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Ann Rivers sets big goals as she transitions from Senate to Longview

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Ann Rivers

Ann Rivers working in her office at Longview City Hall on Monday.

Ann Rivers has been chipping away at the big improvements she wants to see in Longview.

The now former Senator from District 18 has been working as Longview’s Community Development Director for more than a month. Her department covers the city’s building and planning divisions, along with code compliance and pieces of economic development.

Since accepting the city job in early October, Rivers has been shadowing building inspectors and holding unsafe building hearings to get accustomed to the city. She also has fielded multiple calls a week from major business prospects considering coming to Longview.

“Every day, there are two or three little fires that you have to stomp out. But there aren’t so many fires that it keeps you from working on your other goals,” Rivers said.

Rivers was elected to succeed Jaime Herrera Beutler as the District 18 representative when Herrera Beutler ran for Congress in 2010. Rivers moved to the Senate in 2012 when Joe Zarelli retired and was re-elected three times.

John Brickey, the longtime Community Development Director for Longview, retired in January. Brickey was the city’s chief planner for years before becoming the director in 2005.

City manager Kurt Sacha said Rivers’ existing relationships in the state government, and Southwest Washington in particular, had been a major reason the city wanted her for the job. Rivers lived in Longview during the 1990s before moving south to Clark County.

Sacha said the work she’s done over the last month has helped strengthen the local connections.

“She obviously has a keen interest in the city, in helping our economic development, and has been doing a magnificent job in reaching out and making those connections,” Sacha said.

Goals for Longview business and developmentThose years of experience negotiating policy with senators and Gov. Jay Inslee are shaping her search for the city’s next major employer. Rivers said she is trying to learn from the history of fossil fuel projects that were opposed by Inslee or struggled to pass environmental screenings as she works to land other investments.

“Our governor is going to follow his goals when it comes to clean energy,” Rivers said. “It’s not our job to poke at him about that. It’s my job to look for businesses that can get permitted and bring in good-paying jobs, but are also helpful in reaching his objectives.”

Rivers hinted that progress is being made on bringing a new large business to Longview, though no deal is ready to be announced.

The other big-picture project Rivers is pursuing is something she picked up from her work in Clark County. Arguably the area’s biggest business success story in recent years has been Waterfront Vancouver, a long-term project to turn the industrial area around the Grant Street Pier into a massive complex of apartment buildings, hotels, restaurants and scenic outdoor walkways.

The Waterfront overhaul was accomplished with a master development agreement. Master development plans are a private/public partnership where the city spends years working with a single developer to oversee an organized investment in a specific geographic area.

“The city gets together to develop a vision of what they want…all of the specific stores that impact quality of life. They give that to a developer and tell him to come up with a plan,” Rivers said.

Any master development plan for part of Longview still is far from settled. Rivers has been talking to City Council members and the Downtown Advisory Committee about the broad strokes of how an agreement could work and says she hopes to give a more in-depth proposal early next year.

Rivers has said she wants to be actively involved in how the city addresses homelessness. She has supported the recent efforts to clean and organize the Alabama Street campsite and hopes to “move forward as a united front” with the Cowlitz County commissioners on setting up a hosted encampment.

A special meeting for the 18th Legislative District Committee will be held Saturday to evaluate the candidates for replacing Rivers in the Senate. The top three nominees will be evaluated by the county’s Republican Central Committee and the Clark County Council will make the final decision.

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