The race for mayor of Camas pits longtime Camas City Councilman Steve Hogan against Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Senescu. The two shared their views in a recent League of Women Voters of Clark County forum.
Hogan — who is retired from a career as a senior manager and chief operating officer for recycled paper, wood and steel companies — comes to the race with nearly two decades of elected experience. He has been on the city council for 16 years, was mayor pro tem in 2014 and 2017, and has served on several boards and committees.
He said he decided to run for mayor because he viewed this as “a pivotal time in Camas’ history.”
“With 16 years of government experience, I’ve seen what has worked and what hasn’t worked,” Hogan said, pointing out that Camas will have had five mayors in just four years following the Nov. 2 election. “It’s time to stabilize the city and restore trust.”
Senescu, a lifelong Camas resident who graduated from Camas High in 1985, earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Washington State University and has co-owned the Camas Gallery with her mother, Marquita Call, for the past seven years.
She said she would like to “restore the public’s trust in city government” if elected mayor.
“It is the right time for leadership and team-building (in Camas), and I believe I’m the right person to do that,” Senescu said.
Once voters have elected a new mayor, city officials will begin the process of finding a new city administrator to assist the mayor with running the day-to-day business of the city. Asked what they might look for in a new city administrator, the two candidates had different ideas of what would best serve the city’s administrative needs.
Senescu said she would not want to hire “a lifelong bureaucrat.”
“Every new department head … must be fully vetted, and that has not happened in the past,” Senescu said, adding she would want the next city administrator to be a person who would “be willing to usher in a new era of customer service and put our residents first.”
“This is missing from City Hall,” Senescu said, adding that she would want a city administrator to “rebuild the trust that has been so badly damaged over the past several years between City Hall and its residents.”
Hogan, on the other hand, said he would look for a city administrator who had a “good history of working in municipal settings, with a proven track record of putting budgets together and managing people … someone who (has) a good background in employee performance reviews.”
Though managing city staff and overseeing the daily operations that keep a municipal government running are the main duties of Camas’ city administrator, Hogan also said he would look for someone who could communicate effectively with the public and “help us restore the quality we need throughout the city.”
Both candidates said they believe residents must play a role in policy development, but Hogan and Senescu have very different ideas about what this might mean.
“I would encourage them to be a part of the process,” Hogan said, adding that the public can view the city council’s agendas ahead of time and weigh in by making public comments before the council takes a vote or by writing comments that are sent to council members.
“I do think it’s a big priority and would like to see that improve in the future as much as possible,” Hogan said about encouraging more public input on matters before the council.
For the past two years, city officials in Camas have said they are trying to improve communications with the public.
The city hired its first communications director in 2020; established the new, online Engage Camas communications site, where the public can weigh in on issues ranging from the use of fireworks to water quality in the city’s lakes to Camas’ upcoming parks, recreation and open spaces (PROS) plan; unveiled an interactive budget-planning tool for citizens to weigh in on where they would most like to see their tax dollars go in Camas; and held open houses and surveyed hundreds of residents about issues such as the city’s North Shore Subarea Plan and the PROS plan over the past year.
The council also takes public comment at the start and end of each workshop and regular meeting and held a town hall for the public this week.