Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Aaron Newton
November 5th, 2013
INDEPENDENCE — For years, Independence has looked at the feasibility of a wayfinding system to help tourists navigate downtown and see all the city has to offer.
With limited time and a small staff, city officials were hard-pressed to devote time with other projects coming to the forefront.
When Guadalupe “Lupe” Geronimo, a senior at Western Oregon University, approached the city about an internship, city manager David Clyne and economic development director Shawn Irvine saw an opportunity.
“We had an intern, somebody who wanted to do some work for us,” Irvine said, “so we thought it was a great idea to do the investigation and get a better handle.”
Geronimo, a public policy and administration major at WOU, applied for internships across the Willamette Valley but kept hitting brick walls.
His adviser at Western suggested Monmouth and Independence as possibilities, so Geronimo got in touch with Irvine in July and started in August.
Since then, Geronimo has hit the ground running.
“I was one of the lucky ones to get in here,” Geronimo said. “It’s fairly small, but you can get a lot of things done here. With the wayfinding systems came updating ordinances and translating documents into Spanish.”
Aside from coming to Independence two to three times a week, Geronimo, 24, also works a full-time schedule at the Woodburn Premium Outlets.
It’s a lot to take on, Geronimo said, but his time with Independence has helped steer him toward a future career in city government.
“I’m thinking about law school and maybe becoming a city manager or community development director,” he said. “Being here, I get an opportunity to do a little bit of everything. It’s interesting and I like learning how things are done.”
The wayfinding system has been a pet project for Independence since 1996, when it was identified in the city’s parks master plan.
Similar to downtown Salem, Bend and what is being developed in Beaverton, the system would essentially guide pedestrians and tourists to activities, restaurants and other amenities in the downtown area.
The system is still in the planning stages, with Geronimo mostly looking into cost and implementation, but given there are no major projects on the city’s plate at the moment, the system is finally getting some more attention.
“We’ve got enough going on in our community and enough amenities that we need some kind of coherent, cohesive system to let people know what is here,” Irvine said. “It’s been in the back of our heads for a long time.”