‘We can have three conservative votes to get things fixed’

Councilor Gary Medvigy shares his thoughts on an apparent shift in majority for the five-person Clark County Council

On the night of the Nov. 3 general election, Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy had just received word that he had comfortably won reelection to the council. In a live interview with Clark County Today, Medvigy’s attention turned to the other council race on the ballot for the general election.

Councilor Gary Medvigy
Councilor Gary Medvigy

“It certainly would be a lot easier if Karen Bowerman pulls out and gets put in place because I think we can have three conservative votes to get things fixed,’’ said Medvigy, referring to the work that he sees in the future for the members of the council. “Regardless, we will bond and work together.’’

Medvigy’s wish has been granted. A week after he made his comment, the other race in the general election for a seat on the council has finally been decided. The initial election results released on election night (Nov. 3) in the race in District 3 showed Democrat Jesse James with an advantage of 1,110 votes over Bowerman. As of Monday’s election results, Bowerman had moved ahead of James by 1,649 votes with an estimated 2,500 remaining ballots to count. 

Karen Bowerman
Karen Bowerman

Now that Medvigy and Bowerman are in place to team with fellow conservative, Chair Eileen Quiring, Medvigy believes the council is positioned to move forward with what he sees as some of the challenges facing the councilors including the upcoming review of the Home Rule Charter, support of law enforcement and permitting and code enforcement reform.

“And, I’m hopeful that the other councilors will join me in trying to get some reform done on the executive side,’’ Medvigy said.

The other two councilors are Democrat Temple Lentz and Julie Olson, a Republican who Medvigy obviously left out when he stated his vision of a majority of three conservative votes on the council.

Medvigy, who had been appointed to the council early in 2019, easily outdistanced Independent challenger Matt Little in the District 4 race. Medvigy finished with 57.75 percent of the votes and Little received 42.25 percent.

“I’m humbled with the results,’’ Medvigy said. “I’m humbled by the support. I’ve tried to earn it. I’ve tried to stay true to my constituents, which I will promise to do in the future.

“We have a lot of work to do locally,’’ Medvigy said.

Charter Review Commission

The first review of Clark County’s Home Rule Charter will take place in 2021. The charter, approved by voters in 2014, separated the legislative and administrative branches of county government and limited elected county councilors’ authority legislative and policy matters. The council appoints a county manager, who has both the responsibility, and the authority to implement the legislative decisions of the County Council and run the administrative branch of county government. Opponents argue that the charter transferred power away from elected officials and gave it to the county manager. Another change was the size of the council increased from three to five members. The charter also provides citizens with local initiative and referendum powers. The Charter Review Commission will be made up of 15 members elected in last week’s general election.

“They’re going to have a bunch of work,’’ Medvigy said. “A lot of people don’t understand how we function at the county level. And to some extent, with the Home Rule Charter, it’s still somewhat of an experiment that we have, and probably have had for decades. It’s a tremendous issue in some of our departments: permitting, code enforcement.’’

Medvigy said the County Council is looking at “revising a bunch of code, so we’re working very hard with the manager (Kathleen Otto). And I’m hoping to ramp that up, where we get real reform. … But, we just can’t weigh in and change things, the way it used to be prior to the charter change. So that’s a huge challenge. It impacts everything from affordable housing, development, single-family homes, people wait months, years to get their permits approved. And it’s a very inconsistent and costly process. Time costs money, and we’re wasting everyone’s time. So we really need to get at that in earnest.

“So the way ahead is for complete reform, not just incremental change in those departments,’’ Medvigy said.

Supporting law enforcement

Medvigy also went out of his way to address violence and criminal activity that has plagued the cities of Portland and Seattle and even found its way to Vancouver recently after the officer-involved shooting that claimed the life of 21-year-old Camas resident Kevin Peterson Jr. Protests over Peterson’s death the following night led to some violence in downtown Vancouver, where six protesters were arrested.

“The civil unrest that we’re experiencing, not only nationally, but now it’s split into Vancouver,’’ Medvigy said. “We’re different than what’s happened in Seattle, other cities, Portland, for sure. I will let you know that I’ve worked very hard behind the scenes to let law enforcement, our prosecuting attorney, our mayor, other councilors know that I’m going to support law enforcement. We have a good plan in place. Between the federal government, state resources, our local chiefs of police and our sheriff, we have a good plan in place, and we will enforce law and order in Vancouver and will not turn into Portland.’’

Medvigy is convinced that is what Clark County residents want.

“Thank goodness for all the good citizens that are out there, as well, that are concerned and not willing to support lawlessness,’’ he said. “We’re going to protect everyone’s rights to express their First Amendment views. But, we’re not going to tolerate property damage and assaultive behavior. Here in Clark County, I think we’re too proud of our city and our county to allow that to happen.’’

Medvigy confirmed that the violence has not returned to Clark County since the night after Peterson’s death. 

“That doesn’t mean it couldn’t change,’’ he said. “I will tell you, everyone is working together and law enforcement knows they have support. The sheriff had the jail ready, and it is ready. You know, we’ve got open bed spaces ready for people to be in if they’re arrested.

“I will tell you a side story that came out in the first night, which I think set the tone,’’ Medvigy said. “You know, over in Portland, a lot of people just got picked up and cited and released. So they just had a fun night and went home. Here, they got booked. And there were a number of people that broke down crying when they realized they were going to jail for violating the law. That word spreads. So they spent some time in jail until they could bail … It set a tone that was very different from other cities. It’s the right deterrent message that lawlessness will not be tolerated here. So we’re very hopeful that with all of the manpower that’s available, and the plans that are in place, that we can keep it under control. Obviously, that can change in an instant.’’

Bowerman to be a citizen’s representative

Bowerman had been cautious to comment in the past week as the Clark County Elections Department continued to count the votes from the remaining ballots. On Tuesday, she issued the following statement to Clark County Today.

“I guarantee that I’ll work hard for the citizens of Clark County,’’ Bowerman said. “I am reminded of Teddy Roosevelt’s saying that the best prize life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. 

“With this position to begin in January 2021, work starts before officially beginning work,’’ she said before offering a message to area residents. “Please don’t be surprised if I call you to ask what you find most urgent to get accomplished because your responses give insight into upcoming agendas.  I am excited to have the chance to begin working for you and with you.’’

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