Residents of La Center will be voting on three of the city’s six council seats in the Nov. 7 general election. Two of the council races drew challengers for the seat, and one is running unopposed.
The city council has been playing political musical chairs since longtime Mayor Greg Thornton announced in June that he was stepping down. Thomas Strobehn, who was the Position 4 councilor, was appointed mayor and Myrna Leija was appointed to Strobehn’s then-empty seat. Leija and Strobehn now hope to be elected to those seats for a full term.
Strobehn was first appointed to the Position 4 council seat in 2018 and went on to win his first full term in office in 2019.
Leija is facing off against challenger Crystal Harvey. During a Sept. 29 candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Clark County, Leija said she wants to continue the work she’s been doing on the council.
“I’ve learned a lot in just the few months I’ve been a councilperson,” Leija said.
Leija previously worked for the U.S. Marshals Service, Vancouver Police Department and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, working in records and evidence.
While she said she loves living in La Center, the city does have its challenges. Those challenges include driving economic growth, improving infrastructure and ensuring residents have reliable police services.
Harvey has worked in the information technology industry for more than 15 years and previously served as president of the California Mayors Youth Council in Hemet, Calif.
At the forum, Harvey said she wanted to serve on the city council to bring the community together to work toward solutions.
“I’ve found that having an ability to bring each other together, identify problems and find solutions is something that’s invaluable, especially in today’s society,” Harvey said during the forum.
Harvey said she wants to give all residents a voice, improve the city’s green spaces, and focus on infrastructure as well as education.
In the Position 5 race, incumbent Elizabeth Cerveny is facing challenger Linda Tracy. This isn’t the first time the two have gone head-to-head for the council seat. Both ran for the Position 5 seat in 2019, with Cerveny emerging as the winner.
“We’re working very hard toward economic development and a stronger community, bringing groups together to share ideas, bring that forward to council,” Cerveny said during the candidate forum.
Cerveny previously served as mayor of La Center from 1997 to 2003. She has also served on the city’s planning commission, budget committee, Cowlitz tribal committee and others.
Cerveny said her goal is to preserve the city’s small-town feel while also bringing in new businesses to serve the city’s residents. Improving the city’s relationship with the neighboring Cowlitz Indian Tribe will be important as development along the Interstate 5 corridor continues, Cerveny said in the county voters’ guide.
Tracy isn’t new to the La Center City Council. She previously served on the council from 2004 to 2012. A former business owner and past president of the La Center Chamber of Commerce, Tracy now organizes the Miss Teen La Center scholarship program.
“I always say it isn’t what you get, it’s what you give,” Tracy said during the candidate forum.
In a statement provided for the county voters’ guide, Tracy said the city has changed a lot since she moved there in 2000.
She said those changes became more pronounced after the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the city needs to focus on economic development to offset the loss of cardrooms and their related tax revenue. She also wants “a working police force again,” she said in the statement.
Ballots for the Nov. 7 general election were mailed to all registered Clark County voters on Friday. Anyone who has not received a ballot by Thursday should contact the county elections department at 564-397-2345 to request a replacement ballot. Replacement ballots may be requested in person. However, staff recommend voters request a replacement by email or by phone. Replacement ballots may also be requested or accessed electronically at VoteWA.gov to print out and return by mail or drop box.