Ex-professor takes big lead in WSD board race

Jim Cooper defeating Bill Durgan with 64% of votes

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Jim Cooper (left) and Bill Durgan, candidates for the Port of Camas-Washougal's No. 2 commissioner position, speak at the Clark County League of Women Voters candidate forum at the Camas Public Library on Oct. 23.

Early results indicate that Jim Cooper will be the newest Washougal School District board member.

With 73 percent of ballots counted as of 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, Cooper had garnered 64 percent of 2,544 votes to take a resounding lead over fellow newcomer Bill Durgan.

Cooper and Durgan are vying to replace current board member Teresa Lees.

Cooper, a retired university professor, scientist and administrator, moved to Washougal in 2016 from California.

For 28 years Cooper worked as a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology and associate dean of mathematical, life and physical sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). He also served as a research scientist for Atlantic Richfield Company Solar and Stanford University, and founded Vanalytics LLC, an enology lab and consulting service.

Cooper, who grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, graduated from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania, with a degree in biology, and from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, with a doctor of philosophy degree (PhD) in biology and biological sciences.

“I’m good with numbers and budgets,” Cooper told the Post-Record in October. “I’m pretty analytical as a scientist and pretty analytical with numbers. I’m a pretty good listener, and I like to get information and data before making decisions.”

Cooper is currently the president of the Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance board, and a member of the Port of Camas-Washougal’s Parkersville National Historic Site advisory committee.

Durgan, lifelong Washougal resident, is “semi-retired” from his career as a union employee, construction superintendent and shop steward.

Durgan, who attended Washougal High School and Clark College, worked for the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers Union at the Crown Zellerbach paper mill in Camas for 10 years, then worked in the scaffold and construction industry for Union 296 in Portland and Union 335 in Vancouver for 32 years.

“I’ve done a lot with estimating numbers, paying contracts, collecting contracts,” Durgan told the Post-Record in October. “I’d really like to get in there and see what there is and what the money’s going to. From what I see, there are small classroom numbers. Those students should be, in my mind, doing really well.”