Election 2017: Who will lead Washougal in 2018?

Mayoral race features two city leaders, write-in candidate

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Washougal voters will decide on Nov. 7 their top pick for Washougal’s next mayor. The choice is between Molly Coston and Dan Coursey, who filed as candidates in May, and Paul Godin, a write-in candidate who declared his candidacy in September.

Coston served on the Washougal City Council from June of 2005 through December of 2011, and Coursey has been a Washougal City Councilman since January of 2016.

Godin is a Farmers Insurance owner-agent and substitute teacher for the Washougal School District. He has lived in Washougal for three years.

Washougal Mayor Sean Guard, who has served two terms, had filed to run again, but withdrew his name from the mayoral race on May 22, after this newspaper broke the story that police were investigating the mayor for possible criminal acts.

Molly Coston

A woman who has served on several local and regional boards and councils is seeking to become the next mayor of Washougal.

Molly Coston was a Washougal City Council member from June 2005 through December 2011.

Since then, she has served on the Washougal Civil Service Commission and UNITE! Washougal Community Coalition. Coston’s leadership roles have included volunteering as chair of the Washougal Citizens for Better Schools political action committee and president of the League of Women Voters of Clark County, the Columbia Gorge Refuge Stewards and the Rotary Club of Camas-Washougal.

Coston, 69, retired from Nortel Networks as a senior project manager, managing large telecommunication projects in Alaska, Micronesia and the Pacific Northwest.

She has lived in Washougal since November 2000. Coston appreciates the close proximity to Portland International Airport and recreational opportunities — such as hiking and kayaking — that are available on the edge of the Columbia River Gorge. She also likes the friendliness of local residents.

Regarding the current Washougal leadership, Coston appreciates the budget process that involves the city department heads attending council meetings to talk about their funding requests for the next budget cycle.

“There are diverse philosophical and political opinions — a number of viewpoints represented — but no rancor on council,” she said. “They feel free to express those opinions without losing the respect of other council members.

“They really listen and evaluate issues,” Coston added. “The decisions that are made are sound and reasonable. They have some depth of knowledge on council in various areas.”

She would like to see the mayor and council involved in long range planning for a sustainable future.

That would include planning for water and sewer infrastructure, as well as transportation.

“The city needs to anticipate growth,” Coston said. “How many police officers will we need if we add another 1,000 citizens or expand the city limits? How will we pay for those jobs?”

She said the area east of downtown Washougal will grow.

“We need a strategy for building an overpass or underpass and develop stronger relationships with neighboring Camas, the Port of Camas-Washougal, CWEDA, Clark County and organizations such as that. Better communication is a high priority with citizens.”

Coston mentioned future development by the port near Washougal Waterfront Park will involve the city of Washougal to meet infrastructure needs.

“As the port grows in the commercial retail direction, there will be increased police management,” she said.

Coston serves on an advisory committee that is discussing the potential of a community center, jointly funded by Camas, Washougal and the Port.

“It is a daunting enterprise,” she said. “I’m not sure how realistic it is, but we can strive towards that.”

Coston would like Washougal to have a more streamlined permitting process and see more businesses in the downtown core, eastern core area and “E” Street.

She also would like to see more parks, trails and open space, with the potential to connect one park to another.

Dan Coursey

A Washougal City Councilman is seeking a promotion, to serve as the city’s next mayor.

Dan Coursey, a councilor since January 2016, is a retired systems engineer with Daimler Trucks North America.

Coursey, 63, has lived in Washougal since 2005.

“I love this place,” Coursey said. “My wife and I have lived in numerous places in the Western United States. Washougal has a rural appeal and quietness. People here have a down to earth approach to everything.”

He likes the economic development efforts that are currently occurring.

“I think we need to be very smart about how we go forward from here,” Coursey said. “I think it’s good we are growing, but we need to keep in mind that we ought to preserve the rural character of the community while attracting new jobs and businesses.

“We’re doing this for the community,” he added. “We are trying to pursue completion of the waterfront trail project and connect the Port to Steamboat Landing and Steigerwald and eventually to the gorge and Vancouver.”

Coursey said the current council listens to the community about its needs and wants. Respondents to a survey in 2016 indicated support for a community center/pool/recreation center.

“That’s a big goal and a big reach for Washougal,” Coursey said. “We are evaluating options and looking at a partnership with Camas to do that and considering the possibility of a third party — some private party — to provide that.

“We have to keep in mind it needs to be cost effective,” he added. “It would need to be approved by the citizens of Washougal. It would be a very expensive thing to put something in like that. The pool might be a bit much. It might be more of a recreation center.”

Coursey said the people he has talked to while campaigning have mentioned community development as a priority.

“They want to see the fiscal condition of the city improve by bringing in new businesses and jobs here,” he said. “They want the city to continue to revitalize the downtown core, and they want to see it linked to waterfront development at the Port of Camas-Washougal.”

Coursey said constituents have also mentioned they want city leaders to control taxes, fees and costs, to attract and keep private enterprise and residents in Washougal.

Improving the condition of city streets and looking for ways to reduce future congestion are also issues of importance, according to Coursey.

“Coming off Highway 14 on to 32nd Street, traffic backs up every single day when people come home from work,” he said. “Our streets are pretty pitiful in many locations, with potholes and cracks. People complain about them all the time. We are starting to make some improvements now.”

Public safety is another important issue for Coursey.

“People want to feel safe in their homes and on the streets,” he said. “We need to keep our police force continuously funded.”

The proposed $3.6 million 2018 police budget includes the addition of one full-time officer, with an estimated salary and benefits cost of $100,000.

Write-in Candidate: Paul Godin

A man who describes himself as “not a career politician,” has filed as a write-in candidate in the Washougal mayoral race.

Paul Godin, 41, has lived in Washougal for three years.

He has volunteered with the Downtown Washougal Association, Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance, Washougal High School and Meals on Wheels.

Godin, a Farmers Insurance owner-agent, has never run for elected office. He said his civil service efforts have primarily been philanthropic and behind the scenes. They include establishing and running an after-school program that involved more than 19 schools, facilitating camps in Hillsboro, Oregon, and working with at-risk youth overseas.

Godin said he does not believe Washougal has a clear identity of itself.

“What makes it unique? he asked. “If you don’t have a clear identity, you can’t move forward.”

Godin said there is an influx of new residents, including young families, to Washougal.

Important issues to him and the people he meets include parks systems, safety and youth centers.

“Kids are running around the Safeway parking lot,” Godin said. “That is the gathering spot right now.”

He said the city should do more to capture tourism dollars.

“People are going to the gorge and the river,” Godin said. “They attend the Spartan race and motocross. They fill up their RVs with food and drive through the city to private property and exit. We should capture that money.”

He said the current city leaders should be honored for the work they have done, but some things have grown stagnant. Godin said he would elevate residents’ civic pride.

“I’m tired of hearing ‘we’re not Camas,’” he said. “Let’s talk about who we are and what we can do.”