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Clark County Planning Commission members selected

Panel to welcome two new members, return of another

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 6, 2024, 6:07am

The Clark County Planning Commission will welcome two new members, as well as the return of another. Current commission member Bryan Halbert is back for another term, to be joined by Jeremy Baker of Vancouver and Mark Bergthold of Woodland.

The planning commission is a seven-member board whose members represent the county’s five council districts and serve as an advisory board on matters related to development of land in the unincorporated areas.

The county council formalized the appointments on Friday after interviewing five candidates from a pool of 26 applicants. Peter Silliman and current Railroad Advisory Board Chairman Daniel Weaver were also interviewed.

The county council narrowed the field from 26 to five in a Jan. 17 meeting. It’s difficult to know what criteria or method the council used to make its selections, given that much of the discussion about which candidates to interview and later discussions about candidates’ skills and qualifications occurred in executive session meetings closed to the public.

Council Chair Gary Medvigy said choosing just three from among all the candidates who applied was a “tough choice.”

“We had really robust discussions on each of the candidates to fulfill our duty to make the best decision,” Medvigy said.

In an email Monday, Medvigy said it is common practice to discuss the candidates in executive session.

“No ‘hiring’ committee anywhere in a public or private sector wants to have public discussion during resume review. It would seriously hamper open productive discussions and jeopardize privacy issues of candidates,” Medvigy said.

Councilor Glen Yung was absent when the candidate interviews were decided.

“We will discuss this process during our upcoming retreat,” Yung said in an email Monday. “I recognize the time constraints, but in my opinion, there were more than five candidates that were worthy of an interview.”

Two of the planning commission openings were for full six-year terms that expired Dec. 31, 2023 — one held by Halbert in District 2 and the other by Matt Swindell in District 5. The third opening was for an unexpired term that ends Dec. 31, 2025.

Councilor Sue Marshall nominated Bergthold for one of two openings for full six-year terms, which was seconded by Yung. The council unanimously voted in favor of Bergthold’s appointment.

“Mark Bergthold has an incredibly diverse and very expansive, complicated resume. He’s got a depth and breadth of experience in all the right areas,” Medvigy said, adding his experience is “perhaps not the strongest in having to deal with GMA (Growth Management Act), but every other issue that the planning commission would.”

According to Bergthold’s application, he spent much of professional career working in school administration. Most recently, he worked for the Clatskanie School District in Oregon.

Yung said what resonated most for him was Bergthold’s willingness to consider opinions and ideas that differ from his own.

Marshall nominated and Councilor Michelle Belkot seconded Baker for the two-year commission vacancy.

“This is the second time he’s applied to the planning commission. He may not have the depth of experience in land use, but he makes up for that with his commitment to looking out for the future of our children,” Marshall said.

Yung said he also appreciated Baker’s commitment to serving the public.

“Experience is critical … but the lack of experience also does provide for some fresh perspective,” Yung added.

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Councilor Karen Bowerman said while she agreed Baker would add a fresh voice, she expects candidates to research and learn as much as possible about that commission.

“That I did not see. And because of that, I have concerns about that lack of experience,” Bowerman said.

Belkot said she was impressed by Baker’s operational, supervisory, development and building experience.

“He had a lot of professional background related to building and development, which I think is very needed,” Belkot said.

The council voted 4-1 in favor of Baker, with Bowerman voting against his appointment.

Yung nominated current commission member Halbert for the last of the three openings. Yung nominated Halbert for a full six-year term.

“I think we need someone with experience, who’s been on the board,” Belkot said.

“He’s been very thoughtful. His eyes are definitely open as far as what it takes serve on the planning commission. I think he’s a great candidate,” Marshall added.

The council unanimously voted in favor of Halbert serving another term.

To watch the full council meeting, go to https://clark.wa.gov/councilors/clark-county-council-meetings.

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