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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Feb. 27, 2024

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Battle Ground City Council candidates stake out positions

Clark County Elections Office mailing general election ballots Friday

By , Columbian staff writer
6 Photos
Josie Calderon, candidate for Battle Ground City Council Position 7
Josie Calderon, candidate for Battle Ground City Council Position 7 Photo Gallery

Ballots for the Nov. 7 general election will begin arriving in mailboxes throughout Clark County over the weekend. The ballots are being mailed by the county elections office on Friday.

Despite less than 20 percent of eligible voters casting ballots in the August primary election, Elections Director Cathie Garber remained hopeful that turnout for the general election will be higher.

“Ballots will be going out to all registered voters. This is a countywide election,” Garber said Thursday. “I would estimate our turnout to be around 36 percent.”

Garber said voter turnout in Clark County hasn’t changed dramatically in recent years when compared to prior years.

“I think a lot of it, for the primary, was people realized the top two winners would be on the November ballot so they didn’t need to make a decision at that point,” she added.

Battleground in Battle Ground

Among the dozens of city council and school, fire, cemetery and port district races on this year’s ballot, Battle Ground has the most races with more than one candidate. Battle Ground has three city council seats up for election.

Running for the Position 2 seat is incumbent Shane Bowman and challenger Josh VanGelder. Bowman is seeking his fourth term in office. VanGelder previously ran for city council in 2019 and 2021.

“I think that having a historical perspective of what we have done or what we need to do in the city of Battle Ground is key,” Bowman said during an Oct. 5 candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Clark County.

Bowman said a lot of new faces have joined the council in recent years, which makes holding on to those with experience essential.

VanGelder, a professional landscaper, said he may be new to politics, but he has the skills and abilities needed.

“I think the No. 1 ability that I can bring to the table is just being able to connect to people, being able to represent people on a personal level and hear their needs and interests,” VanGelder said during the forum.

Both candidates agreed the city’s traffic problems need to be addressed. VanGelder said the city should focus on routing traffic to other, less traveled roads and also invest in improving roads that go around the highways. Bowman said the biggest challenge to building new roads or making improvements to existing roads is funding. Raising taxes every year isn’t the answer, so it comes down to partnering with state and federal agencies, Bowman said.

Managing the city’s growth was another issue important to both candidates.

“It’s not going to quit growing. I know people would like it to be Battle Ground 20 years ago, but that’s not going to happen,” Bowman said.

As the city works to update its growth management plan, Bowman said, ideally, most growth would come to the Dollars Corner area and near Interstate 5, which would allow for better economic growth.

“It’s something we have to expect. Battle Ground is a great place to live and people can see that,” VanGelder said.

He said increasing space available for single-family homes and responsible use of lands zoned for industrial use will best support new residents moving into the city.

Position 3

In the race for the Position 3 seat are Victoria Ferrer and Daniel Dingman. Ferrer is a U.S. Army veteran and is a precinct committee officer for the Republican Party. Dingman was appointed to the city council in June to replace former Councilor Shauna Walters, who moved outside city limits.

For Dingman, who recently retired from the paper and packing industry, managing the city’s growth will be his top priority.

“We have no choice whether we want to grow or not. The Growth Management Act that was passed in 1990 requires us to plan for ‘X’ amount of growth,” Dingman said in a July interview.

Dingman previously served on the city’s planning commission. He said that experience gave him insight to building codes for development. He said he wants to work on strengthening those code requirements.

Although Ferrer did not respond to The Columbian’s requests for comment, she did provide a statement for the county voters’ pamphlet.

“Our town needs leadership that will truly listen to ‘we the people.’ I say No to Portland 2.0 because I value our natural landscape and our rural values and I’m concerned about our fast-growing community,” Ferrer said in her statement.

She said the city needs to plan responsibly and not overburden schools, roads and other resources.

Another concern for Dingman is ongoing issues around homelessness. While many might think small towns like Battle Ground don’t have a homeless population, Dingman said that’s not the case.

“We really need to have a good plan in place to deal with the homeless, in the sense that we don’t want our city to end up being like Portland with the camping on the streets and all of that,” he said. “I have a huge amount of empathy for people who are truly homeless and down on their luck.”

Position 7

Facing off for the Position 7 council seat are Eric Overholser and Josie Calderon. The seat is currently held by Mayor Philip Johnson, who announced earlier this year he would uphold his campaign promise to not seek reelection.

While both candidates would be new to serving in office, that’s where their similarities end. Overholser and Calderon have equally different backgrounds and ideas for the city’s future. Overholser owns and operates Patriot Pest Management in Battle Ground and is a precinct committee officer for the Republican Party.

Calderon owns a small business and works for Battle Ground Public Schools.

Overholser said he decided to run for office to give the city’s residents a voice in how their government operates.

“I felt it was an opportunity to have my voice heard but also proper representation for the citizens of Battle Ground,” he said in a July interview.

In the past, Overholser said he’s avoided politics. But as the city has grown, so too has the need for better representation, he said.

“We have started to stray from the small-town values on which the city was built,” Overholser said. “I understand what is needed to get us back on track.”

Calderon previously ran for a seat on the city council in 2021. She said she wants to continue serving her community and build on her previous work on the parks committee and planning commission by serving on the city council.

“I know the importance of continuing to make sure Battle Ground develops in the right way,” she said.

Overholser said, if elected, his top priorities will be family values, public safety and managing growth. Calderon’s top priorities are very similar with public safety, comprehensive growth management and infrastructure at the top of her list.