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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Nov. 28, 2023

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La Center voters will elect new mayor

City council members Luiz, Thornton run to succeed Irish

By , Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

For the first time in 12 years, voters in La Center will elect a new mayor next month.

Current La Center City Council members Al Luiz and Greg Thornton are vying to replace Mayor Jim Irish, who is stepping away from office after this year. Both candidates joined the council in 2010 following stints on the city’s planning commission. Both stressed the importance of economic development to ensure a bright future for La Center. But the two bring different r?sum?s to a job that plays a big role in charting the city’s future.

In La Center, unlike many other cities, mayor is a strong position responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operation of the city. The mayor’s duties include preparing a budget, hiring city staff and working with the city council. He or she is essentially the CEO of La Center’s city government.

Luiz said he’s running for mayor to continue serving the place he’s called home for the last decade.

“I care about the community,” Luiz said. “It’s important to me that we maintain our economic growth and develop a good, sustainable future.”

Al Luiz

Age: 69.

Occupation: retired.

Political experience: La Center City Council (current), La Center Planning Commission.

Major endorsements: state Sen. Ann Rivers.

Funds raised/spent: none.

Website: www.facebook.com/Al-Luiz-for-Mayor-1681680458734390

Luiz emphasized the need to develop the Interstate 5 corridor within La Center’s westernmost boundaries. That means extending sewer lines and other infrastructure to the area, he said, making it “shovel-ready.” And bringing new business there will take time, he said.

“It’s not going to be a three-year fix or a five-year fix,” Luiz said. “We’re looking at 20 years.”

Thornton also stressed the importance of economic development for La Center, noting the majority of the city’s budget is fueled by tax revenue from its three remaining cardrooms. (A fourth cardroom closed earlier this year.)

“This city needs to focus on diversifying its economy and looking for other ways to expand our economic growth,” Thornton said. “It’s important that the city look at all its options for expanding economic growth.”

That’s particularly true given the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s plans to build a casino near La Center. Thornton called the Cowlitz casino — slated to officially break ground early next year — the biggest issue facing the city.

“That’s going to have a huge impact on our community,” he said.

Thornton is a self-employed independent fee appraiser who has lived in La Center for 14 years, he said. Luiz is retired after decades in management for various companies — experience he says will be valuable in the mayor’s position. Luiz also currently serves as mayor pro tem.

The race may have higher stakes for Thornton than for Luiz. Because Thornton is running for mayor instead of his city council seat that’s also up for re-election this year, he would lose his spot on the council should he lose the race. If Luiz loses the mayoral race, he would keep his council seat. That position isn’t up for re-election this year.

Both candidates are using an on-the-ground approach to campaigning. Neither Thornton nor Luiz have registered with the state Public Disclosure Commission to raise or spend money in the race, according to the agency.

Ballots for the Nov. 3 election will be mailed starting Oct. 16, according to the Clark County elections office.

Greg Thornton

Age: 59.

Occupation: self-employed independent appraiser.

Political experience: La Center City Council (current), La Center Planning Commission.

Major endorsements: none given.

Funds raised/spent: none.


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