honest with each other,” he said.
The City of Tualatin has hundreds of employees, and Bubenik said that he interacts with many of them. “We all want to make the city a better place to live,” he said. “When there is a decision to be made, I ask for three options and what is good and bad about each one. I let it percolate in my head and discuss it with the City Council. In dealing with Covid, we need to make sure the city continues to run and that city services are delivered.”
The city staff found creative ways to provide Covid-safe activities such as the Holiday Lights Parade and to help local businesses that were struggling by awarding $1.5 million in grants.
Ongoing issues include improving transportation in and out of the city, which includes working to get more TriMet service, as well as providing a wide variety of housing options and costs, although the city has very little residential land left to develop.
Bubenik said the Police Department is very well trained, respected and has just started rolling out body cameras, “and we don’t have the use-of-force issues that other cities have.”
Finally, Bubenik noted that local businesses pay half of the city’s property taxes, which lightens the burden of homeowners.
As for his political future, Bubenik said he has no ambition to run for another office.
The interview is available for viewing at www.tualatinhistory.org.