La Center City Council plans to fill vacancy tonight

By Justin Runquist, Columbian small cities reporter

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The La Center City Council will look to fill its vacant seat tonight after conducting interviews with a handful of applicants.

Among the candidates are a longtime casino manager, a former fire chief and a man who ran for the council and lost in 2009. One of the candidates, Steve Workman, already serves in an advisory role for the council as the vice-chair of the city’s planning commission.

The other candidates listed on the city’s website are:

◘ Ron Ostrander, a retiree who’s lived in La Center for the past decade. Ostrander ran for the council in 2009 but lost to Bill Birdwell Jr. Ostrander said his retirement gives him enough time to be a devoted councilor.

◘ Michael Santoro, a businessman with more than 25 years of experience in casino operations. In his cover letter to the city, Santoro said he supports “cautious growth and development” for the city.

◘ Joseph Valenzuela, who served as a fire chief in Cowlitz County and Klamath Falls, Ore., for about eight years in the 1990s. Valenzuela pitched himself as a candidate with decades of community leadership experience.

The seat opened up when Kristine Carmona resigned in late April. Her term was set to expire in 2017, but her immediate replacement will only fill the position until the November 2015 election, when voters will pick a new councilor.

The councilors will kick off their interviews at their 7 p.m. meeting at La Center City Hall, located at 214 E. Fourth St.