Luiz faces challenge in La Center

Councilor draws two opponents in primary, including ex-top cop

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

Published:

 
photoTim Hopkin

()

LA CENTER CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES

Al Luiz

Age: 67.

Occupation: Retired.

Notable endorsements: None listed.

Money raised: None listed.

Website: None.

Nathan Stokes

Age: 42.

Occupation: Construction project manager.

Notable endorsements: None listed.

Money raised: None listed.

Website: None.

Tim Hopkin

Age: 66.

Occupation: Security contractor.

Notable endorsements: None listed.

Money raised: None listed.

Website: None.

La Center City Councilman Al Luiz will be pitted against two challengers — community activist Nathan Stokes and former Police Chief Tim Hopkin — in his bid for a second term.

The top two candidates from the Aug. 6 primary will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.

Luiz, who also serves as La Center’s mayor pro tem, said the city needs to prepare for growth. Expanding the city’s infrastructure is a priority, he said, but it needs to be weighed against budgetary constraints to prevent the city from dipping into its reserves.

He points to the $500,000 recent expansion of Holley Park — adding a splash pad and mini-skate park — as a suitable use of city money, approved only after lengthy discussions by councilors.

More investment in the city should take place, Luiz said, especially if the economy improves.

“I’d like to see us with a new community center,” he said. “These are things utilized by citizens all the time. So for me, it’s money well spent.”

Stokes, who serves on the city’s planning commission and is the president of La Center Little League, said he’s running to inject more youth into the council. The 42-year-old project manager has small children.

While he lauded the new additions to Holley Park, Stokes said more could be done to give families with young kids something to do in a sleepy city of fewer than 3,000 residents. Too often, he said, citizen comments on how to do that fall on deaf ears.

“I feel like the demographics aren’t being represented on our council,” Stokes said. “Someone needs to represent my age group.”

Luiz said he supported the Holley Park project specifically because it provided the city’s youth with someplace to go during the summer months.

Economic development is another issue for Stokes, who said he supports the development of a long-proposed casino resort by the Cowlitz Tribe, platted to go just west of La Center. The project has been tied up in federal court for years.

Backers of La Center’s four existing cardrooms say the development of a mega-casino at the city’s front door would hurt their bottom lines and cut into the city’s revenue. La Center is the closest place to Portland to permit cardrooms.

Hopkin is best known as the city’s former police chief.

He stepped down from that position last August following the release of a performance audit of the police department. The report was critical of how officers were managed, among other findings.

He received a $150,000 severance package from the city after retiring.

Although Hopkin contemplated withdrawing from the race last month, believing his new job as a security contractor might conflict with his campaign, he said recently his candidacy is in full swing.

He said he’d bring institutional memory to the city and an even-handed approach to dealing with the city’s union. A 20-year veteran of the La Center Police Department, Hopkin said he could smooth over raw feelings that sometimes arise between city staffers and elected officials.

On top of that, he’d work to find a fix to the city’s wastewater treatment debt.

“Every year, they dip into the reserve fund to subsidize that,” he said.


Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; http://twitter.com/col_smallcities; tyler.graf@columbian.com.