Thomas Aschenbrener is the newest member of the Manzanita City Council. He brings with him a lifetime of experience in public service.
Aschenbrener was appointed to the council during the April meeting. He came to the city around 11 years ago after searching up and down the coast for a place within a reasonable distance from Portland. In recent years, he’s come to spend the majority of his time in Manzanita.
“It is truly a magnificent community that has many of the attributes we want,” Aschenbrener said. “It’s just the right environment … it wants to maintain its village character.”
The founder and president of Northwest Health Foundation, Aschenbrener managed a charitable organization that funded public health throughout the state. He began his professional career as a civil servant in Washington D.C., working on grants related to medical schools and public health schools.
“I highly value the opportunities and the challenges of being in public service and feel it’s the right fit for me,” Aschenbrener said. “Volunteering is what I do; it is part of my core makeup to volunteer where I can make a difference, and this has been in large organizations and small.”
The service opportunity and the community are so attractive that Aschenbrener finds selling the condo in Portland more and more compelling, although that would require a joint decision between him and his spouse, Richard Neuman. They have been together for 27 years and married since 2009.
Aschenbrener has already familiarized himself with the City Council, attending numerous meetings prior to his appointment. Familiar with how governing bodies work from the standpoints of having been a CEO who answered to a board of directors as well as having served as a board director, he was particularly impressed with how the council members interact with each other, feeling they are service-minded and thoughtful about decision making processes.
He was also drawn in by the major focus in Manzanita – an infrastructure revamp that includes a new administrative center for the City offices. A significant project in terms of scope and cost, Aschenbrener hopes his experience will help him play a small role in developing the hub of City functions.
Most importantly, the newly appointed councilor says his only agenda is tending to the public interest. He comes to the City Council with a mentality of participation, learning and collaboration to meet the community’s goals.
Aschenbrener noted that being in public service means people would seek you out to share their opinions and advice on matters of all sorts in the city. He said while it’s certainly important to hear from citizens, there comes a time to make decisions for which only the council members are solely responsible, regardless of what criticism or praise might follow.
“You’ve got to be able to withstand that and know that you are making the best possible decision in collaboration with your other council members,” Aschenbrener said.