Rhiannon Parks says recent vote to raise council pay prompted her to jump into the race
BATTLE GROUND — It’s been three years since Battle Ground City Council saw a contested race. After the filing deadline, two of the three seats up for grabs this year had three candidates each. Only Deputy Mayor Shane Bowman didn’t have an opponent.
That changed in September after Bowman put forward a resolution to raise salaries for council members. Shortly after that, Rhiannon Parks decided to launch a write-in campaign against Bowman.
“It was never my intention to join the race this year, my plan was to gain knowledge and experience over the next few years and run during the 2021 cycle,” Parks wrote in an email to Clark County Today. “After hearing the news about the raises and how they were handled, I decided to take a leap and join up as a write-in candidate. Since I won’t be on the ballot it will be a long shot, but the knowledge and experience I will gain will only help me in two years when I can officially run for office.”
Parks was another member of the group pushing the council to fight back against the voter-approved I-1639. Initially, she joined Shauna Walters’ campaign team in her race against Neil Butler for Steven Phelps’ open seat, but after councilors voted to approve raises recently, she decided to jump into the race.
“One thing I feel would be important to address is the rumors and vitriol aimed at myself and other candidates on social media.” Parks writes. “I have been labeled a ‘proud boy,’ a puppet of Joey Gibson’s, racist/bigot, etc. on the BG community pages. I’ve never met a ‘proud boy’ and I honestly don’t really know Joey Gibson, have maybe said 2 words to the guy. I do believe he has been mislabeled and attacked by the media, and did my own research to make a judgement on his character. I appreciate his support for BG and our candidacy but in no way am I anyone’s ‘puppet.’”
For his part, Bowman admits discussing salary increases for elected officials is never an easy topic. Since Battle Ground doesn’t currently have a salary commission, the council is the only body that can vote on raises. Under those rules, the raises only apply to either a new council member, or once a current council member has been re-elected.
“This is not an 8-hour-a-month job anymore, it is more like 15-20 hours a week by the time you count all our committee assignment, council meetings, meetings with staff, training, and boards or commissions we may sit on,” wrote Bowman, who was first elected in 2012. “It also limits the people who run for office to only those who are retired or have jobs flexible enough to make it work. We hope it helps get qualified people more interested.”
Parks says that last part has been successful, but maybe not for the reasons Bowman is thinking.
“I guess I’ll be making it my goal to do just that,” she says.
Parks says the optics of the move to raise salaries, as the city also gears up to ask voters in February to approve annexation into Clark County Fire District 3, makes it look as if the city is asking people for more money while they spend more on their own salaries.
“I would recommend bringing back an independent salary commission in order to maintain accountability,” writes Parks. “Another idea would be a gradual pay increase system, similar to a cost of living gradient recipients of Social Security receive. Those would be the most ethical means to compensate those on council.”
Parks, a stay-at-home mom, says she grew up in Battle Ground after her parents moved to the area in the 1980s. She later moved to Vancouver, got an associate’s degree at Clark College, then moved back to Battle Ground 12 years ago. She makes money selling arts and crafts at local bazaars.
While Parks says she hasn’t thought through whether she would forgo the raises if elected to city council, she did say the money would be used to expand charitable giving, including buying school supplies and Christmas gifts for an adopted family each year.
Bowman has lived in Battle Ground since 2003, and runs a small business with his wife they started in 1997. They have a baby girl on the way that Bowman calls a “miracle,” as well as a son who is currently on a church mission trip in Colombia. Bowman also is a part-time National Rifle Association instructor and co-owner of an area firearms school, who says he enjoys sports shooting in his spare time.
If re-elected, Bowman says he intends to give up the deputy mayor title and return to simply being a city councilor. But, he adds, there are a lot of upcoming projects he wants to be part of, including the fire annexation, city visioning, sewer and water improvements, and road repairs and infrastructure.
“I have been on council now for eight years. I have attained over 100+ hours of training while on council from the Association of Washington Cities on our roles as council members. I have sat on many different boards and commissions for the city. I have helped lobby for and secure funding for over 10 million dollars for road and infrastructure projects getting back money from the state and federal government that our citizens have paid,” said Bowman. “I have developed relationships with electeds on both sides of the aisle to help push issues of the city forward. I also bring the perspective of a business owner, father, and community volunteer to council. I have been involved with many different organizations in the community from church, school, Boy Scouts, and youth sports.”
Parks admits her political experience is non-existent, so far, but she believes her life experience gives her the skills to quickly learn the position.
“I was the co-owner of a children’s resale in Woodland for three years, completely starting that business from the bottom up and maintaining all books and advertising without any outside help,” writes Parks. “The ins and outs of running a business, jumping through hoops set up by the state for licensing/taxes etc., as well as maintaining a presence in the community for advertising and social media was a challenge I feel will help me with my future endeavors as a city council member, if elected.”
Below are answers from each of the candidates to a series of other questions.
If elected, what would your top priorities be?
“My priorities are to finish the visioning process, work on fire annexation so we can better support our police and community. Continue to work or sewer and water improvements, and continue to lobby trying to get more money back here for infrastructure improvements.”
“Though it be small, my first priority will be to bring back the ‘Merry Christmas’ sign that hung over the road on Main St. I realize it’s not as important as many challenges the city faces, but I greatly miss the nostalgia. I fear our council members have forgotten their commitment to work on the poles, seems they will need some pressure on the subject. If it’s about lack of money, I’m sure there would be people lining up to volunteer their time either to repair or raise funds.
“Having spent my every waking moment lately ‘door knocking’ and canvassing the city, I have been able to hear many of the concerns that our citizens have. Something that troubles me is the proposed road project that will connect 503 to Parkway right through the BGHS grounds. It is my concern that eminent domain will be inevitable on an already strained school system, as well as a safety risk bringing a busy road that close to the students. Many of the fields will be removed, as well the the privacy that neighborhood has come to enjoy. I think a traffic study needs to be revisited, and alternate routes need to be examined. Personally I feel connecting Rasmussen through to Parkway would be a far better option. Much of the road is already done, and it would take a lot of pressure off of the Main St./502 intersection while also lightening traffic down Main Street. I’m sure there are reasons this may not be the best option, but we owe it to the citizens in this town to put forth the effort to make decisions that are best for everyone involved.
“Another priority I have will be to educate myself more about why we are taking on such large housing projects without addressing our infrastructure. Seems very irresponsible to approve these projects before addressing our roads, schools and other much needed community development in order to sustain such an influx of people.”
Battle Ground recently moved to begin a new City Visioning process, aimed at creating a cohesive direction for the future of the city. Of the goals outlined in that visioning statement (Prosperity, identity, community, growth, well-being), which do you believe is most important and why?
“I think that growth is on the forefront of every citizen’s mind here in Battle Ground. I am especially interested in moving forward with a land use and zoning study in order to initiate responsible growth while also addressing the importance on infrastructure. Maintaining a fiscally conservative tax-base/development fees are also important to me.
“My personal favorite ‘visioning statement’ would be prosperity. City initiatives for revitalization of Old town would be a main priority, and I would love to see some efforts put into that. The little shops bring much needed revenue to our town, and I personally enjoy the ambiance they offer.”
“Bill Ganley and I really pushed the visioning process. Our goal was the help Battle Ground establish an identity that would help us brand and promote our city. Our thoughts where something similar to Leavenworth at the time. Through the process of community involvement we came up with the five goals. These goals all go hand in hand as we try to shape our small town for the future. Obviously the easy one would be prosperity because we want our citizens to be able to meet their needs, but we need growth of business and community to help with that. Growth plan comes into that so we can make sure we have lands for jobs, housing, roads, parks, sewer and water. I think it all has to work together as we continue the process. The citizens have had great direction for us to concentrate on.”
The city is going to ask voters in February to approve annexing into Clark County Fire District 3 in order to free up property tax revenue for other priorities including police, parks, and street repairs. Why do you support the move?
“I support this move because it will stabilize our public safety. Fire District 3 has saved the citizens of our city over 1 million dollars and provided better service for our citizens. We knew we would have to eventually do something when we switched providers and this was the best option to continue to provide the service at the current levels.”
“As a property owner, I realize how important the Fire Annexation will be for our public safety as well as parks and roads. The value of services gained by the annex will be crucial considering the rate of growth we can expect in the future. The commitment of the council to offset utility cost will make it a much easier pill to swallow, I am in favor of annexation and will be voting yes in February.’
Rapid growth has been a major concern of Battle Ground residents for some time now. Given the constraints of the state’s Growth Management Act, how best do you think City Council could manage the current growth to the benefit of the city?
“For many who came to Battle Ground for that ‘small town feel,’ growth can be uncomfortable and discouraging. Something our current council is reviewing is the future repairs and replacement of our existing sewer/water lines through the Discover Clean Water Alliance. Many aspects will need to be addressed accordingly as to not cause any undue strain on our city, and that we will have enough revenue to support such a large endeavor. When larger multi-family home projects are approved, the infrastructure can become strained. When too many infrastructure projects are approved without growth, where will the revenue come from to support it. Maintaining a realistic goal for future growth and staying within those parameters will produce a successful economy while minimizing home price inflation.”
“Growth is a part of the community vision. The Growth Management Act dictates where and how we can grow. We have to keep a balance of lands for jobs, housing, industrial, and open space. This is always a challenge in a great Realestate market because people want to rezone and build housing. We have to make sure we do not violate the GMA costing the city money. We have very competent staff who make sure we do not violate the GMA. Like it or not Battle Ground will always continue to grow we just need to make sure it follows our vision.”
For more on the candidates, check out their respective campaign pages: