Longview Mayor Pro Tem Mike Wallin has announced that he is running for re-election to the city council and plans to campaign on improving city water quality and supporting emergency responders.
Wallin, a 35-year-old real estate broker with Keller Williams, has served on the council since 2012. He is seeking his third term.
“The number one thing I hear from people is about the quality of our water. While we meet the drinking water standards, many are still concerned about quality,” Wallin said Monday.
In January 2013, Longview switched its water supply from intakes in the Cowlitz River to a groundwater supply at the Mint Farm Industrial Park. The move sparked years of citizen complaints and prompted multiple expensive improvement measures.
The decision to move the water supply happened long before Wallin joined the council — on a 6-1 vote in 2010. Current Mayor Don Jensen, then a councilman, was the only dissenting vote.
Wallin said this week that he opposed the move at the time.
“It’s proved to be a pretty terrible decision and a costly decision. We now have to figure out a way to correct and adapt and make adjustments,” Wallin said.
The council last month revisited possible solutions for improving the taste, odor and appearance of the water, all of which are estimated to add between $10 and $13 to the average water bill. Wallin said those increases might actually be cheaper than what residents tell him they spend monthly on bottled water and appliance repairs due to the residue from silica.
During his tenure, Wallin said he has advocated for sound financial management of the city, enhanced public safety and improved infrastructure like streets and sidewalks.
“When we are talking with people in the community and we see a theme of lawlessness and disrespect for people and property, and we look at how we compare around the state, it’s a top concern for many people,” Wallin said. “I’m trying to make sure Longview is the safest, most attractive, most desirable community to live in. … It’s going to take a significant investment, but it’s a core issue of what the city is supposed to be doing.”
Wallin pointed to the council’s recent hiring of three new firefighter paramedics, which were partially funded by a federal grant, and recent commitment to adding five more police officers as evidence of his commitment to law enforcement.
The decision last fall to add $724,000 to the fire department’s two-year budget caused a public stir when it was originally announced the library might face a 25 percent cut as a result. After much public testimony on behalf of the library, the council dropped it down to about 11 percent.
While quality of life elements in the city like the library are important, Wallin said, the first priorities must be the “core functions of government” such as safety and infrastructure.
“All these areas are expensive but they are the priorities. For me, they’re not controversial. The other things that we enjoy are nice to have, but have to come second to meeting the needs of the priorities,” he said.
He added that “We have an amazing library with awesome programs and services that does a great job in many ways. It rivals many other community libraries. … But it does fall within the general fund and is competing for limited dollars.”
Wallin and Mayor Don Jensen also faced a backlash in late 2017 after announcing, in a leaked email, that they would ask for resignations from the six-person board of commissioners for the Housing Opportunities of Southwest Washington (formerly the Longview Housing Authority). They backed off the statement after a public reaction, but the board still turned over during the following year due to a series of resignations.
Under the new board and a new CEO, Wallin said the council’s relationship with Housing Opportunities is “better than ever before.” His goal is to focus on affordable housing in Longview instead of the larger region, he said, and now the two groups are “on the same page and moving in the same direction.”
The council has also updated zoning and comprehensive plan codes to encourage housing development in order to address the housing crisis, he said.
While the council position is nonpartisan, Wallin is likely to face opposition from the Democratic Party, although no one else has yet filed for the position with the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Wallin said he plans to gather 111 signatures from registered voters for a filing fee petition, which would be in lieu of the $111 fee, to show that he has community support. He will instead donate the $111 to the Longview Parks Foundation.
Wallin is married with two boys, ages 3 and 6.