Longview City Council incumbent Scott Vydra says the main difference between himself and his challenger, Hillary Strobel, is that he is an “action guy” — a realist — whereas Strobel is a “storyteller.”
Strobel, in response, said she has a long background in policy solutions working for public and private organizations.
“Being a storyteller is something that I’m super proud of, because it allows me to have a huge amount of empathy for other people,” Strobel said during a recent joint interview with The Daily News editorial board. She listens to other people’s stories and then tries to find ways to help them, she said.
Her repeated theme was finding creative solutions to infrastructure, economic development and social issues. And those short-term decisions should fit into a long-term vision, she said.
Vydra responded that the council’s job is providing core functions of streets, roads, water, police and fire. The city provides the infrastructure that allows residents and businesses to succeed.
“There’s a disconnect between reality and the story we can tell about Longview,” Vydra said of Strobel’s comments.
The pair previously faced each other during the August primary during which Strobel captured about 42% of the ballots and Vydra tallied about 36%. Third candidate Erik Halvorson won about 22% and was eliminated.
Vydra, who moved to Longview in 2004, has said he has a longer history in the community than Strobel, who has lived in Longview for about two years. He has said she should get involved with a community board or commission first to learn about the process.
“She can talk around the problems but doesn’t really know the specifics. She hasn’t learned the issues,” he said during the editorial board meeting.
Strobel highlighted 20 years of policy experience in multiple cities, starting with the Stop AIDS effort in the mid-90s as an undergraduate at San Francisco State University. She called herself an “utter and total policy nerd.”
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She said she decided to run for public officer after the City Council last fall considered cutting one-fourth of the Longview Public Library’s budget.
Since then, in her conversations with Longview residents, she’s heard repeated concerns that the council isn’t listening to its constituents, she said.
Vydra said part of the problem is that when constituents speak during part of the council meeting, the council has a policy that it doesn’t respond to comments, which can make the council look bad. However, he said, the council is engaged in the community.
“Some folks trying to create a theme that doesn’t exist,” Vydra said of a letter to the editor saying the current council does not maintain civility in its disagreements.
When it comes to specific city topics, Vydra and Strobel seem to have similar views. They support the proposed Pacific Coast Fertilizer plant and the addition of five more police officers. They want to bring in more businesses and increase the area’s affordable housing.
Both said they had concerns about voter Initiative 976 and its impact on local funding for transportation improvements.
Strobel commended Vydra and the rest of the council for their efforts to improve streets and sidewalks. She supports active transportation improvements, which the council recently started exploring, as a way to improve alternative modes of transport and spur economic development.
And both said they want to ask voters before making a decision about possible $12 to $15 rate hikes to solve the silica problem in the city’s water.
Strobel said she wants to look at creative solutions for funding a fix to the water system, such as possible federal grants for new sustainable infrastructure.
She said there are people in this town who are willing to pay more in rates so others wouldn’t have to. That’s not allowed under state law, but she said it reflects the generous community.