ILWACO — The two candidates for mayor both want to bring the once-bustling small town back to life.
That’s why Gary Forner and challenger Sam Lund are competing for a four-year term at Ilwaco’s helm, they said during an Oct. 3 forum. The two hopefuls answered questions from a crowd of more than 30 at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.
Forner, a longtime volunteer firefighter and retired park ranger, has served as a city councilman since 2010. Lund, a health educator and retired nurse, represented the city of Maywood Park, Oregon as a councilwoman for eight years before she came to Ilwaco. She moved into her vacation home full-time a few years ago.
Although the candidates share similar positions on many issues, Lund, 69, said, she offers Ilwaco a fresh perspective, combined with experience from a small town that’s now surrounded by Portland.
Forner, 70, contended his involvement since he made Ilwaco his home in 1975 has given him the institutional knowledge and know-how to lead the city.
A big, stinking problem
The two challengers both said they want to keep utility rates low, while working to fix the city’s ongoing troubles with its aging sewer system.
If elected, Forner said, he’d make sure the wastewater-treatment plant was being run properly.
“I’m not afraid to jump in and help,” he said, pointing out his experience wading in sewage at state parks. “That doesn’t scare me.”
Lund said she’s heard about problems with the sewer but she doesn’t know enough about them to offer solutions.
“I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on this,” she told voters. “Unlike Gary, I’ve never had to walk in them.”
The candidates also agree that managing problems with the sewer system and keeping rates low would help revive Ilwaco by making it more attractive for new businesses.
Fill storefronts, oust squatters
The two challengers both want to clean up junk lots and fill vacant buildings around town by recruiting new shop owners and tenants to take over abandoned properties.
Forner told voters he’s gone to bat for new businesses during his tenure on the council. He plans to continue that support as mayor.
Forner said he helped Freedom Market open at the Port of Ilwaco by convincing city leaders not to ban recreational marijuana retailers.
Like she did in Maywood Park, Lund told voters she’d work to lower costs for Ilwaco businesses and find ways to make it easier for them to grow. She knows how hard it is to get a small startup going, having run her own businesses in the past.
Lund, now a health educator for Willapa Harbor Hospital, said filling empty buildings would drive illicit activity away.
Forner, a volunteer captain for Pacific County Fire District No. 1 and longtime Ilwaco firefighter, said having law enforcement officers raid drug dens and other problem spots could also help the city cut crime.
Different means, same end
Forner wants to see Ilwaco’s economy booming with a downtown that’s a “destination” for shoppers. Lund likes the idea of building a versatile convention center to bring more people into town to support local businesses.
The two are vying to replace Mayor Mike Cassinelli, who is stepping down at the end of his term in December. The position pays $500 a month.
If Forner is elected, the city will have to appoint someone to take his seat on the five-member council. Otherwise, he’ll keep the $200-a-month job.
Change at City Hall
Four candidates are running unopposed for four-year terms on the City Council. Three of them are making their political debuts on the November ballot.
Councilman Fred Marshall, 78, is the only veteran Ilwaco leader seeking re-election this year. The computer consultant hopes to serve a fourth term.
Councilman Matthew Lessnau, head distiller at Adrift Hotel in Long Beach, was appointed to his seat earlier this year when Jon Chambreau, 77, resigned. Now, the 29-year-old volunteer firefighter and former Ilwaco parks commissioner is making his first run for elected office.
Another Adrift employee and political newcomer, Melissa “Missy” Bageant, 38, is also on the ballot. The Ilwaco High School music booster wants to replace Councilwoman Vinessa Karnofski, who is stepping down when her term ends in December. Karnofski, also 38, beat an incumbent for the seat as a write-in candidate in 2011.
Also making a political debut in November is organic cranberry farmer Jared Oakes, 37. He hopes to take Councilman David Jensen’s seat. The architect, 70, decided not to seek a fourth term in 2017.