Despite losing the primary election last week, Jon Stanfill will join the Kalama City Council after members appointed him to a vacant seat Monday.
The council swore in Stanfill, 37, to position 1 after choosing him unanimously. The only other applicant for the seat was Wendy Conradi, 48, who is running for position 3 in the general election.
This appointment, along with the results of the primary election, mean the five-member council will have four new members in January. Stanfill will start on the council immediately.
“I’m excited to serve,” he said following his appointment. “I’ve been putting a lot of hard work in getting ready. ... I think I have something to contribute.”
Mike Truesdell resigned from position 1 on May 16 after 10 years on the council, citing constraints to work and family. His resignation was after the cutoff for the position to appear on the 2019 ballot.
The council spent 40 minutes Monday interviewing Stanfill and Conradi, asking them five questions, starting with why they want to be on the council and what their qualifications are.
Stanfill, a University of Portland theology professor, said although he and his wife moved to Kalama just three years ago, he grew up visiting the town and it is a special place for him.
He said he always wanted to serve his community but never had the opportunity while he was a graduate student. Over the past couple months, Stanfill said he’s been attending council and Port of Kalama meetings as well as researching council agenda items.
“I applied for this position because I’m well prepared to roll up my sleeves and serve as a council member,” he said.
His experience as a teacher and a researcher give him the communication, research and listening skills to be a council member, Stanfill said.
Conradi, a nurse at St. John Medical Center, said her role as a supervisor has given her communication and organizational skills, as well as experience with responsibility. She said she is good at checking with resources and weighing the pros and cons of decisions.
“I care about Kalama. I was born and raised here and care about the future,” she said. “This is a great place to live, and I want to see that continue. I don’t want somebody who complains without being involved.”
To a question likely generated from the police station debate, Stanfill said he would handle making an unpopular but necessary decision by allowing those opposing it to be heard.
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“I like to think it’s one of the council’s jobs to represent and serve the citizens of Kalama, which sounds nice and simple but it’s not,” he said. “We’re a town of people with different perspectives, which means there is going to be different opinions of what is the best course of action.”
However, he said ultimately the council’s job is to make decisions for the betterment of the whole community even if there is a vocal group against it.
Conradi agreed that communication and listening to everyone’s opinion is crucial in decision making, but said that “in an elected position, you represent the people and need to listen to those people and make decisions based off of that.”
Addressing the city’s greatest opportunities and challenges, Stanfill said there is a “breakdown” in communicating information about the council’s decisions to residents who don’t attend meetings. To help this, Stanfill proposed that council members hold informal meetings individually or in pairs to talk about the council’s decisions and hear ideas and concerns from residents. The council and city can also improve its social media presence, he said.
Kalama’s location provides an opportunity for the city as an intersection of rail, road and water, Stanfill said. The city has room to grow economically and should collaborate with other entities to offer resources to citizens to foster that growth, he said. One example would be creating a small business resource center in the library, Stanfill said.
The city needs to have a good relationship with other cities and local entities to best use shared resources, he said.
Stanfill said he’s served the community in an unofficial capacity by listening to residents while campaigning for the council and attending events.
“One of the things I learned, is those who think the council can do so much don’t realize how little it can do, and those who think it can’t do much don’t realize how much it can do,” he said.
Conradi said she likes the friendliness of Kalama and the small town atmosphere, but the city has room to grow and improve.
“It’s a great little town. I think all of us recognize that,” she said. “I want to be a part of its development.”
Council members deliberated for about 10 minutes in executive session before returning to the meeting and voting to appoint Stanfill. He will hold the position until the term expires in 2021.
Conradi and Stanfill both ran in the primary election for council position 3, held by Mike Dennis-Langham, who decided not to seek re-election. Conradi won the primary with 42% of the vote and Sara Hutchinson came in second with 30.4%. Stanfill got 27.5% and won’t be moving on to the general.