Shannon Roberts, a newcomer to local politics, is leading the race for Camas City Council Ward 1, Position 1 over incumbent Deanna Rusch.
With 73 percent of ballots counted on Tuesday, Roberts was beating Rusch 56 to 42 percent, and had captured 2,501 votes to Rusch’s 1,899 votes.
Roberts, a United States Navy veteran and real estate professional with a background in data analysis and project management, said she was holding off on any big celebrations.
“I’m waiting until 4 this afternoon,” Roberts said Wednesday. “I’m always cautious about celebrating too early.”
Roberts said Rusch, who had gained support from a broad range of community groups, including the local firefighters’ union, was “a worthy opponent.”
“She put up a good campaign,” Roberts said of Rusch, a lead attorney for McKean Smith LLC in downtown Vancouver who was appointed the city council nearly two years ago to fill a seat left vacant when former councilman Tim Hazen resigned. “I did have a bit of trepidation (about competing against Rusch) but I’ve been thinking about this for a couple years. It was not an off-the-cuff decision.”
Roberts also said she was saddened to see that voter turnout was only 22 percent as of the first ballot count on Tuesday.
In interviews with the Post-Record, Roberts described herself as fiscally conservative and said that, although she was not opposed to building a community center in Camas, she believed the city leaders should not have been so quick to dismiss efforts to build a joint Camas-Washougal center — and should have presented voters with a less expensive, “phased in” bond measure.
Noting that the vast majority of voters Tuesday had rejected the city’s $78 million community-aquatics center bond proposal, Roberts said she believed people in Camas still wanted to see a pool and “some sort of community center,” but “not at the scale that was proposed.”
Roberts, a 65-year-old native of Tennessee, served as a Navy aviation electronics technician during the Gulf War, and later went on to work for NASA’s Ames Research Center in California and the U.S. government doing communications work in England for more than a decade.
When she returned to the U.S. in 2007, Roberts moved to White Salmon, Washington, in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, to be closer to family. She worked for seven years doing data analysis for Insitu Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing, and later went into the real estate business.
Roberts moved to Camas in 2015, and said the small city reminded her of her hometown in Tennessee.
“I loved the scenery, and the fact that you could walk down the street and people say ‘hi’ to you,” Roberts said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Rusch said she was disappointed by the vote, but that she would still try to serve her community despite not being a member of the city council.
“I’m proud of my accomplishments and I’ve really loved getting to know people I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know without being on council,” Rusch said, citing the hiring of more firefighters and preserving hundreds of acres of land north of Lacamas Lake for natural, open space as two achievements she was most proud of during her time on council.
“I will miss seeing my colleagues … and I will miss the citizen engagement — good, bad and neutral,” Rusch said, adding that she believed the community-aquatics center bond proposal was the one issue that influenced voters weighing her against Roberts.
“If there was anything else I did during my time on council (that voters didn’t like), I certainly didn’t hear about it,” she said.
Other city council incumbents hold on to seats
Most Camas City Council incumbents were running unopposed in Tuesday’s election, but write-in candidates managed to capture more than a few votes.
Bonnie Carter, who has elected to her first term in November 2015 after being appointed in February 2015, held on to her Ward 2, Position 1 seat with 92 percent of the votes.
Ellen Burton, appointed to the council in January 2019, held on to her Ward 3, Position 2 seat with 91 percent of the votes.
Don Chaney, a former Camas police chief who has served on the council since 2008, also retained his Councilor At-Large seat with 95 percent of the votes.
The only council member aside from Rusch who faced an opponent this year was the council’s longest-running member, Greg Anderson.
Anderson, who was appointed to council in February 1997 and has been elected and re-elected with no opposition ever since, had a write-in challenger — Margaret Tweet — this year.
As of Tuesday evening, Anderson was leading Tweet with 72 percent of the votes.