Washougal ballots packed with races

City council, mayor, school board and port seats up for grabs

Washougal mayoral candidate Rochelle Ramos

Larry Keister

Jeramy Wilcox

Washougal voters will help decide the future of the Port of Camas-Washougal Board of Commissioners, the Washougal City Council and the Washougal School Board in the Nov. 2 General and Special Election.

Ballots went out to voters in mid-October, and must be mailed by Election Day, delivered to the Clark County Elections Office, 1408 Franklin St., Vancouver, by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2 (Election Day) or dropped into one off the 22 red, permanent ballot drop boxes throughout the county by 8 p.m. Nov. 2.

People who wish to register to vote and receive a ballot must register in-person at the county elections office in Vancouver, also by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

For more information, or to review the online Voters Pamphlet, visit clark.wa.gov/elections/november-2-2021-general-special-election.

Following is information about the candidates Washougal voters will see on their Nov. 2 General and Special Election ballots:

Port of Camas-Washougal Board of Commissioners, No. 3 

Port of Camas-Washougal commission president Larry Keister and former Port employee Jeramy Wilcox are vying for the Port’s No. 3 commissioner position.

Keister has served as a Port commissioner since 2017.

“Our Port is doing well, making great progress on some important projects and building a foundation for a thriving future. I’m running for reelection to keep this critical momentum going,” Keister told the Post-Record. “More broadly, I’m running because the work of the Port is so important to our community. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while serving as a Port commissioner for the past five years, it’s that few people understand the importance of Port commissioners.”

Keister studied at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and served in the United States Marine Corps. He is retired from his job as a water quality technician at the Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center.

He is a member of the Columbia River Economic Development Committee board of Directors and the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council. He is also involved with the Camas-Washougal Rotary Club and the Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce.

He said the Port will be challenged in the short term to acquire funding for six additional lots at the east end of the Steigerwald Industrial Park and in the long term to acquire land for future growth. Keister, a member of the state Department of Ecology’s Georgia Pacific mill site cleanup planning committee, believes that “when and if (the Camas) property becomes available, the Port (will be) interested in helping with any environmental cleanup and to assure that the redevelopment zoning would benefit downtown Camas and our community.”

“Our Port has many important projects underway, from the waterfront development to the expansion of the industrial park, and with my experience, relationships, and leadership (abilities), I can help these be completed successfully,” he said. “I’ve proven myself as a trusted leader, I can help keep us on track to achieve our strategic goals, and I’m eager to continue serving.”

Wilcox graduated from Washougal High School in 1996 and served in the United States Navy from 1998 to 2002. He worked as a maintenance lead, project manager and facilities manager for the Port from 2008 to 2019.

Wilcox and his wife currently Marcie own and operate two Camas businesses — Cedar Street Bagels and Squeeze and Grind. He didn’t respond to an email from the Post-Record seeking comment, but he wrote in the 2021 Clark County general election voters’ pamphlet that he “will be transparent in the stewardship of public funds and ensure constituents are well informed during projects, including the waterfront development, Steigerwald Commerce Center (development) and levy realignment” if elected to the position.

“It’s extremely important we provide Port staff with the necessary support and resources to accomplish the tasks the commission sets upon them,” he wrote. “It is my duty as Port commissioner to listen to the people and ask pertinent questions before making decisions on their behalf. My vision encompasses preserving the small-town feel of the Camas-Washougal community while supporting responsible growth and development.”

Washougal City Council No. 1 (Washougal mayor)

Longtime community volunteer and current city of Washougal parks board member Rochelle Ramos is running for the city’s No. 1 council (mayor) position.

Ramos works as a human resources director with PLEXSYS Interface Products, a Camas-based software company, and co-owns the Washougal-based, nonprofit Lunchmoney Indoor Skatepark. She has served on the Washougal Parks Board of Commissioners since 2018.

Derik Ford, who defeated current council member Paul Greenlee in August’s primary election for the right to challenge Ramos in November, suspended his campaign in September, and died on Sept. 25. Ford’s name will still appear on voters’ ballots in the Nov. 2 election due to the fact that ballots had already been mailed to overseas and military voters before Ford suspended his campaign.

Washougal City Council, No. 5

Molly Coston, the city of Washougal’s mayor, and Chris DeLaRocha, a defense instructor and former professional mixed martial arts fighter, are competing for the city’s No. 5 council position.

Coston served as a council member from 2005-11 before being elected as council chair in 2017.

“I have developed strong positive relationships with leaders within our community, as well as leaders throughout Clark County. I want to continue to build on those relationships to benefit all the citizens in Washougal,” she told the Post-Record. “I have a depth of experience and knowledge based on my many years as a Washougal council member, as well as serving for the last four years as mayor. Our Washougal community is on the cusp of greater vitality; as a council member, I will take an active role in moving us forward. I love Washougal and want to continue to protect the qualities that we cherish, enhance small business development, and serve our citizens with integrity.”

Coston is a member of the C-TRAN board of directors, Camas-Washougal Rotary Club, League of Women Voters of Clark County, Columbia Gorge Refuge Stewards board of directors, and Washougal School District political action committee, and formerly chaired the Southwest Regional Transportation Council. She has a bachelor’s of science degree in biology and organic chemistry from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.

“I will provide solid leadership, and I have gained much public respect for my high ethical standards and positive focus for Washougal,” she said. “I have very strong positive relationships with the Washougal School District, City of Camas, and the Port of Camas-Washougal, as well as many service organizations and nonprofits, which is essential to build a strong positive community.”

The city’s biggest challenges include finding a “a fair, equitable, and financially responsible solution for fire and EMS services,” homelessness and social media misinformation, according to Coston.

“Public safety is my No. 1 priority, and we must continue to provide a high level of service in this area. We are on the verge of finding viable options, and I want to continue to assist in finding a solution,” she said. “Homelessness is an issue that citizens bring up to me frequently; I agree that we do not want to look like Portland or Seattle. However, most of the homeless I see in our community are not coming from outside the community, but have family or historical ties to Washougal. Our police are aware of this issue and deal with those that are a threat to the public; I am told that the number of those homeless have not increased. And I will continue to provide accurate and true information to combat (the current) avalanche of misinformation.”

DeLaRocha owns and operates the Forge Combat Academy in Camas and provides self-defense seminars to Clark County Sheriff’s defensive tactics instructors and the Washington State School for the Blind. He is also known for his tenure as a mixed martial artist fighter; he competed in eight professional matches from 2013-18.

Previously, he served as a correctional officer at the Washington State Department of Corrections’ Larch Correctional Facility for 10 years.

DeLaRocha graduated from Oak Grove High School in San Jose, California, and attended San Jose City College, West Valley College in Saratoga, California, and Clark College. He didn’t return an email from the Post-Record seeking comment, but wrote in the voters’ pamphlet that he would focus on business development and public safety if elected to the position.

“While Portland mistreats its businesses, Washougal has a golden opportunity to attract those companies here, providing good jobs for our citizens so they can work where they live for improved quality of life,” he wrote. “This will be my focus, along with prioritized budgeting to keep citizens safe. We must solve homelessness on our streets. Let’s call it what it is — a 90 percent drug/alcohol addiction crisis. On my watch, Washougal won’t become a haven for illegal encampments like Portland and Seattle. Some candidates want to use tax dollars to build tiny houses. This only makes matters worse. With my professional experience, we’ll get folks off the street to lead more productive lives. I’ll provide common sense leadership for a better Washougal for everyone.”

Washougal School Board, District 3

Sadie McKenzie, a stay-at-home mother and school volunteer, is challenging incumbent Donna Sinclair for the Washougal School District’s No. 3 director position.

Sinclair, a board member since 2017, is a history professor at Washington State University-Vancouver (WSU-V) and Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon.

“I am running for a second term on the school board because I am passionate about public education,” she told the Post-Record. “I know how important public schools are because of my own background. I attended 12 different schools and was a first-generation college student at Clark College, Washington State University and Portland State University. I earned degrees while working and as a single parent of three, educational and personal experiences that prepared me to serve my community and on Washougal’s school board. I have advocated for students on multiple levels, from the legislature to special education, and I’m not done yet.”

Sinclair has written for the National Park Service, ran the Oregon Historical Society Oral History Program, managed major oral history projects throughout the Pacific Northwest and presented dozens of community-based and academic oral history workshops.

She has also curated exhibits for the Clark County Historical Museum and co-authored the memoir “Black Woman in Green: Gloria Brown and the Unmarked Trail to Forest Service Leadership.” She has a bachelor of science degree in social sciences from WSU-V; a master’s degree in history from Portland State University (PSU); and a doctor of philosophy degree in urban studies from PSU.

“I ran for the board in 2017 because I had to go outside the system at significant cost to identify my grandchild’s dyslexia,” she said. “Not everyone has that option, and a child’s success in life should not depend on whether they have enough money to learn to read well or take the right test. That is why I am committed to educational equity. I have the passion, background, and experience to navigate the system and advocate for every single child in our district, including theirs.

“I am a mother, a grandmother, an educator, and an active board member who takes this fully volunteer position seriously. I believe strongly in public service and honest civil discussion as the key to our democratic society. I am best equipped to guide our schools further into the 21st century because of my leadership experience, knowledge and understanding of history and governance, and because I am a hard worker who does her homework.”

Sinclair said that “keeping kids in school five days a week and maintaining focus on their success should be our top priority as a district and a community,” work that entails “protecting students, staff, and community health through safety measures and protocols, despite the discomfort, as well as ensuring students receive much needed academic and mental health supports.”

McKenzie serves as the board secretary for Columbia River Gorge Elementary School and board member for East County Little League. Previously she worked as a dental assistant executive secretary. She graduated from Concorde Career College in Portland with accreditation from the American Dental Association.

McKenzie didn’t return an email from the Post-Record seeking comment. She wrote in the voters’ pamphlet that she’s running for the position “to improve student outcomes and provide better communication between the district and families.”

“I’ll make certain that parents’ voices are heard and that our rights as parents are never overlooked, ensuring they know when school board meetings are scheduled and what’s on the agenda,” she wrote. “Ever since the pandemic started, impactful decisions were made behind closed doors without parental input; that’s wrong. Parents deserve to be heard with a seat at the table. … As responsible citizens and parents, we must remove politics from our classrooms. Schools must get back to basics — teaching kids how to think, not what to think, so they have a great start at succeeding in life.”

Washougal School Board, District 5

Janice D’Aloia, the owner of a health coaching practice, is challenging incumbent Chuck Carpenter for his Washougal School District No. 5 board position.

Washougal School Board members appointed Carpenter to the board in 2020. He is retired from his work as a school superintendent, principal, and human resources director, corporate executive, and attorney.

“I am running for the same reason I volunteer at Hathaway Elementary School every day — I believe in each of us doing what we can to help today’s children grow up to be happy and successful,” he said. “I also enjoy working with such an outstanding board and administration.”

He has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Washington, a master’s degree from Seattle University and a juris doctor degree from Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland. He is a member of the Washougal Business Association, Washougal Arts and Culture Alliance, and Columbia River Arts and Culture Foundation.

Carpenter approves of the district’s COVID-19 safety mandates and equity policy, two topics that have elicited strong pushback from some local residents. He also said the district must work to address its declining enrollment, “which could lead to loss of funding and curtailment of programs or loss of staff.”

“As one-fifth of the group that establishes policy for the Washougal School District, I will continue to be as objective, non-partisan and responsive as possible,” he said. “I will continue to support our excellent staff, and listen to and represent our community to the best of my ability.”

D’Aloia owns and operates Health, Well Run, a health coaching practice, and serves as the executive director of Oracle Human Capital Management Users Group, a nonprofit organization that offers training sessions for Oracle products. She previously provided consulting and professional services for multiple corporations.

She graduated from California State University in Northridge, California, with a bachelor of science degree in economics.

She has served as a board member for the Gauge Elementary Boosters and classroom volunteer at Gause Elementary School and Cape Horn-Skye Elementary Schools.

D’Aloia didn’t respond to an email from the Post-Record seeking comment. She wrote in the voters’ pamphlet that she’s running for the position “to make a difference for (the) kids.”

“I have a great deal of passion and motivation to create an effective and positive learning environment for all our students. It’s critical that a plan be put in place to close the gap in education that was created when our schools were closed,” she wrote. “If we continue the current path, many of our children will continue to struggle and be left behind. Priority must be placed on providing an exceptional education for students of all levels and capabilities from high achievers to those who have special needs rather than on including controversial critical race theory or political subject matter.”