Incumbent Kalama City Councilman Don Purvis will face off this election against a challenger who hadn’t been to a Council meeting in at least five years until Wednesday.
From Purvis’ perspective, that’s to his advantage. But his challenger, Rosemary Siipola, isn’t worried because she has lived in Kalama for 30 years, knows several of the current Council members personally and has worked with other city councils before.
“I’ve been to millions of council meetings all of the over the state,” she said. “I’ve been to enough councils that I know the drill.”
Siipola and Purvis have both been active volunteers in Kalama for several years. They both want to get people more involved in city politics, develop downtown and support raising water and sewer rates, though the candidates differ on how they would achieve those goals.
Siipola said now that she’s retired from full-time work and her youngest child is growing up, she has time to be on the City Council.
“I think being involved here — I spent half my life here,” she said. “This is my hometown. I’d like to start giving back.”
Both candidates said their work to beautify downtown Kalama in 2008 was among their proudest accomplishments in their service to the city. Siipola helped to put in trees downtown as a member of philanthropic group Envision Kalama, and Purvis helped on the same project (as a former member of Envision Kalama) and helped oversee the street improvements, new lighting and pumps and dike system the city recently put in.
To develop downtown economically, Purvis said he wants to hire a consultant to meet with residents and businesses before moving forward￼ with development and wants to look into incentives like small business loans.
“I think we’re going to have to offer more incentives,” he said. “We’ve asked this question (of what businesses and residents want) multiple times, and we’re not getting the answers we need, and I think an outside source could provide it.”
Siipola said she would make sure downtown areas were properly zoned and building conditions known, but felt that the Port of Kalama and the city already do a good job of advertising the town.
“It’s basically a good solid place to live that’s attractive. That has good traffic. That’s located where people can see it. That has a good school system,” Siipola said. “It’s incumbent upon the city to know the history of every building so you can really speak to the value of the building.”
Both candidates sympathized with the city’s need to increase water and sewer rates to make up for the lack of increases during the recession and to help pay off debt on the water and sewer treatment plants that came online in the past 13 years.
After Wednesday’s meeting, Siipola said still wasn’t sure how she would vote. Purvis said he would vote for a hybrid rate schedule that raises both consumption and base fees for water and base fees for sewer.
“I don’t think we’re taking in the possibility of economic growth,” he added. “We always have the opportunity to change (rates).”
Purvis said he already encourages people to come to City Council meetings by speaking regularly with community members in his volunteer and civic roles.
Siipola said she would encourage people to get involved by pushing the Council to use more social media and said continuing to develop recreational opportunities would itself encourage more people to be involved with city politics.
“It’s gonna help them be more in tune with what the Council is doing and more involved with the direction the city is going in,” Siipola said. “It would help the city clarify what is the most important thing we should be doing.”