Woodland mayoral candidates have wealth of experience

Both eye communications, traffic improvements

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer


photoJohn "J.J." Burke

Woodland Mayoral candidates

John ‘J.J.’ Burke

Occupation: Semi-retired business owner and computer technician.

Age: 59

Background: Woodland City Council, 2002-present

Funds raised: Not available (less than $5,000)

Endorsements: None provided

website: jjformayor.webs.com

Grover Laseke

Occupation: Cowlitz County emergency manager

Age: 58

Background: Retired 30-year law enforcement officer

Funds raised: $5,000

Endorsements: Building Association of Clark County

website: groverformayor.blogspot.com

Two candidates with long experience in local government are vying to succeed Woodland Mayor Chuck Blum, who chose not to seek re-election.

John “J.J.” Burke has served nine years as a member of the Woodland City Council and lost narrowly to Blum in the 2007 mayoral race. He is a member of the Downtown Revitalization Committee and several other civic groups.

Grover Laseke, Cowlitz County’s emergency manager, has worked in law enforcement for 30 years, including eight years as Woodland’s police chief. He served as mayor of Toledo from 1988 to 1993 and has served as a volunteer with Medical Teams International.

Laseke finished first in the four-way August primary race for mayor, with about 44 percent of the vote. Burke finished second, winning 27 percent of the vote.

The candidates agree that addressing city traffic issues and working to improve communications between the mayor and city council are among Woodland’s most pressing needs.

Burke also calls for development of an aggressive strategy to attract and retain more businesses.

If elected, he said, he will work directly with the council, the Port of Woodland and the Chamber of Commerce to develop that strategy and will meet monthly with interested business owners to hear their concerns, involving the city’s entire public works team in those meetings. He promises to use his veto power to kill any measure that would hurt existing businesses and to consider changing the city’s sign code to accommodate larger businesses looking to attract new customers.

“Our first priority is the businesses that we have and I will work to ensure that we have an attitude of service at City Hall,” Burke said in response to a questionnaire. “These businesses bring in tax dollars that are needed to run the city.”

Regarding traffic problems, he supports asking voters whether they favor providing a local match for state and federal funding to fix the Scott Avenue railroad crossing, a major bottleneck. Traffic issues on Lewis River Road also need to be addressed, he said.

He supports creating a taxing district to pay for new police and fire stations and also supports changes in city zoning to allow cardrooms within Woodland’s city limits.

Laseke said bringing “respect and dignity” to city council meetings is one of his top priorities.

“The constant bickering and dysfunctional atmosphere between the mayor and the council has to stop,” he said in response to a questionnaire. “My experience and training will help me make citizens proud to live in Woodland again”

Laseke also named traffic congestion as a major problem that needs immediate attention.

His third priority is to build a new city public safety building. The city has doubled in size over the past 20 years, he said, but facilities for police and other public safety employees have not grown, and workers “are stuffed into inefficient and cramped quarters.”

Woodland does not have a city manager and the mayor is the top city official.

The Woodland mayor is paid $800 a month.