No one is on the ballot in Gates, Oregon.

The town has fewer than 500 residents and has an open spot for mayor, as well as three City Council seats. But no one is running for the open positions. Instead, the jobs will need to be filled by write-in candidates this November.

Current mayor Jerry Marr thinks that no one is running for his seat because it’s a difficult job. The city doesn’t generate much tax revenue, which means its operating budget is tight. Gates has the lowest property tax rate in the state of Oregon.

“The best thing that’s happened to us is we put in a cannabis store,” Marr said. Over the last fiscal year, Canyon Cannabis in Gates generated over $14,000 in sales tax revenue. The city received only $7,748 in property taxes.

The tight budget means low salaries for government employees, which has led to retention problems. Marr tried to pass an operating levy in 2016 to increase government employees’ salaries and add another position. It was voted down by 90 percent.

Marr then raised the monthly water fee by $14 and added a new $5 monthly street fee.

“That didn’t make me very popular,” Marr said.

Gates’ operating budget isn’t the only reason the town is struggling to encourage its residents to run for public office.

“We have nine past mayors living here now, and I don’t know how many past councilors,” Marr said. “Pretty soon you run out of people who want to serve.”

Marr is confident that he would have been re-elected if he was on the ballot. In fact, he had planned to register as a candidate if no one else did, but he missed the deadline.

If re-elected by write-in votes, Marr plans to serve another term. Whoever the next mayor of Gates is, he hopes they’ll do more than just chair meetings.

Marr applied for an Oregon Department of Transportation grant to upgrade the streets and put in sidewalks, and he expects the next mayor to see this project through.

“There’s things I’d like to see improved in our little city, and I don’t like to see it just go back to being not attended to,” Marr said. “If we work together like a family, we can have a nice little community.”

Listen to our full conversation with Mayor Jerry Marr about the election in Gates, Oregon, in the audio player above.

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