LONGVIEW — Ann Rivers has been chipping away at the big improvements she wants to see in Longview.
The now former senator from District 18 has been working as Longview’s Community Development Director for over a month. Her department covers the city’s building and planning divisions, along with code compliance and pieces of economic development.
Since accepting the city job in early October, Rivers has been shadowing building inspectors and holding unsafe building hearings to get accustomed to the city. She also has fielded multiple calls a week from major business prospects considering coming to Longview.
“Every day, there are two or three little fires that you have to stomp out. But there aren’t so many fires that it keeps you from working on your other goals,” she said.
Rivers was elected to succeed Jaime Herrera Beutler as the District 18 representative when Herrera Beutler ran for Congress in 2010. Rivers moved to the Senate in 2012 when Joe Zarelli retired and was reelected three times.
John Brickey, the longtime Community Development Director for Longview, retired in January. Brickey was the city’s chief planner for years before becoming the director in 2005.
City manager Kurt Sacha said Rivers’ existing relationships in the state government, and Southwest Washington in particular, had been a major reason the city wanted her for the job. Rivers lived in Longview during the 1990s before moving south to Clark County.
Sacha said the work she’s done over the last month has helped strengthen the local connections.
“She obviously has a keen interest in the city, in helping our economic development, and has been doing a magnificent job in reaching out and making those connections,” Sacha said.
Those years of experience negotiating policy with senators and Gov. Jay Inslee are shaping her search for the city’s next major employer. Rivers said she is trying to learn from the history of fossil fuel projects that were opposed by Inslee or struggled to pass environmental screenings as she works to land other investments.
“Our governor is going to follow his goals when it comes to clean energy,” Rivers said. “It’s not our job to poke at him about that. It’s my job to look for businesses that can get permitted and bring in good-paying jobs, but are also helpful in reaching his objectives.”
Rivers hinted that progress is being made on bringing a new large business to Longview, though no deal is ready to be announced.
The other big-picture project Rivers is pursuing is something she picked up from her work in Clark County. Arguably the area’s biggest business success story in recent years has been Waterfront Vancouver.
The waterfront overhaul was accomplished with a master development agreement. Any master development plan for Longview still is far from settled.