City council, mayoral candidates sound off at forum

League of Women Voters hosts C-W candidates ahead of Nov. 7 election

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Camas Mayor Steve Hogan (right) and his challenger in the Nov. 7, 2023, general election, Randal Friedman (left) prepare to answer questions during a League of Women Voters candidate forum held Oct. 4, 2023, at the Vancouver Community Library. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

Candidates running for city council and mayoral positions in Camas and Washougal turned out for the League of Women Voters of Clark County’s recent candidate forum, held Wednesday, Oct. 4, held at Vancouver Community Library, to speak to their strengths and comment on issues ranging from the need for more affordable housing and measures to address climate change to land-use planning, crime rates and engaging the public in local government.

Candidates present at the forum included:

  • Camas Mayor Steve Hogan and his challenger, Randal Friedman;
  • Washougal Mayor David Stuebe and his challenger, Gabriel Stone;
  • Camas City Councilwoman Bonnie Carter, who is hoping to retain her Ward 2, Position 1 Council seat, and her challenger, Ry Luikens; and
  • Camas residents Stephen Dabasinskas and John Svilarich, vying for the Camas City Council’s at-large position.

Following are highlights of the two-hour candidate forum, which is available for viewing online at

Camas mayoral candidates address population growth, housing, recreation

Hogan and Friedman spoke about their reasons for running to be Camas’ next mayor before delving into some of the issues that will impact Camasonians today and into the future. 

Hogan, who was a Camas City Council member for 16 years and has been the city’s mayor for the past two years, said he “inherited a big mess” when elected to Camas’ top elected position in 2021, but has managed to guide the city out of that “mess.”

“There were five key leaders of the organization that had left, and that I needed to replace,” Hogan said. “So I stepped up and, after filling positions of city administrator, community development director, information technology director, fire chief and police chief, we are pretty well stabilized. We can now move forward as a unit and perform well, in my opinion.” 

Friedman, who moved to Camas in 2019, after working for 32 years as a military civilian representative to the state of California, said he was running for mayor “to return government to the people of Camas and (take it) away from special interests.” 

“I have the skillset to reach out and listen to … the full spectrum of our community and come up with different solutions than what we seem to be doing,” Friedman said. 

The two candidates agreed that Camas needs more affordable housing. 

“The state of Washington mandates our growth,” Friedman said, adding that he would like to prevent Camas from becoming “a sprawling city that keeps pushing out,” and said he would like to see city officials push developers to include affordable housing provisions when building housing in the city. 

“The North Shore plan we recently completed has no provision for affordable housing,” Friedman said, noting that the Ninebark apartment complex currently being constructed on the Washougal waterfront near the Port of Camas-Washougal headquarters has agreed to make 10% of the units more affordable

“Ninebark got a voluntary 10 percent,” Friedman said. “We missed a great opportunity in North Shore. I will make sure our city doesn’t miss other opportunities.”

Hogan agreed that Camas officials must address “affordable housing and housing affordability.”
Camas’ population growth, Hogan said, has been “driven by the fact that we have a great community where people prefer to live.”
“We are getting more people than other cities relative to our size,” Hogan said. “They want to be in the school district … (so) housing is tight and prices are high.”

Fixes to the lack of affordable housing, Hogan said, will likely need to include a mix of subsidies and government rules. 

When it comes to Camas’ appeal, recreation plays a big part. Asked how they plan to care for Camas’ recreational opportunities, the mayoral candidates had differing views. 

Hogan, who has overseen the creation of the city’s recently released draft Lakes Management Plan, spoke to the city’s work to improve water quality at Lacamas, Round and Fallen Leaf lakes. 

“In 2020, when the first (toxic algal) blooms came on (Lacamas) Lake, we got together as a Council and talked about what we’re supposed to do and who is in charge of it,” Hogan said. The county didn’t want to step up and do something about it. We decided we would step up. (Now), we have a three-year plan detailing problems in the lake. We are now ready to move forward … since we know what the lake problems are and will soon know the (Lacamas) watershed problems. We are going to put together a plan that makes lake water quality better over time.”

Friedman claimed city leaders had not done enough to care for Camas’ lakes. 

“We are not taking proper care of (Lacamas Lake) and we have to take responsibility for our own actions,” Friedman said, adding that, if elected mayor, he would address the issue of the Lacamas Shores biofilter, which some have claimed is contributing to the algae-feeding nutrients in Lacamas Lake, and would move to make sure the City was not using phosphate-based fertilizers. “We need to lead by example. Let’s be better, not worse.” 

The mayoral candidates also addressed how they would promote economic development in Camas. 

“We are too reliant on housing and need to diversify,” Friedman said. “We need to get (the Georgia-Pacific paper mill) cleaned and work with people to make some development (downtown) in the future. We need to look for other types of industries. We don’t have a major hotel in Camas. (People) are staying in Vancouver. We’re losing lodging tax. Yet, in North Shore, you won’t find the word ‘hotel.’ There are a variety of businesses we should be looking at. (But city officials) seem to be intent on building more housing and building it in a sprawling manner.” 

Hogan, who is on the executive committee of the Columbia River Economic Development Council, said the city of Camas’ policy is to keep its industrial and heavy industrial lands available “with no housing on it,” so the city can “attract good family-wage jobs.” 

“We have about 15 major companies that are working in our city and are adding jobs,” said Hogan, whose professional background includes 40 years in senior management for steel, wood and recycled paper manufacturers. “We need to retain them and recruit (other companies). We are recruiting companies currently, but they have not made a decision yet.” 

Council candidates discuss infrastructure needs, fire department financing, social justice

Camas City Council hopefuls also spoke to how they planned to contend with important issues concerning the city’s future. 

Dabasinskas and Svilarich weighed in on the city’s infrastructure needs.

“Infrastructure is probably the number one issue in Camas,” Svilarich, whose elected experience includes being elected chairman of the Camas School Board’s Citizens Advisory Committee and as president of the Deer Creek Homeowners Association, said. “We have two fire stations that don’t meet safety codes and need to be replaced. … we have less-than-ideal working conditions for city staff. … If I’m on Council, I will help prioritize and be definitive in our decisions, instead of saying, ‘Let’s study it some more.’ Every time we wait, it costs us more money down the road.”

Dabasinskas,  whose elected experience includes being elected vice president of the Orange County Narcotics Officers Association in California, said he believes city officials should work to improve infrastructure in the city’s downtown and focus less on the city’s North Shore area north of Lacamas Lake, which recently went through a substantive subarea planning process that changed much of the North Shore’s zoning and implemented unique design standards that future developers will need to follow. 

“We should make sure we have better (infrastructure to meet the needs of current Camas residents and businesses) then worry about building homes on the north side of the lake,” Dabasinskas said. 

The Camas City Council candidates addressed the future of the joint Camas-Washougal Fire Department, which has struggled to afford staffing and infrastructure needs. 

“We entered into this (joint agreement) about 12 years ago and it’s not working out,” Svilarich said. “That’s not a slam on Camas or Washougal, but there are financial challenges for both (cities).

Svilarich said he has tried to keep up with all of the information related to this issue and that “everything seems to point to (forming a regional fire authority) that does require approval of citizens and the voters.” 

Svilarich added that he does not believe Camas should “go alone” when it comes to fire and emergency medical services. 

“Every time Washougal was short, it would cost us more (to respond) than it does now or in an RFA,” Svilarich added. 

Dabasinskas said he would like to see Camas officials “make a decision (on the future of the joint fire department) and not drag this out.”

He added that he believes forming a regional fire authority “would be a good idea,” as long as voters have decided that is something they want. 

The other two Camas City Council candidates present at the forum weighed in on what they see as the city’s transportation-related challenges in the coming years. 

“The maintenance of our existing roads is one of our priorities,” said Bonnie Carter, who has been part of the Camas City Council since 2015, and would be the senior Council member if re-elected in November.

Carter added that the city plans for transportation needs every six years with its Six Year Street Plan. 

“We offer our input as Council on that plan, and we also have to for funding,” Carter said, adding that the city also needs to work with regional partners when it comes to transportation planning and touched on the city’s planning for state Route 500, known as the Everett Street Corridor, which links most of Camas to Camas High School. 

“We need to work on the Everett corridor, as we need to improve transportation to Camas High School,” Carter said. 

Ry Luikens, Carter’s opponent, said he would want to “commit resources to make sure” Camas remains a “car city without getting distracted by public transit.”
“Public transportation is discussed in large cities, but in Camas it paints a different picture,” Luikens said. “We need to make sure our roads are maintained.” 

On the issue of social justice and equity in Camas, Carter said “everyone should feel welcome in Camas,” and spoke to her work on the Council’s subcommittee for equity and inclusion. 

“In 2020, I sat on (that) subcommittee and we held listening posts,” Carter said. “It was hard to listen to some of the stories, but we learned from their answers about how their lives are and how sometimes they feel a little afraid.”

Carter said she and other subcommittee members took what they had learned back to the rest of the Council and that city officials have tried to make some changes to “ensure that we were looking through an equity lens to make sure there are no unintended consequences” in city policy or code.

Luikens said he believes in “ensuring fairness and equality for everyone in this community,” and used the example of a couple who had moved to Camas from the Chicago area to start a new business near Lacamas Lake. 

“They turned (the business) into a reality despite red tape … and filled a hole in this community. They created a safe place for so many others in this community … and now, through progress, they might lose that place,” Luikens said of the owners of Acorn and the Oak, a restaurant/floral shop located in the Everett Street Corridor area where city leaders have started planning efforts designed to make the street safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

Asked about the area’s recreational opportunities, Luikens said Camas was “currently struggling in that regard.” 

Luikens claimed that Lacamas Lake is “struggling with toxic algae” and said he believed the city had “waited too long for a solution and don’t know if it’s too late.” 

Luikens also bemoaned the loss of the city’s outdoor swimming pool, which the city demolished in 2019, following reports that the pool was failing and would cost too much to repair. 

“The pool was a centerpiece of Crown Park,” Luikens said. “Now, we have nothing. Generations of children that have moved here don’t have a place to swim. It’s a mess.”
Carter, however, had another take on the city’s recreational opportunities. 

Camas has an abundance of recreational areas that draw people from all over the area,” Carter said, adding that city staff is currently evaluating Camas’ recreational amenities. 

“They are looking to citizens to see what they want more of — sports fields, a pool — and once we know, we can fill gaps in our system,” Carter said. “But we do need to maintain what we have … and protect it for future citizens of Camas.

Washougal mayor candidates speak out

Stuebe was appointed to the Washougal City Council’s No. 3 position in March 2021, elected to that position and named Mayor Pro-Tem in November 2021, and moved to the No. 1 position after being named Mayor in September 2022, replacing Rochelle Ramos, who moved out of state.

“I’ve been really honored and proud to be the mayor for the last year,” Stuebe said. “There are so many people in Washougal that care, that contribute, that volunteer, and as mayor, I love the fact that I get to empower those people and take away hurdles to let them do great things. There’s hard things (to deal with). I have a lot of sleepless nights on issues. But when I see the people doing good things, and (that) I can help them do better things, I love doing that. I’m very passionate about this and want to continue.”

Stone graduated from Washougal High School in 2019 and attended Clark College. He has “experience with writing,” “talents in the musical arts, “many different fields of study” and “years of working experience,” according to the Clark County voters’ guide. He has also served as a volunteer for Washougal’s Meals on Wheels program.

“I’m a member of Gen Z, 22 years old. Even though I am pretty young for this job, I feel that I am capable,” he said. “I feel that I would be the best candidate because I’m ambitious, I’m able to tackle problems where they’re at, and I’m the only candidate here who’s really proposing change. I believe that we need new solutions, and I believe I’m that candidate. I believe in collaboration, making the community better at large and making it more inclusive, but also being realistic with our goals and making sure that when we hand the keys to newer generations, we really have a future that we can believe in.”

Stuebe listed his top three priorities for the overall improvement of Washougal as building a community “where everybody is respectful of each other”; public safety; and ensuring that residents “are profitable,” “can succeed” and “enjoy living in our city.” 

“Presently, I think (our police department is) adequately funded,” he said. “It’s so important that we take care of them. Coming (from) a military background, (I want to) give everything to our first responders. They walk in harm’s way every day, so we need to make sure we take care of them. That’s one of my priorities.”

Stone said that his top priority as mayor would be addressing Washougal’s infrastructure development, with a focus on roads. 

“The money we got from the Department of Transportation (for a railroad underpass on 32nd Street), I think that’s a step in the right direction for improving lives in Washougal. But I really do believe that it doesn’t need to go towards the underpass,” he said. “It shouldn’t go towards the underpass. I believe, personally, that there’s other more important priorities Washougal should (focus on instead of) the underpass. I think the best way … is to focus the transportation funds on stuff that actually matters, like good roads and maybe a new bridge — other stuff that hasn’t been proposed before, really, that would help the city at large.”

Stuebe talked about the City’s ongoing discussions with the city of Camas to create a new method of providing fire and emergency medical services, which have become strained in the past decade due to population growth, to east Clark County residents. 

“Our fire issue has been very frustrating,” he said. “We need to make a decision on this. I think we had an answer two years ago. We had (a consultant) come in, do a big study. I think we know the answer. We just have to find the equity. My thing is we’re stronger together. I’ve been saying that for more than two years. But we need to make a decision. It’s all about our community, all of our citizens. We’re making decisions (about) the protection of the lives of our citizens. We need to make a decision on this, and we need to come together and find a solution.”

Stone said that he wants to provide a voice for younger people and lower-income residents, and can find solutions to affordable housing issues. 

“It’s very clear to see that people who have been living here for a long time or people who aren’t necessarily struggling have a clear advantage over people who just moved in, or younger generations, people in my generation, who are really looking for answers to how we can tackle this problem of not just wealth inequality, but also access to housing,” he said. 

“I feel that we can solve this issue, and I think the best way we can do it is we can put programs in place and also get feedback from the citizens about what they want. I believe the best way to solve this is (by listening to) not just people who have privilege, but everyone, and make sure we have a compromise so it’s not too much for people who are poor, who are out of the upper income bracket. We have work for all.”

To view the entire League of Women Voters candidate forum featuring Camas-Washougal candidates, visit or go to

Look for more in-depth coverage of the Nov. 7 general election in the Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 issues of The Post-Record, or online at 

Post-Record reporter Doug Flanagan contributed to this article.