LONG BEACH — The competition is on to replace Long Beach City Councilor Steven Linhart.
Sue Svendsen and Donald McGuire are running for the open seat. Both have lasting business ties in the community; Svendsen is owner of the Peninsula Arts Center, and McGuire the retired owner of Corral Drive In.
McGuire didn’t respond to interview requests in time for publication. He was contacted by phone and email.
Before moving to Long Beach in 2010, Svendsen grew up in Troutdale, Oregon. In 1976, she moved to Vancouver. While in Clark County, she worked for a variety of nonprofits.
Svendsen’s scope of work included the Arts Council of Clark County, the Executive Horse Council of Clark County, and numerous committees and boards. Her work ranged from parks and trails, to animal control.
CO: Why did you apply to be on Long Beach City Council?
SS: “I’ve served in my community for a long time. Community involvement has always been there.
“My husband has always teased me about running for office. It never was really something that was big on my list but serving is and it seems like the easiest way in a small community like this because it is fairly accessible to get on the council and to roll up your sleeves.
“I’m not a ‘sit there and make decisions alone’ kind of person. I’m a ‘get out there and do the work’ person. I’m excited about that possibility.”
CO: What qualifications will you bring as a councilor?
SS: “A lot of my experience with working on Clark County boards and a broad spectrum of experiences. It can be fairly complex and fairly political when you need to satisfy, say the audubon society and the livestock owners in the same room that are quite opposed.
“I often got called to be the moderator that could acknowledge each point of view, look at the commonalities and get to a goal. I’m pretty good at communicating with people.
“Openness of government is so important; that taking the information you learn in a meeting and taking it out to the public and seeing who you can get it to is super important. I’m fairly equipped to do the job.”
CO: What issues do you think the council should focus on?
SS: “First and foremost, and they’ve made some efforts at it, worker housing. The HUD housing that went in, people think ‘Oh that’s worker housing, that’s long-term housing.’ It’s designed for people that are able to be working for the most part.
“When they do get on their feet and they need to leave sheltered housing, there’s not a next-step of available housing here, or very many affordable places. There are some wonderful things in the works where a couple people have purchased rentals and are going to be renovating them, but looking at an overall plan for worker housing steps you right into managing vacation rentals. A lot of this is an ongoing effort on the city’s part.
“It’s not like they’re not doing it now but it needs to be a continued and stronger emphasis because most resort towns end up with the problem of the people who work in the tourist industry not having any place they can afford to rent.
“Certainly, there aren’t affordable purchasable houses, as the market keeps getting better and better here, which is wonderful. There are fewer cheap houses. Even those in the past, most of the really cheap houses couldn’t be financed because they were in disrepair.
“It’s been a problem for a long time. It’s a typical tourist town problem but we do need to make sure that it’s being addressed in as many angles as possible. I walk the line because people want to be able to make as much money on their property as possible, and they can make more money with vacation rentals than with month-to-month rentals.
“We do have limitations on where those can be but B&B’s are a little sneakier. We can track it, but there are definitely illegal vacation rentals. Those could be month-to-month rentals for our workers.”
Other issues Svendsen said she’d like the council to focus on include researching possible land development for homes, finishing the city’s dog park, expanding the city’s commercial zone, and repairing infrastructure.
“We need more for our local people. Expanding that commercial zone up to the north so people know that Long Beach is longer than the downtown historic district; I think that’s a wonderful goal.”
CO: What do you consider to be a city councilor’s role?
SS: “Primarily, it’s a decision-making role to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to what city staff has researched to hear the public’s needs and desires, and to decide what of those things we need to move forward on.
“In simpler terms, I am here to be the voice of people in the community. If I don’t get out into the community, I can’t do that. I don’t think that it’s for me to have a soapbox.”
CO: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
SS: “I didn’t start off as a huge fan of [Mayor Jerry Phillips] and he knows that. But as I’ve gotten to know his accomplishments more, I’m impressed with the direction the mayor and council are going with cleaning up some of the things that had deteriorated in the community. I think that’s super important.”
Svendsen’s interview has been edited for clarity and space.