Mayoral Candidates

Douglas Charters, left, and Marla Keethler.

White Salmon voters will be electing a new mayor this Nov. 5 to succeed retiring Mayor David Poucher, who is in the final months of his third 4-year term.
 
The candidates to replace Poucher are first-term City Councilor Marla Keethler and lifelong Gorge-area resident Douglas Charters.
 
Voters here elected Keethler, 39, to the City Council in 2017. She moved here that year from New York, where she worked in broadcast television, but is a native of Washington. The award-winning producer-director has nearly 20 years of experience in communications and project management.

Charters, 59, works for SDS Lumber Company. He is a first-time candidate for City office but not new to local politics: he ran for Klickitat County Sheriff in 2018 on a citizen sheriff platform.
 
Why did you decide, what prompted you, to run for Mayor of White Salmon?
Marla Keethler: I decided to run for Mayor as a result of serving on city council. Seeing the role and function up close, and the opportunity therein to create change that benefits our residents, motivated me to move from setting policy to implementing policy. I take pride in public service and have found the work to not only be fulfilling but also a good fit for my strengths and capabilities.
 
Doug Charters: I have concerns for the future of Rheingarten Park that is leased from the School District. After Hood River is looking at selling a park, maybe the City should look into purchasing the park.
I also have concerns about the planned roundabout at Jewett and Garfield. I don’t think this is a good location for a roundabout. A better location, if there’s to be one, would be on East Jewett at the turnoff to Skyline Hospital.
 
How would an administration under your leadership be different from the one the City has had the last 12 years?
 
Charters: We should have quarterly town hall meetings to better the City’s understanding of the community’s needs.
 
Keethler: This year the office of Mayor will be a fresh start, so there will naturally be the opportunity for a reset of focus and priorities. With a broad background in project management and meeting high-profile deadlines, I believe I can bring focus to City priorities and projects that require sustained oversight, while also encouraging broader community engagement and outreach.
I would start my administration with a reset on overall expectations and priorities, and I would also prioritize better communication about the work the City is doing to increase awareness for how tax dollars are being used.
 
What are the City’s most pressing issues and what are your ideas for addressing them?

Charters: If a new elementary school is built, the City should look at purchasing the old building for a community center and a home for a new swimming pool.

Keethler: 1. Intentional Development: As part of the Comprehensive Plan, we need to align our City codes to allow the type of commercial and residential development that contributes to and enhances our existing town, while discouraging projects that threaten to change the character and feel of our city. 
2. Housing: We need to increase our involvement in county and community led efforts, engage more with local stakeholders, and revisit City codes on zoning and development. 
3. Infrastructure: Get out in front of funding opportunities to improve our water delivery systems, realize green and renewable energy opportunities, and speed up much needed street improvements. 
4. Community Development: We have a civically engaged community that has ex-pressed a desire for more resources, chief among them a Com-munity and Youth Center, along with improved park and recreational facilities.
 
What do you hope will come out of the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning update now before the Planning Commission?

Keethler: I hope the current plan and zoning update results in a clear path forward in planning for our town that reflects the intent of the residents. This will mean a well-articulated vision backed up not only by codes that reinforce those ideas, but also ones that anticipate future hurdles and are proactive in stopping undesired development before it starts.

Charters: A better revenue stream for the City.
 
Do you envision a more vigorous partnership with Klickitat County departments when it comes to land use planning in the City’s urban area?

Charters: It is always good when departments work together on a project.

Keethler: Yes. This is an issue that has already been raised in joint sessions between the Council and the Planning Commission as it relates to the Comprehensive Plan Update. Having better coordination regarding street development and zoning specifically will benefit residents and both entities. One of our greatest responsibilities as elected officials is the planning of land use, and we need to be mindful that development in the urban growth area is finite, and land within those boundaries needs to sustain both current and future residents.
 
Does the City have the re-sources to meet the demands for City services and improvements that will come with annexation? If not, what ideas do you have for increasing revenues to help pay for services and improvements?

Keethler: The demands for City services and improvements do not only result from annexation. As our urban growth area becomes more fully developed, I think the city needs to evaluate if it makes sense for those areas that more or less function as parts of the city to be contributing more fully to City services. Right now residents in the urban area pay approximately 28% of their property taxes to support the county roads and county budget, yet the community and services they frequent are within White Salmon. This is also an area where better coordination with the County benefits us financially. If our street and infrastructure standards are better synchronized in the urban growth area, the City would inherit right-sized infrastructure when those developments are part of annexations.

Charters: There will be growing pains, as in any expansion. A good light industrial area could improve revenue.

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