Unity key theme for Woodland mayoral hopefuls

All say it has been a missing element recently

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

Woodland’s mayoral candidates each promise to unite the city’s administration, council and people, in a way they allege has been missing the past four years. Before the next mayor can do so, he or she must emerge from a pack of four people well-versed in local politics, business and law enforcement.

Councilmen J.J. Burke and Darwin Rounds each have more than 10 years serving in Woodland city government. Grover Laseke served eight years as the city’s police chief and also served as a mayor in Lewis County. Another candidate, Janna Lovejoy, is a veteran attorney who has at times served as Woodland’s city prosecutor.

The field will be narrowed to two candidates following the Aug. 16 primary election, unless one candidate obtains more than 50 percent of the vote. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 8. The city pays its mayor $800 per month.

Woodland Mayor Chuck Blum chose not to seek re-election this fall due to health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his grandchildren.

Earlier this year, an independent audit paid for by the city to determine whether it needed a city administrator cited the toxic relationship between Blum and the council as one of his administration’s biggest shortcomings.

Burke lost by a narrow margin to Blum in 2007. Communication between the city council and mayor has been a weak point during Blum’s tenure, said Burke.

Government leaders must get on the same page, Burke said, so the city can bring in business and build new fire and police stations. Burke supports a benefit tax district to pay for the stations and will back cardrooms now that they have been approved.

“I don’t owe favors to anybody,” Burke, 59, said. “I know what’s good for the city. I’m an independent person.”

Laseke is the only one of the four candidates with prior mayoral experience. He previously served as mayor in Toledo in Lewis County for five years and as police chief in Woodland for eight years.

He supports putting a benefit district tax before the voters. He opposes hiring a city administrator, if elected. Improving roads and communication are important items on his agenda.

“All these folks running for mayor are good folks,” the 57-year-old said. “I believe I bring something to that position that will be beneficial to our citizens and everyone involved trying to deal with the issues.”

Lovejoy, 55, said she filed to run for mayor because she believes she can increase business in the city and government accountability.

She opposes new taxes for citizens. Lowering taxes, she said, could increase business, and therefore pay for new programs the city needs.

“Our power to succeed as a productive community flows from the bottom up, from our businesses and citizens, and not the other way around, not from council members and city department heads,” she said. “I will apply this method of leadership.”

Rounds’ focus is on what he can do for the city, not his opponents, he said.

The 61-year-old auto parts store owner has lived in Woodland 25 years. For 15 of those years, he has either sat on the city council or served on the city’s planning commission.

Rounds is opposed to a sales tax increase for a public safety building. Instead, he believes gambling interests should help pay for such upgrades. This puts him at odds with his fellow candidates, he said.

“A lot of them don’t want to stand up and be proud of the fact there will be gambling in town,” Rounds said.

Rounds added he opposes the city hiring a city administrator right now because it lacks the money and doesn’t need such a position. But he believes in the future, given projected growth, the city will need to create such a job.

Councilwoman Marilee McCall filed to run for mayor but withdrew from the race shortly after. She cited a desire to help the council adjust to a new mayor as the main reason for her decision.