Three candidates now facing off in race for Cathlamet mayor
October 14, 2021
Two members of the Cathlamet Town Counicil are vying to be the mayor of Cathlamet, each touting their varied but extensive experience, and this past week, another person announced a write-in candidacy.
The Eagle has asked the candidates three questions: Why are you running for mayor? How would you define or describe your role as mayor? And, briefly, what would you hope to accomplish in the next four years?
Here are their responses:
David Olson, current town council member
I am running for mayor because by virtue of training and experience I will be very effective delivering positive leadership and results to the citizens and families of the town I love.
The mayor is the chief executive officer (CEO) of the town, responsible for a multi-million dollar budget, essential public utilities, and effective leadership that commands respect and delivers tangible results on behalf of the town council, local and regional governmental and private partners, and most importantly the citizens of Cathlamet, who are ultimately the mayor's boss.
Cathlamet is too small a place to afford a city manager or administrator, so the mayor must be experienced and capable of developing a budget, presiding over the town council, and overseeing town staff and essential city services. As a prior local government manager for 30 plus years, recognized for my leadership, I am highly experienced in these areas and will hit the ground running. If elected, Cathlamet citizens can count on me to achieve real results efficiently and responsibly based on priorities set by the good folks of our town.
There are many challenges. It will take everyone working together to accomplish it all. I am skilled at bringing together different groups and different skill sets to accomplish things that would not be possible in isolation. Partnerships, transparency, civility and community support are essential for productive results. After two years on the town council, I have a record of delivering results so voters can count on me delivering on my commitments. Having said this, here is a short list, not exhaustive in the least:
--Economic revitalization: Sorely needed in our small community which has been stricken by the pandemic, underemployment, and lack of jobs and opportunities. This starts with Main Street redevelopment, remediation of the "dead zone" created by the Columbia Saloon, more affordable housing, better broadband connections, and stable and affordable economic support for our distressed school system. My focus on heritage projects helps bring visitors to Cathlamet who along with local citizens will also benefit from downtown WiFi and a new high power EV charging station made possible by a grant I helped write. Downtown Cathlamet and our region will continue to benefit from these endeavors.
--Utility rate remediation: The town sewer utility is over-leveraged with a small customer base as well as high rates and service methodologies not well adapted or fairly allocated among utility ratepayers. I will do everything possible to undertake specific measures to improve this situation and bring fairness and attainable relief to town utility customers.
--- Waterfront Park: The town's plans for Waterfront Park adjacent to Elochoman Marina have languished for several years and the town recently failed to win critical state support for the project, coming up largely empty while neighboring communities won a far higher level of support. We can and must do better. This starts with an active partnership approach, e.g. Town, port, county, seeking committed state resources, working with our legislative delegation, and delivering real results of which we can all be proud for one of the most pristine municipally-owned waterfront areas remaining in the Lower Columbia.
These are only a few examples of goals I will seek to accomplish by bringing new leadership and earning community support. So much else remains to be done, such as finishing the town comprehensive plan and securing the future of the priceless Julia Butler Hansen Heritage Center.
Not least, we need to do everything possible to support and resource our longstanding and long-suffering fishing, timber and natural resource-dependent communities and families.
Working together, we can accomplish so much. I have really appreciated the chance to meet Cathlamet voters in recent weeks and hear their views. Let's handle every issue and challenge as if we are living in the earliest days of a revitalized Cathlamet!
Robert Stowe, current town council member
I am the only council member to have earned a Certificate of Municipal Leadership, putting in the time necessary to demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning.
A steward of public property, officials have the obligation not only to safeguard assets from loss but also to ensure that they are not neglected, wasted, or misused. We need to do a better job of monitoring public property. Within one month of moving here, my wife and I visited both water treatment and wastewater treatment plants, asked questions regarding budgets, maintenance and reserves, and identified serious problems at the wastewater treatment plant. Despite my efforts on the council level, minimal resources have been allotted to the largest expense the town is responsible for, the multi-million dollar wastewater treatment plant. As liaison to our utilities department I headed the effort to reduce the town's sewer debt load by more than $1 million dollars over the life of the loan.
I have a proven track record of success in operating my own business. I had the responsibility of hiring, and when necessary, terminating employees. I was responsible for looking ahead to the future in purchasing, maintenance, repairs and reserves. I served in the U.S. Navy and was honorably discharged as an Electrician's Mate, Third Class Petty Officer. I went to San Francisco State University for Journalism and was subsequently hired by Fuch's Publications as the sports editor for three of its newspapers. As a proven success, I was hired by the San Mateo Times to cover sports. When my wife was offered a new position in the California State Chancellor's Office running a high-level program for 23 campuses, we moved to southern California where I started my own business. I am currently a working artist, with my work shown in such diverse places as the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach CA., the Monterey Aquarium and locally, Tsuga Gallery and Hotel Cathlamet as well as several private residences.
My choices speak for themselves. I have been married to my wife for more than 41 years. We have three children, all of whom went to college and are self-sustaining members of the communities where they live. Unlike some, I have never been arrested, I do not drink and drive, and haven't been given a traffic ticket in more than 30 years.
I have entered the race for mayor because I believe I can make a difference. As a council member I see opportunities and areas of concern in Cathlamet. Our infrastructure is badly in need of repairs and improvement. Cathlamet is a beautiful town, but our Main Street needs improvement, with empty storefronts and dilapidated buildings.
I have been working with Washington State's Commerce Economic Development Agency to help find ways to attract business to our town. We need outside investments to grow.
While mayor pro tempore for a majority of 2021, I asked hard questions to protect the town's assets and citizens. I am not a backroom bureaucrat, nor a professional politician. I continue to serve the community as a council member. I have, and will continue, to listen to the residents of all of Wahkiakum County.
My predecessors have talked and talked and discussed and yammered on. We've talked enough, let us, as a community and with responsible leadership, take action.
I am asking for your support, together we can help the town grow and become even more successful. Cathlamet deserves a responsible mayor that makes sound choices. That candidate is Robert Stowe.
Ashlenn Coleman, write-in candidate
I graduated from Wahkiakum High school in 2010 and continued on to attend Concordia University. From there I transferred to Eastern Oregon University where I graduated with my bachelor's degree in biology. Since returning to my hometown of Cathlamet in 2016, I have worked in multiple industries, which has helped me keep a finger on the pulse of the town. I recently graduated nursing school and hold a nursing license which I plan to put to use in the near future. I believe that my most relevant qualifications are my neutrality in government affairs, my ability to balance multiple working and learning objectives, and my generations-deep roots here in the community.
As the only current candidate raised in Cathlamet, I hope that my decision to run (with or without a win) will inspire others to become more involved in the political process here in town - all our local governments are in desperate need of resident involvement. Being a late entrant can present its share of hurdles, but I had planned to leave Cathlamet to take a nursing position in Central Washington. My mind changed when looking at this year's ballot, I realized that we need a homegrown candidate who will focus on existing issues and put the needs of Cathlamet residents first. Being fairly new to the world of political candidacy, I have an opportunity to utilize my understanding of the political process from a "blank slate" perspective, which means I have no vested political interests other than to serve my community. I hope that at the very least, my candidacy will shake things up a bit and create a better perception of the ability of individual citizens to make a difference.
My desires are less important than those of Cathlamet residents, and I believe that the people should have an opportunity to raise their voices and tell me what I should strive to accomplish; that is the entire purpose of the political process. If I were to enter this race with grandiose personal intentions, that would only serve to suppress the voices of the voters who control the office of mayor. That said, I hope that this campaign inspires more involvement, and lifts the voices of our residents. I would like to instill more trust in the town employees, giving them the tools, resources, and budget necessary to execute their expertise to the extent they are truly capable, without interference. I would like to see a stricter adherence to fiscal policies without creating more demand to expand the budget. In the near future, I would like to take up larger projects like parks and waterways, but first, we must focus on ensuring that reducing costs and creating a more business friendly environment for our current residents is the priority. That will happen when we have more diversity of thought within our local government.
Existing infrastructure and the needs of current residents should be placed first; many of our historic buildings have been in a state of disrepair since I was a child, and too often I've watched local businesses go through a revolving door process. Communication with leadership seems to be lacking above all else, which is an essential part of representing a people, no matter the size of the constituency. I plan to keep an open phone line where people of the town can call or message me directly to inform me of their positions on key issues. This line will be maintained by me and will be available throughout my entire tenure as mayor. For the time being I have set up an email address that I will be checking daily where I can be reached for any reason but primarily to hear your voice - email me with any questions, comments, or concerns, I am here for you. Check the "write-in" box and write my name! email@example.com.