Metropolitan Park District

Karen Skiles

In this issue, The Enterprise is introducing voters of the proposed White Salmon Valley Pool Metropolitan Park District to the candidates running for non-partisan Pool District Board of Commissioners Positions 2, 4, and 5.

Catherine Loke, of White Salmon, is running unopposed for Commissioner Position 2. The other four Board positions are all being contested.

For example, the Position 4 candidates are Michael Oldfather, a resident of the unincorporated area outside White Salmon, and Troy Witherrite, of White Salmon. (Mr. Witherrite did not respond to our requests for answers to our questions.)

Voters’ choices for Commissioner Position 5 are White Salmon residents Karen Skiles and Jan Brending.

For more information about the candidates than can be gleaned from these interviews, visit the Klickitat County Elections webpage,, where you will find statements and photos.

Following are our questions (same as last week’s) and candidates’ responses, which are sure to be different from those given by Position 1 and Position 3 candidates.

Biographical information about you (profession, hobbies, interests)

Catherine Loke: I work as a professional instructor for a local company. I enjoy whitewater kayaking and spending time with my family engaging in all the outdoor activities the Gorge offers.

Karen Skiles: I am retired after 35 years with The Dalles Public Works Department, managing regulatory compliance, safety, public information, and budget preparation and oversight. I love our vibrant White Salmon community and have been active in local events, currently holding a Community Partners board member position. A six-year member of WS Pool Committee, I served as Chair during the 2015 public outreach.

Jan Brending: I’ve lived in White Salmon for over 30 years. My husband and I raised two daughters here, both have lifeguarded at the pool in the past. I am currently the Clerk/Treasurer for White Salmon and previously served as City Administrator for Bingen. I serve as the Treasurer for Grace Baptist Church. I am a Mid-Columbia Economic Development District board member.

Michael Oldfather: I am a database designer/consultant. I have degrees in Computer Science and Astronomy. My primary hobby/-interest outside of work, when I can, is playing poker. It is a very intellectually stimulating game, both logically and psychologically.

Why are you running for the MPD Board?

Catherine Loke: As a mother with a young child I'm interested in helping build a pool for the young and young at heart in our community. I'm new to the pool planning group and therefore can offer new ideas and opportunities for fresh discussion.

Karen Skiles: I have seen firsthand the benefits of an easily accessible pool for adult fitness and safe recreation for children. My strengths include: understanding of the pool effort due to close involvement since 2012, experience with municipal budgets, and skills in public information. I will work to assure efficient use of the district’s funding.

Jan Brending: I am running for the position of Park commissioner because I have a great desire to see a new community pool built by 2020. I am also running because I feel my background in government will be an asset to the district. There will be a lot of legal and regulatory things the district will need to do beginning in January to get the district up and running. I believe my knowledge and skills will assist the district in moving forward. I am the only candidate with Washing-ton State government experience.

Michael Oldfather: Two reasons primarily: I have the skill to take in much data, opinions, and other info; weight the various inputs on validity/importance and come to an optimal solution for all. I would like to use this skill to the community’s advantage. Also planning on running for higher-level county or state offices in the future, so I need experience.

What kind of pool project should an MPD Board put forward to MPD voters, should the MPD get formed and funded?

Catherine Loke: My vision is to build a pool that meets the needs of the community. A pool that offers both child and adult swim lessons, lap swimming, therapy/rehab, and kayak roll sessions. I believe we can put forth a baseline plan that has opportunities for growth (possibly covered, year-round) in the future. Yes, the MPD should get formed and funded! The current pool will close in 2021.

Karen Skiles: An affordable pool facility with stable operational funding. In tune with public input, I support a basic 6-lane pool and a zero-entry, warmer pool for lessons and therapy. Initial work should accommodate covering the pool in the future, if and when community support and funding allow.

Jan Brending: The district should put forward a design for a summer pool that could be expanded into a year-round pool at a later date, when and if funds become available. It is important to make sure the children and citizens of the area have the continuation of a current service.

Michael Oldfather: The plan should accommodate as many requests as possible, while still being cost effective. This is a hard balance to find and will require some compromises. My priorities would be kid friendly yet still having the ability to swim laps and physical therapy activities. Yes, the MPD should be formed and funded; many do not realize that if the levy is not passed we will not only not have a new pool but will lose our current pool by 2021.

Do you have a vision for how the MPD would pay for a new pool?

Catherine Loke: Private and company donations, grants, and if needed levy/bond measure.

Karen Skiles: 1) Approach business and individual donors in a professional manner with a well-developed plan; 2) Assign a team to aggressively pursue grants; 3) Evaluate MPD reserve funds for use toward the construction project, and 4) Request issuance of a bond to close the gap between construction cost and resources.

Jan Brending: Some donations have been earmarked for the pool. It is possible to do some additional fundraising. However, it is likely that a bond levy may be required. It is possible that once the district is created that a portion of the proposed levy of $0.25 per $1,000 could be used towards the repayment of a construction bond. The cost of the pool is important and the design should take this into consideration.

Michael Oldfather: There are already several high-dollar donors, but much more is needed. If this measure is passed I believe it could open the door to more funding sources, maybe a large corporate sponsor or grants. An absolute last resort would be a bond. However, it would also be a mistake to cut costs too much, not giving the community a good product.

Do you feel the MPD should be wedded to the City-owned block just east of Whitson ES as the preferred site?

Catherine Loke: No. I'm open to hearing all options and weighing pros and cons.

Karen Skiles: Although more than $250,000 of city funds and three years of effort have been invested in studies of a pool on that particular site, by definition, the MPD will not be obligated to pursue that location. However, of high importance is assuring continued support of our $500,000 donor and avoiding further delays in getting the project done.

Jan Brending: I feel a lot of work — time, money, and citizen input — has been provided. However, I would only be one of five commissioners and those are things that have to be discussed and acted on by the entire board. My hope is the board will not reinvent the wheel and use the products that have already been developed and land that has been identified as viable for a pool. It is in a great location central to many other services.

Michael Oldfather: I am open to any idea, however, much of the planning work has already been done for this site and would not want to waste that. However, the overall goal is to find the most optimal solution for the community as a whole. If a different location can yield a more ideal plan, then that should be looked at.

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