Candidates Dan Coursey and Molly Coston describe their plans for Washougal if elected
CAMAS — The third of four League of Women Voters of Clark County general election candidate forums was held at the Camas Public Library Wednesday and the event allowed candidates from several races in Camas and Washougal to answer questions asked by moderator and state representative Monica Stonier.
One of the races covered by the forum was the Washougal mayoral race. The two candidates present at the forum were Dan Coursey and Molly Coston. Mayor Sean Guard is not seeking re-election.
Coursey and Coston both have previous elected experience. Coursey currently serves on the Washougal City Council. Coston served for six years on the Washougal City Council and also served as the mayor pro-tem.
“I care deeply about our community here,” said Coursey, who believes it is time for a change in leadership in Washougal. He has a background in systems engineering and finance, and is fiscally conservative, he said.
Coston is currently retired, but before retirement worked for five years as a senior project manager for large telecommunications projects. “I’ll work hard to provide a better quality of life for all of our citizens,” Coston said.
Candidates were first asked how the city of Washougal can ensure that all of its citizens receive adequate resources in a community that has a wide socio-economic spectrum.
Coursey said that the city alone cannot satisfy all of the needs of the people. “This is a bigger job than just one city can do,” Coursey said.
According to Coursey, to adequately meet the needs of the citizens, everyone needs to be involved. The city has some agencies associated with the government for relief and issues such as poverty and homelessness.
“We all have to participate individually and do our job,” Coursey said.
Coston noted that Washougal already has a number of community agencies that help support citizens’ needs. She said that the city can work with these social agencies, nonprofits and faith-based groups to provide support.
Coston said that the city itself can do some things, “but the city cannot do everything.”
The candidates were asked how they, as mayor, would help the city council address controversial issues intelligently and civilly.
“I think we already do,” Coursey said. As a current city council member, Coursey said that he believes the council members have done a good job being open with each other about what they want to see in Washougal. Coursey said that as mayor, he would like to see the open collaboration on the council continue.
Coston said that Washougal’s city staff and council have done a “really good job” engaging with citizens about “controversial topics.” She noted that Washougal recently held a public town hall meeting concerning fireworks, and that such public interactions help council members to discuss issues publically.
“I think there are many other new avenues that we can explore to really have an informed and engaged citizenry,” Coston said.
The issue of development in Washougal was also covered at the voters forum. The candidates were asked how new development needs should compare with the upkeep of existing neighborhoods, and how liveability should be balanced across the entire community.
Coursey said that many neighborhoods in Washougal are older, and have issues such as a lack of sidewalks, poor roads and drainage problems. Addressing these issues will be a long-term process.
He also said that Washougal has a limited amount of space to continue new developments, and eventually will have to turn to infilling older areas and restoring those neighborhoods.
“I don’t think anybody is forgetting them, it’s just that we haven’t gotten there yet,” Coursey said.
Coston said that in the future, new development will have to revolve around infilling older areas of the town, as it will eventually reach its growth boundaries. This will create a mix of older neighborhoods and newer neighbors, Coston said.
One area of improvement Coston highlighted would be to add sidewalks to older neighborhoods. She also said that the focus will need to be “almost more on the older neighborhoods than the new developments,” as older areas of the city do not have solid infrastructure.
In addition to developments in neighborhoods, the candidates were asked about what business development would be the most beneficial and how they would pursue that development as mayor.
Coursey said that Washougal needs to focus on “any kind of retail business.” He said that he hopes the Port of Camas-Washougal proceeds with projects already underway that could bring in retail businesses.
“We have very little in the amount of retail revenue,” Coursey said, and the lack of retail revenue has historically been a major budgetary shortfall.
“I think our strength is in small business,” Coston said. She said the downtown area of Washougal does not have the space for large businesses, and that the town has developed a reputation for housing unique small businesses.
Coston said that she wants to ensure that permitting processes are streamlined and that the city works with business owners to find shortfalls and challenges.
“I really think that once we clear those kinds of areas that businesses will come,” Coston said.
Each candidate closed by stating what some of their goals were if elected, and why they wanted to be elected mayor.
Coston said that she has prior experience in Washougal city government during a “very turbulent period in Washougal history.”
“Washougal needs leadership that moves our community forward, and I really feel that I can be that leader,” Coston said.
Coursey said that “we have a great city here in Washougal,” and that his knowledge of state and local government is needed to secure outside assistance for projects in Washougal.
“I think change is good, it brings new ideas and ways of doing things,” Coursey said.
Election day is Tue., Nov. 7, and ballots must be turned into a ballot box by 8 p.m.
Write-in candidate also runs for mayor
While only two candidates for Washougal mayor were present at the League of Women Voters of Clark County general election voter forum, a third candidate is running a write-in campaign in Washougal.
Washougal resident Paul Godin filed to run as a write-in candidate for the mayoral race on Sep. 8.
Godin owns a Farmers Insurance agency and works as a substitute teacher for the Washougal School District, according to his campaign website, and has lived in Washougal for three years.