October 15, 2005
The Hood River City Council has chosen Laurent Picard to fill the seat recently vacated by A.J. Kitt.
Picard, who resides on Hazel Avenue, was selected on Tuesday out of two applicants for the position. He was appointed to serve out the three years and two months remaining in Kitt’s unexpired term. Kitt recently resigned from the office he was elected to last November to prepare for the birth of triplets.
Bob Francis, city manager, said Picard became the top candidate after expressing a strong interest in the creation of more affordable housing opportunities for citizens.
Recently, the city has initiated steps to address a growing concern in the community about the rising cost of homes. Picard told the council during his Oct. 11 interview that he wanted to be actively involved in that effort. That vocal support for the council’s new focus, said Francis, probably gave Picard a slight edge over John Grossheusch, who was also considered well-qualified for the job.
“Mr. Picard had a very definite interest in making sure that Hood River remains liveable,” said Francis.
Picard, 33, said without some type of government intervention, many lower- and middle-income citizens could be forced to find housing in other locations.
“If working people are priced out of the community, it will become more and more homogenous, and that’s not good for its character,” he said. “I think affordable housing is absolutely crucial and needs to be addressed.”
Although he holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Cornell University Picard made a career choice 11 years ago to be a paramedic and, two years later, a professional firefighter. He said working with people who have “come up through the trenches” instead of from the “ivory tower of academia” has greatly broadened his perspective on life. In addition, being an emergency responder in the City of Portland has gotten Picard actively involved with people from all socio-economic walks of life and diverse cultures.
The ability to interact effectively with a cross-section of society, said Picard, should benefit him as a public servant. In addition, he said being on the front lines of life and death decisions has taught him how to reach consensus and delegate responsibilities to get the job done as quickly as possible.
“I’ve become very adept at maintaining a cooperative working relationship with people under intense and stressful situations,” he said.
In addition to his firefighter duties, Picard is the founder and one of seven partners in a small ski-manufacturing firm. He said designing and setting up PM Gear over the Internet, with no prior knowledge of the industry, has exposed him to just about every challenge that a business can face.
So he expects to have empathy and understanding for concerns brought before the council by other entrepreneurs.
“In firefighting we have to work as a team, and not as individuals, or we will fail. I believe that probably applies to this political position as well,” Picard said.