The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Election 2018: More reports from Grange Forum


October 25, 2018

In continuing coverage of some local elections, here are some of the things that candidates said at the Candidate Forum in Grays River on October 9.

For county prosecutor—

Dan Bigelow, incumbent:“I’ve got my three minute speech down to four minutes. I have been the prosecuting attorney for the last 12 years. To do the job of prosecuting attorney in Wahkiakum County you have to be able to do three things. Number one, Criminal prosecution. I’ve been prosecuting and defending felony and misdemeanor cases in and around Wahkiakum County for 20 some odd years. I’ve got quite a bit of experience doing that sort of thing. Every Wahkiakum County sheriff’s deputy and the sheriff have endorsed my reelection campaign. The Washington State Prosecuting Attorney’s Association elected me president this year. I’m getting known statewide. They seem to think I’m doing alright. I’ve worked hard for you and I want to keep doing it. Number two, you have to be the country lawyer, the general legal advisor of every piece of county government, the auditor, the assessor, the county commissioner, the sheriff. They don’t get to hire their lawyer. You hire their lawyer by electing me. So trust isn’t a given. I have to earn that trust. Regardless of their political views, every elected official of Wahkiakum County has endorsed my reelection campaign. The third thing you have to be is coroner. I’ve been responding as an emergency technician for 12 years before I became prosecuting attorney. The head of the state coroner’s association has endorsed me. The coroner’s association has tapped me to teach classes for them. I would love to keep doing this job, please elect me.”

Stewart Feil, challenger: “I want to be the county prosecutor because there is something that should happen. This is a true thing. When you ask a defense attorney who works in the county what the prosecuting attorney in that county does, they should know something about that. When you ask a citizen who is interacting with the county government on a transaction what is going on, that requires legal services, that work should be known…what’s going on. It should be done in a timely manner. When you ask around, the people in the system should know something. I commit, as county prosecutor, to be in the courtroom, to be working with defense attorneys, so they know when someone asks them, ‘Hey what is your county prosecutor doing?’ They know how involved I am in the criminal prosecution process. I’ve asked as many defense attorneys as I’ve encountered, what’s going on in the county prosecutor’s office. What I’ve heard is, ‘Sue’s great!’ I have no issue with Mr. Bigelow. I think he is a great guy. He is a great EMT. You elect a county prosector to prosecute crime. You elect a county prosecutor to advise department heads, to get the work done that those department heads need done. That might include a real estate transaction that is held up for some reason. I moved to Wahkiakum County just over two years ago. I thought it was going to be a stepping off point to something else. When I got my family out here, we fell in love with the area. I want to make this a long term, good place for me to raise my three young children.

I want to be county prosecutor, not so that I can be the best coroner in town, though I think I could be coroner.

I spent four years working in a lock down psychiatric hospital that involved medical training and dealing with people in a first come first serve basis. I’m an estate planning attorney. I help people prepare for facing their own mortality. I also do probate, so I help people deal with the loss of a loved one and the legal ramifications thereof. I want to be county prosecutor and I want everyone to know what I am doing.

Qualifications you have to be coroner: “I have exactly zero qualifications,” Feil said. “I have a history of studying violence through investigating violent crimes, through prosecuting and defending them. I have a history of study violence through martial arts. I have a history of studying medicine, I have a history of providing care and service to people in a moment of loss. These are all skills that make it possible for me to adapt to doing the job of coroner.”

“I’m a certified medicolegal death investigator,” Bigelow said. “I’ve been doing the job for 12 years. As for learning compassion, there was no better teacher than Fred Johnson. The medical experience I got as an EMT. Really it’s the years of doing it that make the difference. There isn’t a lot of violent death. As an EMT I sometimes know what people die of before I get there. Each time I’m in the presence of death, I’m humbled. Not only do I have the certifications that people get, I teach those classes.”

For county auditor—-

Nicci Bergseng, incumbent:“I am Nicci Bergseng. I am the Wahkiakum County Auditor. I’ve been in the office for three years. I was hired by Diane Tischer to do accounts payable. I have worked my way up to accounts manager and now auditor when Diane retired. Our office is very busy. We have accounts payable, we also have recordings, we oversee elections, we have HR and payroll. It’s my duty to oversee that. I’ve had to hire a couple new staff with retirements, and we are learning and working great together. I filed a clean audit with the state auditors this year and I’m very proud of that.”

Matt Kuhl, challenger: “My name is Matt Kuhl. I have a great love for this community. I was raised here and graduated from Wahkiakum High School in 2003. I currently live here, I own a home in Cathlamet. I wanted to give you a different option. I want to use my skills and background and experience as an accountant and a military veteran to ensure that the financial security of the county is well looked after. I think it is important that if the funds aren’t quite there that we are finding ways to provide high end quality service to you. When you come in the courthouse, you want to know that you are well taken care of. We don’t want to cut corners. I’m proud to be a Wahkiakum resident. A vote for me is a vote for your future.”

Kuhl was asked how he would step into the role of auditor and have answers about licensing, elections, recordings, and more.

“There’s always going to be a goal of learning and educating yourself on new skills that you might not be familiar with. There is change that is going to come about. I’m bringing different skills that will help with other areas, things I hope I can share with you in your role and other roles,” Kuhl said.

“I have great relationships with my commissioners and other department heads as well as county employees and citizens. I pride myself on my customer service. Whether you are an employee or citizen, it is my duty to keep those working relationships. I have worked with other county officials throughout the state. We rely on each other when there are things that come up,” Bergseng added.

For State representative, 19th district—-

Brian Blake, incumbent: “I like that every two years I get to come down here and look you in the eye and say I’d like you to rehire me for two more years. I’m chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. I think that’s critical for this district, to have someone from down here in that position, given the importance of natural resource industries to this region. I also sit on the Financial Institutions Committee and the Commerce and Gaming Committee. Since I came into office, I’ve worked closely with your county commissioners who were in office then and your county commissioners who are in office now and other local elected officials and try to deliver good service to you. I’ve been pleased the last few years, as we’ve had divided government to come up with bipartisan budgets. That was refreshing. This recent history where we were voting out budgets with over 70 votes in the house and near super majorities in the senate was kind of refreshing to see. That was a good situation I think, it helped us resolve some issues.”

“I think we adopted a McCleary fix that wasn’t exactly the fix that I would have liked, but we satisfied the court. We have more work to do on K-12 education. Special education needs further investment from the state. I think it’s a state obligation, the state needs to pay for it, rather than you jacking up your own taxes to pay for those services we should provide.”

Joel McEntire, challenger: “I was raised in Cathlamet. I graduated in 2006 from Wahkiakum High School. I have a Bachelors in Evolutionary Ecology. I have a Masters in Mathematics Education. I started a chess club at the school where I am now a teacher. Why vote for me? Why run? It did not look like anyone was going to run against Representative Blake. The idea of people not having an option was sickening to me. Even though Representative Blake and I may agree on nine out of 10 issues that come before us, people still need to have a choice. We have our differences, no doubt. In the past, I voted for Representative Blake. I think he’s a man of honor and he has served our community. I think he deserves thanks and praise for stepping up for the years of service that he has given this community. I feel like I can give a better voice, that is more in sync with our community, than the voice we already have. The first vote every representative makes is for leadership of the house. The leader of the house right now is Frank Chopp. He is from Seattle. If you’ve seen the bills that have come on the floor, they are Seattle-esque bills. They are bills right from the heart of Seattle. Seattle think tanks, big Seattle elites who think of these bills. They go to Frank Chopp because he is the leader. I would not vote for Frank Chopp. I am tired of Seattle policies coming out to our communities. Seattle wants to have their socialist utopia. They can keep it in their city limits. I don’t want it here. I want to be a voice against that. I want to say we have the autonomy, we have the strength and the dignity to be able to make our decisions for ourselves. This is our home. This belongs to us. This is our land, our farms, our rivers, our forests. I won’t stand for it. I won’t tolerate it. It’s something I’m going to stand against.”

McEntire was asked about his comment about a socialist utopia and for his thoughts on social justice and rights of LGBTQ and equal marriage.

“People can categorize themselves however they want. I don’t keep myself up late at night thinking about how people characterize themselves. People are people. And they deserve to be treated with the respect and dignity that all people deserve. They should have their civil rights and be given due process like any other human being in our society. As far as social justice goes, I don’t know what that means. Because as I talk to people, everybody has a different definition. If I sit one and one and we can agree on what that means, then I can agree or disagree based on the definition. If it means equality before the law, I’m all for it. If they say one group needs to be exalted above another, I don’t think that’s justice. I think it leads to bad ends,” McEntire said.

“I think the heart chooses who we love and I’m going to stand for everybody’s rights,” Blake said.

When asked for solutions to reduce student’s college debt:

“When the government and other entities say everybody deserves to go to college, and we’re going to make sure everyone has the money to go to college, the universities are loving that sound. Did I say $10,000 a semester? I meant $25,000. Sorry, $50,000. That’s better. Everyone has the right to go, right? We’re going to assist with these loans with government guarantees. Universities are cranking up the prices. It’s a negative feed back loop that has built and compounded on itself because they keep guaranteeing this. One thing that could help is a diversity of options for employment. Not every kid wants to go to college. Some can go into the trades. Some could go to work right out of high school and would be content and happy to do so. If we give more options to our young people after high school, not just college, the market will make it so that the prices will come in equilibrium with demand for these universities and colleges,” McEntire said.

“I was coming out of high school and I had the benefit of being able to get a pretty good logging job and save money to pay for college. The price was right. I think we’ve lost that sense of a way for folks to get through college,” Blake said. “As Joel mentioned, a balance of trade education, college education, it’s important that our young folks understand the opportunities that are out there.”


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