Candidates pledge Yacolt stability

Mayor will lead town council in recovering from upheavals

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

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After seven months rife with turnover in the town’s government, Yacolt’s three mayoral candidates hope to bring stability to Clark County’s smallest incorporated area.

Yacolt’s town council has appointed three new council members and a new mayor, James Weldon, in 2011. The changes stemmed from the death of one member (Ron Madler), a member’s becoming town clerk (Cindy Marbut) and Weldon’s taking over for former Mayor Joe Warren, who resigned in March due to unspecified health concerns.

Weldon, recently appointed council member Skip Benge, and Jeff Carothers — who unsuccessfully sought appointment to the council three times this year — are the three candidates seeking the mayor’s seat this fall. Unlike in larger communities with city managers, Yacolt’s mayor is responsible for overseeing town operations in the community of 1,566 people.

The primary election is Aug. 16. Unless one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the primary vote, the top two finishers will face off in the Nov. 8 election.

The Yacolt Town Council appointed Weldon as mayor April 4. Warren, who had served since 2005, stepped down March 7, citing “personal reasons beyond my control.”

Warren resigned one week after a state audit reported the town violated state law by purchasing materials from a town employee without a competitive bidding process. He vehemently denied the timing of his resignation had anything to do with the audit.

Weldon, 81, previously served as Yacolt mayor for most of 2005 and served on the council for 10 years.

Weldon spent 25 years as an auxiliary Air Force chaplain and has more than 50 years in the ministry. He is the associate minister at Minnehaha Church of Christ. He has been married for 60 years and has two adult children.

Among the town’s main priorities, Weldon said, were securing a deal with the Modoc Railroad Academy, turning the Old Town Hall into a museum and providing a skate park and soccer field for town children.

He also listed the maintenance and enhancing of town activities and town finances as key issues.

“I want to get the town on solid footing,” Weldon said, adding that he wanted to create quality working conditions for council and staff and a good rapport with the public.

Carothers, 52, applied for all three council vacancies this year. Each time, the town’s council bypassed him. He hopes to have better results with the town’s voters.

Carothers is a Marine Corps veteran, a salesman for an oil-related company and involved in a myriad of veterans and church-related activities. He attends Community Baptist Church in Battle Ground.

His priorities as mayor would include stirring youth’s interest in the town and its government, putting citizens’ concerns first and pulling the town’s government together to work as a “TEAM.”

“Over the last eight months, I just didn’t like the direction the town was heading,” Carothers said, explaining why he decided to run for mayor.

Warren said during a telephone interview Friday that he would support Carothers in the upcoming mayor’s race. He added he believed either Carothers or Weldon would do a good job. Warren said he did not know Benge well.

Benge did not return numerous phone calls for this story. He was appointed to the town council this year following Weldon’s ascension to the mayor’s seat.

According to Yacolt’s town website, Benge is 70 years old, married and retired. The website does not say what type of work he performed.

Benge’s goals for the council and future of Yacolt are to help the town get good audits, make decisions that benefit the entire town and help the town deal with its needs at a slow, but steady pace, according to the website.

Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; ray.legendre@columbian.com.