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Oct. 2, 2022

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Three vie to be mayor of Washougal

Fate of fire department partnership with Camas certain to be a key issue

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
3 Photos
Paul Greenlee
Paul Greenlee Photo Gallery

Candidates in the Washougal mayoral race are open to continuing the Camas-Washougal Fire Department partnership in light of the city’s recent financial shortcomings.

Paul Greenlee, Rochelle Ramos and Derik Ford are running for the city’s top elected position. Their names will appear on the Aug. 3 primary election ballot, and the top two finishers will continue to the Nov. 2 general election.

Ramos, 45, has served on the Washougal Parks Board of Commissioners since 2018. She is a human resources director with PLEXSYS Interface Products, a Camas-based software company.

“As mayor of Washougal, I will utilize my 18 years of leadership, business and community experience to ensure Washougal residents have a safe and economically vibrant community that preserves the best qualities of small-town living,” Ramos said. “As an active community member, I have established relationships with our current city council and staff, business owners and nonprofit organizations for over a decade”

Ford, 45, owns 2 Rivers Bar & Grill in downtown Washougal. He said that the city needs “new ideas and new leaders.”

“I’m a proven business leader with experience and looking to take Washougal into the next phase of its growth. The city needs a strong leader that invests in the city to realize city goals,” Ford said. “Being on the council is more than just dog parks, beach cleanups and being on every board that is out there. It’s a leader position that requires business-minded individuals that can lead.”

Greenlee, 75, has been a member of the city council for over 14 years and previously served on the Planning Commission. He made a distinction between government and business experience, saying that the “planning horizon” for governments is decadeslong, much longer than for businesses.

“A business has a bottom line — maximizing profit,” Greenlee said. “A municipality seeks to maximize (the) well-being of a community.”

Partnership in question

Whoever wins the race could see an overhaul of the city’s fire and emergency medical services. The city has a partnership with Camas for the Camas-Washougal Fire Department.

Washougal was unable to cover its share of the costs for the department in 2019 and is unable to do so again this year. It is responsible for just under 40 percent of the annual costs, according to the agreement between the two cities.

The cities have hired Tualatin, Ore.-based accounting firm Merina+Co to review the partnership.

Greenlee is scheduled to interview with the consultants this week. He said he doesn’t want to prejudge their conclusions, but he also doesn’t “foresee a return to separate departments.”

“There are a number of very practical issues that make this unlikely, but if I had a magic wand, we would have a regional fire authority which spanned all, or at least most of, Clark County, and possibly some of the neighboring counties,” Greenlee said.

Ramos said she would work to “ensure we have an equitable cost-sharing agreement.”

“These must be real numbers, based on both current community needs and as a response to projected growth,” Ramos said. “People want to call 911 and receive fire or EMS services that are properly staffed with personnel, supplies and equipment in a timely manner.”

Ford said he plans to meet with city police and fire officials soon.

“I do see a future with a joint service agreement between the cities and, without a doubt, it is a forefront issue, and I look forward to engaging myself in the discussions to make sure I know as much as possible,” Ford said. “I need a strong council to back this direction, and I hope that in November we can get the people on board that will help shape these decisions.”

Mayor Molly Coston’s term ends this year. She is running to continue representing Position 5 on the city council.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter

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