Three people, including two city council members and the incumbent, Erik Larson, have filed to run for mayor of Aberdeen, setting up what will be a well-watched August primary. The top two from the primary will go on to the general election in November.
Filing for municipal offices opened Monday and runs through Friday. The two challenging Larson so far are Tawni Andrews, the president of the Aberdeen City Council, and Peter Schave, a longtime council member and former council president.
Nearing the end of his first four-year term, Larson said he looks forward to seeing through projects he’s worked on. One of the most notable he said is the North Shore Levee project, which aims to remove thousands of houses from the current FEMA floodplain map, remove the mandatory flood insurance requirement, and help protect the area from major flooding.
Larson said he wants to continue working to find solutions to fight homelessness and drug addiction in the area.
“We must continue to work with our neighbors to address these challenges and create solutions which don’t victimize not only those in need, but also our neighbors and local businesses,” Larson wrote in an email. “I have taken bold actions to begin to address the public safety crisis that this issue presents us.”
Over the past year, Larson has spearheaded an effort to clear the city’s largest homeless encampment along the Chehalis River. He negotiated for the city to buy the property with the intention of moving the homeless people. The issue took a turn recently due to a federal lawsuit, in which a judge said the city and plaintiffs must agree on a solution for where the homeless people go.
In his four years so far, Larson said the local business economy has seen sustained growth each year, and that there’s been increased funding for local projects because of an improved relationship with the state and federal government.
In other areas, Larson said he would “continue to improve and replace our aging infrastructure, replacing our police and fire stations so that they can better serve our community and improve efficiency and safety.”
Schave has served on the council a total of 18 years, and considered running for mayor during the previous election but didn’t. He’s currently retired and said becoming mayor would be a full-time responsibility for him if elected.
Before retirment, Schave worked in the trucking part of the timber industry, hauling logs and building roads. He’s been active on a variety of boards such as the Coastal Community Action Program, the Union Gospel Mission and has been involved with the Aberdeen Museum of History.
In running, Schave said he wants to improve what he sees as low morale of the city staff. He said the city staff’s low morale and low confidence is due to the mayor micromanaging the staff, in Schave’s opinion.
“We have excellent staff, but I don’t think they’re allowed to be utilized to their capacity like they used to be,” he said.
Schave also wants to put more urgency into the construction of a new police department and fire station building, which he said is a desperate need but isn’t moving forward. He said some other projects, like getting a fence around the police department parking lot, have also lagged under Larson.
“Issues like that I don’t think a part-time or quarter-time mayor is keeping on top of,” said Schave, who said he also feels like he could’ve avoided the two recent federal lawsuits raised against the city.
Andrews said she feels it was time for her to step into the role of mayor after three years as council president, and five years total in the council.
If elected, Andrews said she’d like to work on are making council meetings streamed live online, and get the community more involved in city government.
Others ideas Andrews had are regular open office hours for the mayor once a week, having more town hall meetings, and informational sessions to describe how different city departments function, along with regular updates or newsletters from the mayor.
Andrews want to encourage more citizens to attend council meetings, instead of only seeing the same group of people who raise the same issues each time.
“They’re always the ones making comments and feedback, but there are 16,000 other people we don’t hear from,” said Andrews, who sent out a survey on Facebook Sunday about what improvements they’d like in the city.
Andrews is currently a line cook at Ocean Crest Resort in Moclips, and said she would balance both jobs if elected mayor.