Camas residents have one of the clearest choices in years, between candidates for mayor and a city council position in the Nov. 8 election.
In both races, challengers to the current Camas mayor and councilwoman claim to offer new approaches to running city government. And while new ideas and differing political philosophies are generally an important contribution to any debate, there are many other qualities and attributes that candidates can bring to the table that are equally, if not more, important.
Qualities such as working hard to get up to speed on the critical issues, and understanding the budget as thoroughly as possible. A willingness to work with fellow council members and compromise if necessary. And to have the work ethic to focus on the tough local issues at hand, rather than be sidetracked by regional problems in which the council’s influence is not as widespread.
It is those qualities, along with several others, that make current Camas Mayor Scott Higgins and Councilwoman Shannon Turk the clear choices to retain their seats in the upcoming election.
Higgins, 39, has been on the City Council since 2002 and was appointed mayor in June when Paul Dennis stepped down to pursue other interests. Higgins has been a workhorse on the council during that span and more recently as mayor, diving into budget issues, listening to citizens’ concerns, making contacts with local business leaders, developing relationships with neighboring jurisdictions and in general getting up to speed on city issues.
And while Higgins has unquestionably put in the hard work required of a mayor, he admits that the position requires an entirely different set of skills than those of a council person. Translated, he acknowledges he’s been learning on the job. That frank assessment of himself is refreshing to hear, when compared to most of today’s politicians. In short, his easy going personality, strong work ethic and desire to do the best job possible for the city where he was born and raised makes him far and away the easy choice for mayor.
Higgins’ opponent Ken Kakuk, 51, feels his main issues include making the city more open and accessible to the public and being more efficient by “doing more with less.” However, Higgins and the current council already have set about implementing several technology upgrades that will make the city more efficient and give the public greater access to city documents via the city website.
Perhaps of greater concern to voters could be the way Kakuk left his city employment in June (fired for insubordination as a result of the progressive disciplinary process) and his interaction with his fellow city employees in the years leading up to his departure. Those issues considered, plus only his experience as a GIS coordinator for the city under his belt, make it difficult to imagine he could step into a role leading a city staff with 174 employees with any kind of ease.
Current City Council Ward 3 Position 2 councilwoman Shannon Turk, 41, not unlike Higgins, has had to do a lot of learning on the job since being appointed to her position in July. She has not been shy about speaking up during city council meetings and asking important questions, even if just to further her understanding of an issue. As a management analyst for the City of Vancouver, she has the background needed to be a questioning voice on the council – a voice that could bring a valuable, if slightly different perspective to budget issues.
We would encourage Turk, however, to speak up more often and bring her budget related questions to the table, instead of holding back. She recently stated in an interview with the Post-Record that “I always trust that staff has done their due diligence to be sure they are presenting the best budget that comes forward.” Turk should actually do just the opposite and always lend her keen financial eye to all department budgets — and not be shy about questioning them.
However, working as part of a team to understand issues and working for compromise, when necessary, to move city issues along, is where Turk has shown she can be effective — and where her opponent, Margaret Tweet, simply doesn’t show as much promise.
Tweet, 50, is at her best when it comes to researching an issue that she has a passion for — such as the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) controversy. But we wonder if she would be satisfied pouring over the sometimes mundane city financial issues, as opposed to spending her time on better publicized regional issues like the CRC. And we wonder if she could consistently work effectively as one council member and compromise for the sake of getting city business done, even if the final product wasn’t perfect. Perhaps a better challenge for Tweet is to run for county commissioner next time that position is up for election.
Camas voters indeed have a clear choice for city council and mayor. They should retain Mayor Scott Higgins and Councilwoman Shannon Turk to keep Camas moving, efficiently, in the right direction.