First-term incumbent faces former police chief

Luiz also mayor pro tem; Hopkin cites knowledge of La Center's history

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor



La Center City Council


Age: 66

Occupation: Retired La Center police chief.

Major endorsements: La Center Police Officers Association.

Campaign funds raised: About $4,000.



Age: 67

Occupation: Retired businessman who most recently owned a marketing company and a sign-making company.

Major endorsements: None.

Campaign funds raised: $0.

Website: None

First-term La Center City Councilman Al Luiz faces challenger Tim Hopkin, the city's former police chief, in his bid for re-election this fall.

If re-elected, Luiz said his priorities would be similar to what they've been during his first term: increasing public safety, creating a business-friendly environment -- new businesses provide more places for residents to shop, he said -- and improving the city's parks and trails. Hopkin said his priorities would be making sure the city has a sustainable budget, and improving the quality of life for citizens and the work environment for city employees.

Ballots will be mailed Wednesday for the Nov. 5 general election.

Al Luiz

Luiz 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. One of the city's budgetary challenges is the millions of dollars in debt it accrued when it built a new wastewater treatment facility.

Luiz, who has a background in business, said that even though the process of governing can be slow, he still accomplished a lot in his first term. He celebrated the city's new, award-winning sewer system and also pointed to the recent $500,000 expansion of Holley Park.

Holley Park now has a new splash pad and mini-skate park. Luiz said he supported the project because it provided the city's youth with someplace to go during the summer months. It's also a destination for many of the city's senior citizens.

"I've got a proven track record for the past four years of listening to the citizens and acting on their behalf," Luiz said, who also was picked by his fellow council members to serve as La Center's mayor pro tem. "I think we have a good, working council. We're able to get things done."

Tim Hopkin

Hopkin, a 20-year veteran of the La Center Police Department, said he decided to run because he wants to continue serving his community, not because he's retired. Hopkin stepped down from his police chief position last year 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.

Hopkin has been a resident of La Center for about three decades and said his knowledge of the city's history will come in handy on the council.

Noting the success of Holley Park, Hopkin said he supports building a new community center and more parks. He also said the city employees need a new City Hall, because they're "crammed in there like sardines. … There's things that the city needs. They've held off building things for themselves."

To address the city's wastewater system debt, Hopkin said La Center needs to work to get more people using the system. He said one way to do that would be to expand services west of La Center to the Interstate 5 junction, where a casino is planned.

The two candidates have similar views about that casino resort proposed by the Cowlitz Tribe. The project has been tied up in the federal court for years, and backers of La Center's four cardrooms say the casino would hurt their businesses.

Luiz said he isn't for or against the proposed casino and said that ultimately the federal government will make that decision. What he can do, he said, is continue to meet with members of the tribe and make sure La Center residents are protected from any negative impact from the casino.

Hopkin agreed, saying: "We need to protect the citizens of our community in terms of keeping the city solvent. We need to protect our businesses that are here."

Others on the ballot

Two other La Center city councilors are up for re-election this fall: Kristine Carmona is running to keep her Position 1 seat, and Randy Williams is running to retain his Position 3 council spot. Both candidates are running unopposed.

The city council is a five-member board that meets twice a month to oversee policy making for La Center. They serve four-year terms, and they each earn $175 a month and $60 more per meeting.