Talking with Ray Kutch, Washougal’s newest city council member

WASHOUGAL — When he first heard about the sudden opening on his local city council — left vacant after Washougal City Councilwoman Jennifer McDaniel resigned in January — Ray Kutch, a former Naval flight officer, Vietnam veteran and longtime Washougal area businessman, figured he’d throw his hat in the ring and see what happened.

“I’d been a resident in the area for a long time and was always active,” Kutch says. “And I knew a number of people on the council … but (the decision to offer his name as a possible replacement for McDaniel) was spur of the moment.”

At first, the existing council had only one choice and that was Kutch.

“When I applied, nobody else had applied yet,” Kutch says.

Ray Kutch (left) shakes hands with Washougal Mayor Sean Guard (right) at a council meeting held Tue., Feb. 7, to appoint a city council replacement for councilwoman Jennifer McDaniel, who resigned from the council last month. The council selected Kutch, a former Naval flight officer, Vietnam veteran and longtime Washougal area businessman.
Ray Kutch (left) shakes hands with Washougal Mayor Sean Guard (right) at a council meeting held Tue., Feb. 7, to appoint a city council replacement for councilwoman Jennifer McDaniel, who resigned from the council last month. The council selected Kutch, a former Naval flight officer, Vietnam veteran and longtime Washougal area businessman. Photo courtesy of the city of Washougal.

The field would soon expand. At one point, 13 people expressed interest in replacing McDaniel on the Washougal City Council. In the end, the city councilors and Washougal Mayor Sean Guard would interview nine candidates, including Kutch.

“Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised to see that many people apply,” Kutch says.

On Tue., Feb. 7, the Washougal City Council gathered at a special meeting to interview council candidates and select one from the pack.

Their choice? Kutch, 76, a Pennsylvanian native who moved to Washington State in 1979 and to Washougal in 1990.

Days before the interviews occurred, Washougal’s mayor said publicly that the person chosen by the council needed to be passionate about the small east Clark County city and possess the capacity to think about all sides of an issue before making decisions that could affect the entire community.

In Kutch, the council seems to have found those exact qualities.

“I love living in the community. It’s a nice, quiet community and I love the traffic here … because it doesn’t exist!” Kutch says, laughing. “I grew up in a Pennsylvania town with only about 10,000 people in it, so I love the small-town feel of Washougal. And I want to keep that small-town feel. That’s my primary goal.”

Of course, Kutch says, keeping a small-town feel doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t like to see Washougal grow. As a former business owner and realtor – he owned Dodge City Bar & Grill chain, which had locations in Vancouver, Camas and Sandy, Ore., for more than 20 years and recently worked with Handris Realty Co., in Vancouver – Kutch says he understands that enticing small businesses to Washougal and helping the community grow is critical to the community’s future.

Kutch may also have impressed the council with his years of volunteer work – he served for several years on the board of directors for the USS Ranger Museum Foundation, a group that was trying to bring a naval ship to Portland and turn it into a museum, and he is active in his local church, the Washougal United Methodist Church.
Kutch lives in Washougal with his wife of 52 years, Judy Kutch, and the couple have three grown children and six grandchildren.

As an appointed council member, Kutch will serve until the November 2017 General Election results are certified. The winner of the General Election will serve on the Washougal City Council through the end of 2019.

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About The Author

Kelly Moyer has been reporting for community newspapers since the mid-1990s, including the Newport News-Times on the Oregon Coast; the Lewistown Sentinel, a daily newspaper in central Pennsylvania; the Gresham Outlook, Wilsonville Spokesman, Sherwood Gazette and South County Spotlight newspapers in the Portland metro area; and The Reflector newspaper in Battle Ground, Wash. She also is the former managing editor of Midwifery Today, an international magazine for birth professionals. Kelly, a University of Oregon alumnus and Pennsylvania native, lives with her family in Northeast Portland.

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