A former Woodland police chief and current Woodland councilman will vie for the city’s mayoral seat in November after finishing first and second among four candidates in Tuesday’s primary race.
Former police chief Grover Laseke (305 votes, 43.82 percent) and Councilman J.J. Burke (189 votes, 27.10 percent) advanced to the Nov. 8 general election in their bid to succeed Mayor Chuck Blum, who did not seek re-election. Attorney Janna Lovejoy (142 votes, 20.40 percent) and Councilman Darwin Rounds (55 votes, 7.90 percent) rounded out the field.
All Woodland races included votes from Cowlitz and Clark counties.
Also Tuesday night, Woodland’s two council primaries were held, with one being decided by a sizable margin and another finishing in a deadlock. The top two candidates in each primary will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Retired repairman Robert Ripp (350 votes, 55.55 percent) and retired real estate broker Scott Perry (212 votes, 33.45 percent) were the top two vote-getters for Position 4, a seat relinquished by Councilman Aaron Christopherson. Retired construction materials salesman Gene Silvey finished third with 62 votes, or 9.84 percent.
Neither Ripp nor Perry have held elected office before. Both men are 70 years old.
In Woodland’s other council race, Woodland Fire Chief Tony Brentin, 51, and Marshall Allen, a 76-year-old retired aircraft repairman, tied with 205 votes or 34.22 percent. Brian Ellis finished third with 179 votes, or 29.88 percent.
Brentin and Allen are competing to succeed Rounds, who gave up his appointed council seat to run for mayor.
The Position 7 council race also had 10 unresolved votes that were counted among the final number cast.
Both mayoral and council candidates have declared their intentions to improve the relationships within city government, which frayed under Blum.
Blum came under fire earlier this year after he slammed council members in an independent auditor’s report. In the same report, the auditor criticized Blum for failing to effectively work with council members and for failing to adequately plan long-term, large-scale projects for the future.
Blum cited health concerns and a desire to spend more time with his grandchildren among his reasons for not seeking re-election.
Laseke has prior mayoral experience in Toledo in Lewis County. He also served as Woodland’s police chief for eight years.
Due to the large number of candidates, he said he was not surprised he failed to tally 50 percent or more of the votes. Still, he was pleased.
“I feel we worked pretty hard at it,” Laseke said. “We pushed on and had a good message. The citizens said they liked what I’ve got to say.”
Burke lost the mayor’s race to Blum in 2007. This time around, he said he would need to knock on doors to have a chance in the general election.
“I’d rather have been first but I’m happy to be second,” Burke said, adding he needed to pick up some of Lovejoy’s votes.
Ray Legendre: 360-735-4517; www.facebook.com/raylegend; www.twitter.com/col_smallcities; firstname.lastname@example.org.