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June 25, 2022

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4 vie to fill Ridgefield City Council vacancy left by retirement of Mayor Don Stose

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Ridgefield’s city council could have a tough time picking a new member. Preliminary interviews with the four candidates — Matt Cole, Katie Favela, Jake Bredstrand and Darcy Rouark — during a March 16 town hall revealed more similarities than difference between the nominees.

The city council will swear in a new council member on April 28 following another round of interviews. The council seat was left vacant after Mayor Don Stose announced his retirement in January. Interviews were originally scheduled for March 24 but were rescheduled to “ensure full council attendance,” according to the city.

While the candidates may have similar viewpoints on managing the city, they hail from different backgrounds with different experiences.

A self-described baseball coach and dog lover, Cole serves on the city’s planning commission and mosquito control board. A graduate of Prairie High School, Cole has worked in marketing for 15 years and was in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve.

Favela is a licensed social worker and therapist specializing in children, preteens and teens. She is also the booster club representative for the Ridgefield High School football team and participated in the school district’s equity and engagement board. This year, Favela and her husband and two children will be a host family to the Ridgefield Raptors baseball team.

Bredstrand is an account manager at a medical products manufacturer. He is currently on the parks board and previously represented the Washington State University Board of Regents and Washington Future Farmers of America Foundation. In his off hours, he can be found pouring beers at Ridgefield Craft Brewing.

Rouark recently retired as associate vice president for human resources at Clark College and was previously an educator. She serves on the city’s salary commission and has twice been a host family for the Raptors.

Striking a balance

Preserving the city’s “small town” charm, managing and mitigating the impacts of growth, and ensuring the economic viability for businesses topped the lists of priorities for all the candidates. When it comes to promoting downtown as a destination, the candidates agreed there must be a balance between growth and community.

“It’s an amazing collection of wonderful businesses that know you, they know you’re part of the community. I think that is such a treasure,” Rouark said.

Rouark also said the city needs to look for ways to promote downtown businesses and help ensure they survive. She said attractions like the library expansion and businesses such as Ridgefield Craft Brewing will help do that.

“Main Street USA is what I think of when I think of downtown Ridgefield,” Bredstrand said.

He said because many people living in the city who regularly commute to Portland and Vancouver have never been downtown, the city must look for ways to bring them to the area and pointed to Carts by the Park, new restaurants and live music at the park as great examples.

“The (Pioneer Street) overpass was an incredible addition, just for the safety and convenience to get people across the train tracks and down to the water,” Bredstrand added.

Growth concerns

With Ridgefield being one of the fastest-growing cities in Southwest Washington for the last six years, the city council’s role in mitigating the impacts of that growth was also highlighted.

Favela said while growth is inevitable, the city council needs to look at the broader impacts and the people affected by them.

“Being able to support that growth extends to more than just new developments and businesses. This growth impacts our fire department, it impacts our police department, it impacts our school district. It impacts many things outside of just the financial (benefits) that are coming in. All of those things are crucial to the development and sustainability of Ridgefield,” Favela said.

She said the council needs to do its due diligence and consider those impacts to the fire and police departments as well as the school district when making growth decisions.

“We want people here because we have great schools. We want people here because we have an amazing police department that plays a larger role in keeping us safe,” she added.

Cole agreed it’s all about a balanced approached, especially with new neighborhoods being added every year.

“That means infrastructure, making sure we have the roads and utilities that can support all those new homes. On top of that is making sure our schools can withstand the burgeoning population. We’ve got to get that darn school bond passed so we can get a new elementary school up here,” Cole said.

He said there are many discussions the city can have with the school district and others to ensure those needs are being considered.

“One of the best things over the last few years in seeing the commercial that has happened here. You might not think adding a Papa Murphy’s is a big deal but that goes a long way to people who want to call this place home,” he said.

To learn more

To watch the full town hall meeting, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJ6A9nt3oK0.

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