ILWACO — Dave Cundiff is one of two candidates for an open seat on Ilwaco City Council.
Cundiff, a physician for Willapa Behavioral Health, and James Berglund, a long-time Ilwaco Fire Department volunteer, are who voters will choose between this fall for Ilwaco’s contested election.
Berglund declined to participate in an interview. He said he applied for the council seat because no one else had. Berglund filed on the last day of a special filing period with the county. Because of county election rules, Berglund can’t withdraw from the race.
“If I get it, I guess I’ll be on city council,” Berglund said. “I think it’s great that somebody wants to be on council. I plan to vote for Dave.”
As a physician, Cundiff’s career has centered around public health. He hopes to bring his skills to the council.
CO: Why did you apply to be on Ilwaco City Council?
DC: “There’s two things that made me think of running. The first is I like to tackle complicated problems working with a team. The second is that looking around Ilwaco, I see a community with great potential and resources but also some need. I think I could help meet those needs.”
CO: What qualifications will you bring as a councilor?
DC: “I’ve been a public health physician all of my career. The description [of public health] I like best comes from Dr. Kamara Jones, who was president of the American Public Health Association.
“Dr. Jones said, in public health, when we see things happening, we ask ‘why?’ then we figure out why, and do something about it. That’s my temperament and that’s my training; look for causes and figure out whether I have the ability to do something about it.
“Looking around Ilwaco, I see great resources. Ilwaco is the most beautiful spot I’ve ever lived. It has ready access to the ocean, adequate infrastructure, and wonderful people.
“What Ilwaco lacks is enough permanent residents to do everything that’s needed, and enough good jobs to provide an economic base right here for those residents.
“I think I can bring something to a city council that’s already working.
“My whole career is embedded in the context of public service. I work on complicated problems that require teamwork.
“I served as president of the American Association of Public Health Physicians. Since 2016, I have been PHP’s delegate to the American Medical Association House of Delegates. Not only do I work in the House of Delegates, I work with more than 500 other delegates. I lead a team of at least 10 PHP members at any given meeting.
“I enjoy working with large and small teams to get things done that benefit everyone. I think that experience of collaboration will help me be a good city council member.”
CO: What issues do you think the council should focus on?
DC: “There are a lot of issues I think we can address together.
“The first issue is just doing the day-to-day work in a capable manner. I think the council is already doing that. I look forward to learning the ins and outs of zoning and variances, water and sewer operations, public works, police and fire. Ilwaco has great people in each of these areas. I look forward to learning from them and learning with them.
“Nobody outside of city government can do the core functions that city government can do. I hope city government can play a greater role in making a climate for living wage jobs and a place for the people those jobs could bring.”
Cundiff said he’d like to focus on Ilwaco’s opportunities with infrastructure and being on high ground.
“Ilwaco is the safest place on the peninsula to put schools. This is the best and safest place for health care, and potentially the safest place to live.”
Cundiff also suggested focusing Ilwaco’s ‘affordable land,’ which can be used for retail shops and other ‘small job generators.’
“Every community’s future is its students. Every community’s present is in its business and its businesses. And every community’s soul is in its seniors. I hope we can have a conscious process focused on how we as a city, and as a community, can support all of our students, all of our seniors, and every business that pays or could pay living wages.”
CO: What do you consider to be a city councilor’s role?
DC: “Every council member has to have principles; integrity, commitment and goals.
“In most public controversies, there are many points of view. Council members need to listen carefully. They need to know what authorities they have. They need to respect everyone’s feelings. And while doing all that, they need to work toward a goal.
“If I am elected, my goal will be to create conditions that will bring more permanent residents to Ilwaco, and to create conditions under which every permanent resident of Ilwaco can thrive. The path to that won’t always be easy but Ilwaco has great people and we can do it together.
“I probably make myself sound like a starry-eyed idealist that thinks everybody’s perfect. I’ve been around the sun enough times to know sometimes people get fearful. Sometimes they get scared. Sometimes they have trouble keeping the big picture in mind because there is so much passion about other pictures.
“I get all that but I hope I can always work the short-term situation with a long-range goal in mind. That’s been one of my strengths throughout life.”
Cundiff’s interview has been edited for clarity and space.