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News / Clark County News

New Clark County councilors ready to serve

Members set sights on better relationships, schools, public health; Bowerman to remain chair

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 3, 2023, 5:22pm
4 Photos
Clark County's newest councilors Glen Yung, left, and Michelle Belkot, right in white, listen to Councilor Sue Marshall address the audience during Tuesday's swearing in ceremony.
Clark County's newest councilors Glen Yung, left, and Michelle Belkot, right in white, listen to Councilor Sue Marshall address the audience during Tuesday's swearing in ceremony. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Karen Bowerman will spend another year helming the Clark County Council following a unanimous vote by the council at its first meeting of the year on Tuesday.

Along with electing Bowerman as chair, the council also unanimously voted for Councilor Gary Medvigy to serve another year as vice chair.

In addition to electing a chair and vice chair, the council’s first meeting of 2023 welcomed new Councilors Glen Yung, Michelle Belkot and Sue Marshall, who were sworn in as the District 1, District 2 and District 5 representatives, respectively.

“I’ve been going into the office and getting set up, and feel like I’ve gotten a head start,” said Marshall, who actually took office early on Nov. 30. “I’ve had some briefings from some of the departments. I think there are a lot of great opportunities … where the councilors can play an important role,” Marshall said.

Yung said his main goal for the year is building and improving the relationships the council has with other jurisdictions.

“Between the cities and the county, there are not very good relationships, from what I’ve seen. There’s a lack of communication and different points of view. The needs of the cities are a little bit different than the county’s, and sometimes that comes out as some clashing between jurisdictions,” Yung said.

Yung said he’s been reaching out to the mayors and council members of the cities, as well as community groups with the hope of “getting everyone on the same page of having a good working relationship.”

Among the issues he wants to begin tackling right away are homelessness and public safety.

“Vancouver is doing its own thing. The county seems to be doing their own thing. I paid attention to the (Ending Community Homelessness Organization) meetings, and you can just see they’re not on the same page,” Yung said.

In early December, Yung attended training in Olympia for newly elected county and city councilors. While training conferences aren’t always worth the time and attention needed, Yung said that wasn’t the case this time.

“It was fantastic,” he said. “I met a whole bunch of people that are in the same boat as me. They’re going in blind, it’s their first time elected and they’re also county level. … Now I have all these people that when certain things come up in Clark County and I want an outside perspective … now I have those contacts.”

Belkot said she will be spending her first few days in office getting up to speed and settling into her new office. She said she is also trying to determine which committees and boards she wants serve on and will best align with her priorities.

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“I’m really interested in the Regional Transportation Council board and also the school commission,” she said.

Belkot, who ran for a Vancouver School board seat in 2021, said education remains one of her top priorities.

“I have a 9-year-old who is in public school, and I’m still very active in attending school board meetings. Every month I’m there” she said.

Belkot said she understands she has a lot to learn but is prepared to dedicate the time needed.

“It will be like a fire hose for a while,” she said.

Marshall was sworn in early to replace Richard Rylander Jr., whose gubernatorial appointment to replace departed Councilor Eileen Quiring O’Brien expired once the election to fill the position was certified.

She said she will be focusing on Public Health’s role in the county.

“I had a briefing from (Public Health Director) Dr. (Alan) Melnick and his team, and we started talking about substance abuse and homelessness. I hadn’t heard a lot of discussion about the homeless situation in the context of public health,” she said.

With the capital budget, comprehensive plan updates and housing options study, among others, also on the horizon, Marshall said there is no shortage of issues for the council to tackle this year.

When she wasn’t attending council meetings, Marshall was also in Olympia for the trainings. She also said the training was well worth her time.

“We went through public meetings, public records and those sorts of things… that’s really an important part of all of this,” she said. “The intention of all is that the public really wants to see the deliberations and how you arrive at your decisions.”

Like Yung, Marshall said the connections she made with elected officials from other cities and counties, people with possibly a different perspective, was invaluable.

To watch the full meeting and swearing-in ceremony, go to https://clark.wa.gov/councilors.