The election for Clark County council chair presents a bit of a quandary for voters. As a new position, created by passage of a county charter last year, voters first must determine which qualities they are seeking in the person who will be the designated leader of the county’s governing body.
We would suggest that some of the most important traits for the job are articulate leadership; firm but not overbearing guidance; and the ability to encourage dissent but forge compromise. With those qualities — and others — in mind, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Jeanne Stewart and Mike Dalesandro in the upcoming primary election.
This is merely a recommendation. We trust the ability of voters to explore the issues, examine the candidates and determine for themselves who most readily matches their preferred qualities. But Stewart and Dalesandro stand out in a race that also includes Marc Boldt, David Madore, and Tom Mielke.
Stewart is a member of the county council, along with Madore and Mielke. While all three are Republicans, she often has stood alone in contentious debates, employing thoughtful deliberation. In a candidate interview with The Columbian’s Editorial Board, she stressed the differences between her style of management and that of her fellow councilors. “It’s not ‘we,’ it’s what ‘I’ want, and ‘I can get two votes,'” she said, referring to the approach of Madore and Mielke. “Everything does not have to be high impact; it does not have to be a sledgehammer.”
This declaration could cynically be viewed as political expediency on the part of Stewart, but it is supported by her work on the council. In just one of many examples, she broke with Madore and Mielke in voting against a resolution to post “In God We Trust” in the county meeting room, a proposal that passed by a 2-1 vote. She supports re-evaluating a county fee waiver for developers, and she has criticized Madore for unilaterally developing a proposal for the county’s Growth Management Act.
Unlike his opponents, Dalesandro, a member of the Battle Ground City Council, is a newcomer to politics at the county level. He is the only Democrat in the race, and his articulate thoughtfulness demonstrates the demeanor that will be required for a smooth-running council. He opposes the fee waiver and stresses the importance of implementing the new county government as it was spelled out in the charter.
Boldt also possesses strong credentials, being a former state representative and former county commissioner. He is running as an independent, despite being a longtime Republican and currently serving as a precinct committee officer. Boldt has a history of forging compromise, but he struggles a bit to articulate his vision for the county, and it is important, as county chair, to articulate well.
Madore and Mielke declined to meet with The Columbian, which leaves us to assess them based upon their records in office. Those records clearly indicate that they would be poor choices for county chair. Both have led numerous contentious and unnecessary battles within the council, with the public and with other agencies. Theirs is a politics of divisiveness that extends beyond mere disagreements over policy, as they often have seized upon wedge issues that drive the community apart.
The new position of Clark County council chair offers voters an opportunity to begin repairing that damage. It offers voters a chance to choose somebody who can build upon our similarities rather than feast upon our differences. Stewart and Dalesandro are the best candidates to begin that process.