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News / Clark County News

Novice edges out ex-mayor for appointment to La Center council

She says city was wise to avoid legal fight with tribe

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter
Published: February 12, 2011, 12:00am

For the third time in eight months, the La Center City Council welcomed a new member.

The council on Wednesday night appointed Kristine Carmona to fill Position No. 1, which was left vacant when Bill Birdwell resigned last month to take a job with the city. Five residents applied for the open position.

The four members of the council were split between Carmona and Elizabeth Cerveny, who was La Center’s mayor from 1997 to 2003. Mayor Jim Irish cast the deciding vote.

“I’m really excited to be able to do this,” Carmona said. “I think it’s an opportunity for me to give back. Everybody has an opinion, but I thought maybe I needed to take it to the next step and take action.”

Carmona said she’s always been fascinated by politics and has followed the issues affecting La Center.

The city council was wise in deciding not to waste resources by mounting a legal battle against the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, Carmona said. In December, The Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the tribe’s application to take into trust land at the Interstate 5 junction near La Center and build a mega-casino and hotel.

“I think when the writing’s on the wall, you need to deal with the reality you have and move forward to the best of your ability to make it the best situation you can,” Carmona said.

Carmona also said the council is heading in the right direction with its plans to annex land and stretch city limits west to Interstate 5.

“It’s an obvious growth pattern,” Carmona said. “I think any community would do the same.”

Growth management will be a big issue facing the city in the coming years, she said. The city needs to expand services for citizens, especially older kids, to keep them from leaving the community, Carmona said.

Most people seem focused on providing activities for younger kids while older kids don’t have much to do, she said. Carmona said she’s looking forward to exploring options and investing in opportunities for kids.

Carmona, 42, believes her age and young family will allow her to bring a new perspective to the council. Carmona and her husband of 11 years, Ron, have two young children, 10-year-old James and 7-year-old Megan.

Carmona has been active in the community. She volunteers at La Center Elementary and is a team parent for her son’s soccer team.

She also went door-to-door to collect signatures for a petition to institute the right of initiative and referendum in La Center. The city council adopted the initiative and referendum process in March 2010.

The Clark County native moved to La Center from Vancouver in 2002. She’s worked as an Education Service District 112 para-educator at View Ridge Middle School in Ridgefield since 2009. She also works part-time as a hairstylist at It’s All About You Salon in La Center.

Carmona will hold the city council position through the end of the year. She will have to run for election in November to stay on the council for the remaining three years of the term.

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Should Carmona decide to put her name on the ballot, she won’t be alone.

In July, the city council selected Randy Williams to replace Barbara Vining on the council. Williams will have to run in the election to fill the remaining three years of that position.

In August, the council appointed Greg Thornton to Mike Nolan’s seat. That term expires at the end of the year. The terms for Councilwoman Linda Tracy and Irish also expire this year.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or marissa.harshman@columbian.com.

Columbian Health Reporter