Along with informing local voters about where a number of candidates stood on a variety of issues, last Friday's "candidates' night" offered some surprises, some dramatic moments, and a good bit of levity.
Approximately 75 people showed up for the event at the White Salmon Community Library, with District Court Judge Robert Weisfield -- who is not on the ballot this year -- serving as moderator.
The evening began with statements from all the candidates present, including several who are unopposed on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Those at the meeting who are not facing an election opponent were Josie Salka, who is running for re-election to the White Salmon School Board; Don Schaack, running for re-election to the board of Hospital District No. 2; and Francis Gaddis, who is seeking re-election to the White Salmon City Council.
Gaddis pointed out that he moved to White Salmon in 1967, and has been in city government almost ever since.
"With the exception of about six years, I've served on the City Council or served as mayor," Gaddis said.
There is one contested seat on the White Salmon City Council, and the incumbent council member, Tim Stone, and his opponent, Richard Marx, were there to ask for support from the voters.
Marx, who owns a local construction company, said he has lived in White Salmon his entire life.
"I'm here to stay and want to get involved," Marx said.
Stone, a school counselor at a Carson school, said he has focused on improvements that affect the safety of the citizens, as well as better health care.
"I want to serve the citizens and bring the community together," Stone said. "I'm a write-in candidate. My name is easy to spell, and it's a lot more fun than filling in that oval."
The marquee matchup for the evening was the White Salmon mayor's race between two-term incumbent Roger Holen, who owns the Inn of the White Salmon, and challenger Linda Jones, owner of two downtown businesses.
In her opening statement, Jones said keeping White Salmon a beautiful, affordable and thriving community was her motivation for seeking the mayor's office.
"Those things cannot be accomplished if there is not input from citizens," Jones said. "My slogan is, `voice of the people,' and I'm always encouraging open dialogue among citizens, businesses, and city government. I'll be open to your suggestions. I want to be your mayor, your voice, and be your spokesperson."
As part of his opening presentation, Holen displayed a box full of a variety of city planning documents to help make his case that White Salmon is on the right track and operating efficiently.
Holen added that he had heard a rumor that $250,000 was missing from "the city coffers."
"It's not true, and I don't like those kind of rumors," Holen said.
In response to a question about what the candidates would do to deal with sexual abuse and domestic violence in the community, Jones made a dramatic revelation.
"I was a victim of domestic violence as a child and as an adult," Jones said. "Not just a mild case, but extreme. I'm in total support of anything we can do to help, and we can never do enough."
Holen said he saw the issue as a critical one facing the city.
"One of the big surprises when I became mayor was the amount of sexual assault and domestic violence that goes on in White Salmon," Holen said. "We now have a full-time detective, and the vast majority of his time goes to handling sex abuse and domestic violence. And I closely work with the Klickitat-Skamania Development Council to help mitigate those problems."
Weisfield interjected that in his role as a district court judge, he also has seen many cases related to these particular crimes.
"As an aside, domestic violence is the most prevalent crime we handle in District Court," Weisfield said. "Not a weekend goes by that there are not one or two cases of domestic violence."
During the question period, citizens in the audience asked the mayoral candidates about the city's current 7.5 percent sales tax rate, and both expressed the belief that the extra one-half percent on top of the state's basic 7.0 percent rate was necessary.
"The reasons it's being continued is because there is a revenue shortfall that continues. We've got to get revenue from somewhere," Holen explained.
"I'm not in favor of it, but I see reasons to continue it for another year," Jones said. "But we need to pursue annexation [as an alternative source of revenue] as soon as possible."
All three White Salmon City Council candidates attending also expressed acceptance of the tax.
Francis Gaddis, who is unopposed for re-election to his position, pointed out that he has a record of fighting taxes.
"Going back a number of years, I've fought to keep taxes down," Gaddis explained. "But this [sales tax] is very necessary. We need revenue. But hopefully in another year we can repeal that."
Another question concerned whether the candidates foresaw any reason they would not be able to complete a full four-year term if elected.
"There is no reason that I would not be able to fill the term," Jones said.
Holen brought laughs with his response.
"If I drop dead, I won't be able to," he said. "But I've only had one heart attack. Vice President Cheney has had several."
Other questions directed at the two mayoral candidates concerned each candidate's experience with municipal budgets, their views about the annexation process, and what the respective candidates would most like to accomplish while in office.
On the latter question, Jones said she wanted to find ways to generate more community involvement. She noted that there was a large crowd for the candidates' forum, and invited those in attendance to also sit in on the twice-monthly council meetings.
"If we could see this many people at City Council meetings, it would be awesome. It helps create a healthy community, and it's what we need," Jones said.
Holen said one important issue he wants to deal with soon is stormwater runoff.
"We need large catch basins to hold the water so it does not just go over the bluff onto Bingen," Holen said.
Council candidate Marx said he wanted to see that there was more to do for young people in the community. He also said annexation and the city budget were areas he wanted to concentrate on.
Stone said he wanted to continue working on reducing the amount of out-of-state truck traffic using State Route 14, and to continue efforts to see that an animal control facility was built. He also said he wanted to see more soccer fields for kids, and more focus on health issues that affect kids.
"Things that affect the quality of life in White Salmon are things I'm most interested in," Stone explained.
Gaddis said he too would like to see more attendance at council meetings, and drew a laugh when he pointed out the type of issue that usually brings a crowd.
"In the past, the only time we had good attendance is when the council considers whether to close Dock Grade Road or make it one way either going up or going down," he said.
One woman questioned candidate Jones as to why she should get votes over the current mayor.
"I come with new creative ideas," she said. "Change is great, and change is needed. If we don't change, then we lose."
In his response, Holen said he was proud to stand on his record.
"You've seen what's happened over the last eight years. If you like it, vote for me. If you don't, don't vote for me," he said.