Among the handful of races on the Aug. 1 primary election ballot is the Battle Ground City Council Position 7 seat currently held by Mayor Philip Johnson.
Johnson is not running for re-election, delivering on a campaign promise he said he made when he ran in 2019.
“Four years ago, I said if I won that I would serve four and move on. There are those who are shocked that I actually did what I said I was going to do, which is a sad commentary about current politics,” Johnson said.
While he said he was initially surprised that nine candidates filed for the city’s three open seats, he’s a little worried now that two candidates — Max Booth and Craig Wigginton — are no longer campaigning and that others haven’t participated in candidate forums or interviews.
“I am concerned that even those that said it was a big deal aren’t all that interested. I mean really, if you can’t show for the interview, do you really want the job?” Johnson said.
Two candidates that have shown up are Eric Overholser and Josie Calderon, who are running for Johnson’s council seat. Booth also filed for the Position 7 seat but did not respond to The Columbian’s requests for an interview.
Overholser and Calderon have different backgrounds and ideas for the city’s future. Overholser owns and operates Patriot Pest Management in Battle Ground. Calderon owns a small business and works for Battle Ground Public Schools.
Overholser said he decided to run for the council seat to give residents a voice.
“I felt it was an opportunity to have my voice heard but also proper representation for the citizens of Battle Ground. I have not necessarily been a politically minded person in the past; I actually avoided politics, just because I was a little jaded about it,” Overholser said.
Calderon, who ran for a council seat in 2021, said she is running to continue serving her community and build on the work she did while serving on the city’s parks and community engagement committee and planning commission.
“I know the importance of continuing to make sure Battle Ground develops in the right way,” she said.
Even though she wasn’t elected last time, she said she’s continued to be involved in the community and recently opened a nonprofit after-school program. Overholser is serving his second term as a Republican precinct committee officer. He said he has three priorities he wants to focus on: family values, public safety and managing growth.
“I believe that our family values, the safety of our children should come first and foremost,” he said.
While Overholser said Battle Ground has more police officers per capita than most Washington cities, he said police need to be able to do their jobs.
“It’s about giving police the ability to police us, holding people accountable for their actions,” he said.
Overholser said that could mean anything and everything from working with the state Legislature to change laws or providing more support to local police.
Calderon’s top priorities are very similar. She puts public safety, comprehensive growth management and infrastructure at the top of her list.
“I know that crime is starting to trickle into Battle Ground. Public safety, above all, is my first priority,” she said.
Coming from California, Calderon said she knows what it’s like to grow up in an unsafe neighborhood, adding she doesn’t want that for her kids or other Battle Ground residents.
Both candidates agreed more needs to be done to alleviate the city’s growing traffic congestion.
“I deal with that traffic all the time, going from where I live to going into town,” Calderon said. “We really need to see what other options there will be for us to get in and around town.”
For Overholser, managing the city’s growth will come down to balance.
“Battle Ground is in high demand right now for growth and residential homes, whether it be high-density or single-family homes. We need to balance that with some light and heavy industrial (development), maybe even some more retail and small businesses, to allow jobs to stay in Battle Ground,” Overholser said.
Calderon said the city has a detailed, thorough growth management plan but it will take time to implement. She also said zoning changes will be needed to ensure there’s enough housing to meet demand, especially affordable housing and housing for seniors.
Calderon and Overholser, and others, participated in a Clark County League of Women Voters’ candidate forum on July 6. To watch, go to https://shorturl.at/lsDEK.
As for what’s next for Johnson, he said he already has a plan.
“I am going to continue doing everything my wife instructs me to do to the best of my ability, and after doing that hide out in the garage piddling around. After all, isn’t piddling around what most old guys do?” Johnson said.