Yacolt races turn on clean government, clean water

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter



Yacolt Town Council Candidates

Position 1

Jimmy Robertson


Age: 39

Background: City of Vancouver inspector.

Political and community involvement: Yacolt Town Council, volunteer firefighter/EMT at North Country EMS, Yacolt Fire Department and Clark County Fire District 3.

Robertson supplied no photo.

Jeff Hall

Age: 31

Background: Power lineman.

Political and community involvement: U.S. Marine Corps, North Clark Little League, American Youth Soccer Organization and Mount St. Helens volunteer.

Position 2

Patrick Spence

Age: 67

Background: Retired custodian/engineering draftsman.

Political and community involvement: Oregon City Little League, Oregon City Cub Scouts, Oregon City Boy Scouts, Bellevue School District PTA, Girl Scout Brownies, Boys & Girls Club of America.

Jerry Newell

Age: 38

Background: Bakery manager.

Political and community involvement: Child protection advocate and coach for American Youth Soccer Organization Region 1167, Yacolt Citizens Committee and Little League coach.

Position 4

Vince Myers

Age: 49

Background: Retired from the U.S. Navy.

Political and community involvement: U.S. Navy and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 12028.

Gary A. Brooks

Age: 59

Background: Retired carpenter.

Political and community involvement: Volunteer coach for Battle Ground Youth Soccer, volunteered to build ramps for people with disabilities around Clark County and helped out during regional flood emergencies.

Position 5

Dave Ayers


Age: 52

Background: Restaurant/tavern owner.

Political and community involvement: Yacolt Town Council.

Richard Urias

Age: 58

Background: Communications technician.

Political and community involvement: Civil Air Patrol, member of Battle Ground Baptist Church, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 89.

Eight candidates, including a convicted felon, will vie Nov. 8 for four town council seats in Clark County’s smallest incorporated community.

Yacolt has struggled with credibility since a state audit nine months ago revealed the town violated state laws by purchasing materials from a town employee without competitive bidding. Its small population of 1,566 has limited revenue that can be put toward infrastructure in the town, including a proposal to replace septic systems with a sewer.

All four positions run for four years. The Position 2 race is for an unexpired term, so the seat is up for election again in 2013.

Councilors receive a stipend of $35 per meeting, said town clerk Cindy Marbut.

Position 1

Power lineman Jeff Hall, 31, has challenged incumbent Jimmy Robertson for Position 1, to which Robertson was appointed in February.

Hall, who says in the voters pamphlet he would bring “ethics and integrity” to the elected office, has a record of felony convictions, the most recent in 2008.

He was convicted of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana in December 2000 and was sentenced to 90 days in jail.

He was convicted of felony telephone harassment in August 2001 for threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, and was sentenced to 120 days in jail.

In September 2008, he was again convicted of felony second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm in combination with misdemeanor unlawful hunting of big game in Cowlitz County. He served nine months in jail for that conviction.

He claimed ignorance of the law in his felony convictions related to unlawful possession of a firearm and said both occurred during hunting trips.

“Ignorance is not innocence,” he acknowledged. But he described the convictions as “past mistakes of my youth” and said they would not impact his ability to lead.

His top priorities in office would be developing a process to continue to preserve the town’s groundwater quality, which some say is threatened by aging septic systems.

He also would like to spur population growth, which, in turn, would attract businesses to town. In addition, he would like to enact ordinances that would bring transparency and accountability to the town’s books.

Robertson, 39, a Vancouver city inspector, said he also would like to bring accountability to town government spending and ensure the town complies with all laws.

“We need to make sure we spend the town’s money in the way that benefits the whole town, not special interests,” Robertson said.

Robertson said he also supports putting all the town’s ordinances and resolutions on the town’s website so that the public can access them at any time.

Position 2

Bakery manager Jerry Newell, 38, will face off with retired custodian and engineering draftsman Patrick Spence, 67, for Councilman Dave Hancock’s seat. Hancock is not seeking reelection.

Newell said his top priorities are to restore citizens’ input in town government, improve communication with the public and offer more activities to keep people in town.

Spence said he also would like to give more voice to town residents, find ways to bring in more revenue and offer activities to keep young people out of trouble.

Position 4

Retired carpenter Gary Brooks, 59, and Vince Myers, 49, retired from the U.S. Navy, will compete for Position 4.

Brooks said residents need to have more say in what projects the town pursues.

“I believe the town’s people need to be engaged more openly and honestly on township projects and future planning,” Brooks said.

Myers called for more openness in Yacolt government.

“All town business should be open to public viewing as long as it does not violate individual privacy or state law,” Myers said.

He also would like to find ways to encourage business growth and increase the town’s tax base. He said he’s against installing a new sewer system at this time.

Position 5

Communications technician Richard Urias, 58, has challenged Councilman Dave Ayers, a 52-year-old restaurant/tavern owner, for Position 5.

Urias said he hopes to foster “a sense of unity and cooperation” between the council and its constituents.

“I feel that the present council is at odds with the citizens of the community,” Urias said.

Other goals are to oversee cautious growth in the town and reestablish trust in government’s ability to be efficient and comply with laws.

Ayers said he would seek to fill leadership positions in the town with “fair and honest people.”

His other priorities are maintaining the high quality of Yacolt drinking water and improving fiscal responsibility.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Trends; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com