This month, Washington State Patrol Trooper Will Finn kicked off an unchallenged race to be the next mayor of Woodland.
Assuming no formidable write-in candidates emerge — and they rarely do in Clark County politics — Finn is a shoo-in for the position. And he wouldn’t be the first person with law enforcement experience to head up Woodland’s government. Nor would he be the second … or the third, for that matter.
If Finn wins, four of Woodland’s last five mayors will have been police officers, though Finn will be the first one in a while still working in law enforcement while mayor. Grover Laseke, the current mayor, has three decades of police experience, including eight years as the police chief in Woodland.
Doug Monge served one term as the mayor of Woodland before losing a re-election bid to Chuck Blum in 2007. Of course, Monge’s mayoral stint was only a part time gig. In an exhausting juggling act, he worked full time as a Longview police officer and spent his days off with the city of Woodland.
And before Monge, there was the late Jim Graham, who served eight years as mayor of Woodland. Graham lived his entire life in the city, working his way up through the ranks of the police department from a reservist to an officer and finally to chief before entering the political arena.
The trend of electing so many former officers to the mayor’s office is unique among Clark County cities, and it’s not easy to pin down why it’s even happened in the first place.
“It could just be coincidence,” Laseke said. “Most people who are police officers are interested in serving their communities. It’s just kind of a natural thing to run for public office.”
Finn, 37, has lived in Woodland for nearly the past decade, and he’s been a police officer for eight years. Until filing week, he’d spent nearly three of those years as the State Patrol’s spokesman for Southwest Washington.
Finn won’t give up his position with the WSP when he takes office, however.
Politics wasn’t always in the cards for Finn. He began thinking about running half a year before filing week began on May 11. Ultimately, he decided the city’s leadership needs a younger face.
“We have a lot of young families out here,” he said. “We want a bigger voice.”
Laseke decided not to run again. At 61, he’s ready to begin winding down toward retirement. Instead, Laseke’s running for a seat on the city council, where he could continue some projects without having to spend so much time in the office.
Laseke is looking forward to welcoming Finn into the position, and he’s already grooming him for the job. But not everyone is keen on the idea of electing another mayor from law enforcement, Finn said.
“I’ve already heard some concerns around town,” he said. “I hope that I can put some of those concerns to bed for those that have had problems with police officers in that position.”
Finn believes being a spokesman has helped with the development of his communication skills and his ability to build interpersonal relationships. That will be important, Finn said, as he hopes to create a more open, transparent government with greater community involvement.
“My hope is that we can come to an understanding and create a cohesive relationship between the council, the mayor’s office and the community,” he said.
Justin Runquist: 360-735-4547; twitter.com/_JustinRunquist; firstname.lastname@example.org