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By Max Erikson Lou Marzeles
Sentinel Staff 

Sentinel Elections Q&A

 

October 18, 2017

Ballots for this November’s election will be mailed on Oct. 20. Voters have received their guides, but not all the information provided by the candidates made it into the guide. To help supplement that information, The Sentinel met with all the local candidates who agreed to participate in our editorial board conversations. (All agreed except for City Council candidate Terry Luth.) Following are excerpts from those conversations.

We begin with the Goldendale School Board election, which has a contested election for Pos. 4 between two-term board member and board chairman John Hoctor, and newcomer T.J. Wilder, who is pastor of the Bible Baptist Church in Goldendale.

Q: Mr. Wilder, can you give us a little bit of your background?

T.J. Wilder: Well my family moved here seven years ago from Olympia, Washington and I’m the pastor at the Bible Baptist Church. We have a ranch my wife and kids live on. I coach youth sports for soccer and I’m head coach for the Goldendale Youth Football league.

Q: Mr. Hoctor, you are running for a third term. What are the challenges that you have faced as a member?

John Hoctor: It’s a learning process. When you get on the school board you have to catch up to speed with everything that has already been going on. You have to learn the ins and outs of how things work. I have a lot of experience now as the board chair. I think the biggest challenge we have now is how school funding will be distributed in light of the McCleary decision. It will be hard to determine where the money will need to go once we have a better understanding of what our funding level will be.

Q: Mr. Wilder, why have you decided to run, and what do think you could add to the board?

TJW: Well I don’t think you can just fix everything. I started going to meetings and listening, and tried to soak in all that goes on with the school board. So I have to go through it moment by moment. But I do think that our schools are going to be hit hard in the coming years because of the mandates the state is requiring. We are going to have to make smart decisions with those funds, but there are some rules we are going to have to follow. But we need to look at how it will affect us, not only in the short term, but in the long term. I think I’m qualified to make and administer good decisions like that. I would also like to look into finding grants for our schools to help with funding.

Q: Mr. Hoctor, this will be your third term if elected. What accomplishments has the board had since you have been there?

JH: Well things change from year to year. Something new things come up, or things that happened years ago is referenced. So having that long term knowledge really helps. But what we have done since I got there is lower class sizes and hire more teachers to do that. We created incentive programs for teachers who are leaving, to give us a long notice so we can start the hiring process early, to make sure those positions are filled. That has been a big success. We have been able to fill 90 percent of open positions by June of each year. We implemented the same school colors for all three of the schools to bring unity to the students in the district. So things like that have been successful.

Q: Mr. Wilder, What ideas would you like to bring to the school board and what are some things you might do differently?

TJW: Since I’ve been here I have seen a lot of teachers come and go. Some after only one year. I would like to look into how we can solve that problem and figure out ways to keep those experienced teachers here. I would like to work towards better programs for students with disabilities and really use the programs the state is offering. I would really like to focus on our school athletics programs but I know sports isn’t everything. There are a lot of important clubs in our schools, but I would really like to help structure, promote, and grow our athletics departments, and really all extra-curricular activities.

Q: Mr. Hoctor would you like to weigh in on that?

JH: Well, I have said all along that over half of high school kids participate in something—from band, to FFA and sports. But they can’t participate in those activities unless they have good grades. So it incentivizes those kids to be good students. But in regards to finding and keeping teachers, we advertise all over the United States and we have attracted teachers from Alaska, the Gulf Coast, the East Coast and they come back to the Northwest. But some teachers have a hard time seeing a future here and tend to move to somewhere else. We’ve hired retired or semi-retired people to fill some of those position but often times they can only do it for a year. In the last three years we have had a dozen or so long-term teachers retire, so that makes the problem stand out more. We are trying to incentivize new teachers to stay three or four years with “X” amount of dollars. But with the new state mandates it is still not certain how it will all work out. As far as teachers and unions bargaining and negotiating contracts there are so many “what ifs” to be determined.

TJW: With the McCleary decision, you are almost up against the wall. My intent would be to do what is best for us. If we can commit people to five years in there policy that might be a good way to keep teachers. If that is a possibility. I would look into that when hiring people to meet us where we are at.

Q: What does a proactive school board look like in financial decisions?

JH: We have hired a new business manager who does most of the daily communications with ESD in Yakima. Right now we need to be prepared for what to do, but nobody knows how that is going to work. Everything is still up in the air. It is still not known, but the court will have the final say, and when they do we will abide by it. When that happens, then we will fall into what is expected of us. So it is a wait and see situation until they get this thing worked out. Then we will know what direction we need to go in with that final dollar amount.

TJW: I think 100 percent, you’ve got to be proactive. You need to know the budget you’re going to get, and you can look at the past averages to project what the budget will look like. I think you need to have a plan ready when the budget comes. That would be a proactive approach with different funding models to work with. So I think on the school board, in relation with getting everybody on the same page and lined out, you have things ready to go, like a gage to go by and then adjust otherwise.

Q: What is one last thing you would like to share with sentinel readers?

TWJ: We love our community, we love our programs at the school, and we are very invested in the community. I think I can bring a different perspective and different look. I’m a visionary guy, and would like to see things better in our athletic programs, and extra curricula activities. We love our kids. This is for the future. It is not about us as individuals but what is best for the community and kids in the long term. There is a great future here.

JW: I’ve been a lifelong Goldendale resident. My daughters went to school her. I’m proud of my family accomplishments. Members of the Hoctor family graduated from Goldendale High School almost every year in the past. There are two new board members coming on, so I think with a third new board member it might be too much to learn. So I think in this instance experience is very important. Just knowing the answers to questions that come up all the time. I feel I’m a good listener and give everybody a chance to voice their input. I try to be to the point in my comments and opinions when representing my views. I would really like to help structure, promote, and grow our athletics departments, and really all extra-curricular activities.

Q: Mr. Hoctor would you like to weigh in on that?

JH: Well, I have said all along that over half of high school kids participate in something—from band, to FFA and sports. But they can’t participate in those activities unless they have good grades. So it incentivizes those kids to be good students. But in regards to finding and keeping teachers, we advertise all over the United States and we have attracted teachers from Alaska, the Gulf Coast, the East Coast and they come back to the Northwest. But some teachers have a hard time seeing a future here and tend to move to somewhere else. We’ve hired retired or semi-retired people to fill some of those position but often times they can only do it for a year. In the last three years we have had a dozen or so long-term teachers retire, so that makes the problem stand out more. We are trying to incentivize new teachers to stay three or four years with “X” amount of dollars. But with the new state mandates it is still not certain how it will all work out. As far as teachers and unions bargaining and negotiating contracts there are so many “what ifs” to be determined.

TJW: With the McCleary decision, you are almost up against the wall. My intent would be to do what is best for us. If we can commit people to five years in there policy that might be a good way to keep teachers. If that is a possibility. I would look into that when hiring people to meet us where we are at.

Q: What does a proactive school board look like in financial decisions?

JH: We have hired a new business manager who does most of the daily communications with ESD in Yakima. Right now we need to be prepared for what to do, but nobody knows how that is going to work. Everything is still up in the air. It is still not known, but the court will have the final say, and when they do we will abide by it. When that happens, then we will fall into what is expected of us. So it is a wait and see situation until they get this thing worked out. Then we will know what direction we need to go in with that final dollar amount.

TJW: I think 100 percent, you’ve got to be proactive. You need to know the budget you’re going to get, and you can look at the past averages to project what the budget will look like. I think you need to have a plan ready when the budget comes. That would be a proactive approach with different funding models to work with. So I think on the school board, in relation with getting everybody on the same page and lined out, you have things ready to go, like a gage to go by and then adjust otherwise.

Q: What is one last thing you would like to share with our readers?

TWJ: We love our community, we love our programs at the school, and we are very invested in the community. I think I can bring a different perspective and different look. I’m a visionary guy, and would like to see things better in our athletic programs, and extra curricula activities. We love our kids. This is for the future. It is not about us as individuals but what is best for the community and kids in the long term. There is a great future here.

JH: I’ve been a lifelong Goldendale resident. My daughters went to school here. I’m proud of my family accomplishments. Members of the Hoctor family graduated from Goldendale High School almost every year in the past. There are two new board members coming on, so I think with a third new board member it might be too much to learn. I feel I’m a good listener and give everybody a chance to voice their input. I try to be to the point in my comments and opinions when representing my views.

Elections for Klickitat Valley Health (KVH) Hospital District 1, for Commissioner Pos. 2, has incumbent Mark Sigfrinius seeking re-election to a six-year term against challenger Sherrill Basse, a long-time Goldendale resident and presently an employee at KVH.

Q: What is your background and what professional experience do you have that you will bring to the Pos. 2 of Hospital Commissioner?

Sherrill Basse: I’m currently finishing my bachelors of science in business administration and I have a background in banking and retail construction. My family is from the area and I have lived here off and on since 1976. My husband is from Centerville and our two children were born at this hospital. We moved back here eight years ago to help family. I currently work at the coffee shop at the hospital and have been there the last two years. I’m very interested in rural health and how we can keep our hospitals viable. I want to be part of the solution to keep our hospital working well into the future.

Q: Mark, tell us some of your background and your current work at the hospital.

Mark Sigfrinius: I’ve been in public service for 43 years and was the mayor of Goldendale for 12 years. We had a great team and got a lot accomplished for the city. I believe hospitals are vitally important to this community. In my tenure as hospital commissioner we have remodeled the first and second floors and made a beautiful clinic, with a lot of input from the employees. We have hired hospitalists, who just take care of patients, and that has helped take away some of the responsibility of our physicians and that has made a big difference. We have outsourced our ambulance service which has helped with costs. We are now servicing about 2000 people a month. It has been a great experience for me, but has been a lot of learning on the job.

Q: Sherrill, if elected what would be your approach to the job and what new ideas would you like to try?

SB: For me I think it is really important to have adequate information before making decisions. I believe having statistics and data is the best way to know what will work and not work. I’m very much a data person. I like to research all the statistics in order to make an informed decision. A priority for me would to make sure there is a good ethical foundation for everything that is done. I see ethics as the foundation, not only for our personal lives, but for business. Some ideas I would look into for our rural health community would be telemedicine. Giving patients a chance to meet with doctors electronically. That is a huge trend in rural healthcare. I also think having several smaller clinics in the community would help meet our healthcare needs.

Q: Mark, would you like to address some of the other accomplishments the hospital has had in the past few years?

MS: Telemedicine is something we have currently accomplished at the hospital. At one point we didn’t have enough bandwidth to do it, but we have that now. We have relocated the life-flight helicopter pad, and we will be finishing the new physical therapy clinic here pretty soon. When I first got the position six years ago we were a 1.5 million dollars in debt and now that is not the case.

Q: Sherrill, you spoke about the importance of ethics at the hospital, how do you see political correctness effecting ethics for the hospital as a whole.

SB: I mainly see people getting along, but of course there are disagreements. As far as political correctness goes I think it needs to be about mutual respect. I think we should be able to discuss things and not offend people. But I don’t think you can use terms or language that is offensive to one another. I think that comes back to ethics in the larger internal culture of the hospital. Throughout my career I’ve always tried to uphold a good ethical standard.

Q: Mark, same question.

MS: We have between 160-170 employees at the hospital, and like anywhere else there’s some people who don’t get along, or disagree on certain issues. But we have very little problems with our employees. You try your best to hire people who know how to get along with others and I would say our employees or just fabulous. 99 percent of them are there for the peace and care of the patients.

Q: Finally, is there anything that you would like to address or mention to our readers?

SB: I thank you for the opportunity, and just want to say that no matter who you choose, voting is a very important thing. Voting is your voice. And we live in a country where we get to choose our elected representatives, so we are blessed in that regard and is something to take seriously.

MS: It is a privilege to vote, and sometimes a lot of people don’t. So people should really try to do it whether it is bigger election season or not.

Justin Leigh and Terry Luth are running for Goldendale City Council pos. 4. Terry Luth is a longtime Goldendale resident and owner of the Auto Service and Repair, and runs the U-Haul services here. Justin Leigh is co-owner of Dwinell Country Ales brewery and on the board of the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce. We presented an opportunity to both candidates to meet with the editorial staff of The Sentinel. Luth declined the offer, but Leigh did participate.

Q: What is your motivation for wanting to run for city council?

Justin Leigh: My main platform is about Economic Development. It's a conversation that I've been having a lot in my role at the Chamber of Commerce and as a small business owner. How do we develop the economy in Goldendale in a way that is community supported and sustainable? I firmly believe that Goldendale is on the verge of a lot of growth and I think it's important that the city, from a governmental standpoint, be prepared to handle that growth in a way that is positive, so opportunities don't pass by Goldendale. For me Economic Development means working with existing businesses to help them grow. It also means empowering local residents to start their own businesses in that regard.

Q: What skills and experience have you developed in your professional career that has prepared you for the city council position?

JL: I attended John Marshall Law School in Chicago and passed the bar exam. I worked at a legal clinic providing free legal services to small business owners of underserved communities on the South Side of Chicago. I also did litigation for a lot of real estate matters both commercial and residential. So for me, my legal background really helps a lot. When working with the business community I think I can provide that insight to help start and grow a business. And in many ways those skills apply equally well to the city council. My legal background would help the city with the administrative work it engages in, especially with contracts. My legal background gives me an understanding of procedural matters, helping to make sure the city council is running properly under municipal law and the state constitution.

Q: What is your personal background, and how did you arrive in Goldendale?

JH: I met my wife Jocelyn in Chicago and we came up with our idea of opening a brewery. She is from Vancouver, Washington and has family roots here in Klickitat County. When we knew we wanted to live in Washington we started looking for communities to start a brewery. But most importantly we wanted to find a place where we could start a family, set up roots, and be involved in the community. We quickly found Goldendale and were stunned by the beauty of this place and pleasantly surprised by how welcoming everybody was. With that support we were convinced that this was the place to be, and we have lived here for coming up on a year. It was kind of miraculous the series of events that led us to Goldendale and we couldn’t be happier.

Q: What are things you agree with that the city council is doing now, and what would you add if elected.

JL: I like the way the council listens to residents about their concerns and uses that information to make balanced and informed decisions. But it should be more than just addressing things that are presented to the council. I want to actively engage with the council and city government to create legislative changes that will help kick start our economic growth. I would like to be part of that group to create an active city council. I want to personally be out there meeting people and understanding their concerns, so it is not brand new information when it is presented to the city council.

Q: What would be your approach to working with other council members?

JH: If I were to win I would be one of the newest members, so I know I would need to see how they do things first and find where I can fit in. But overall, compromise is the nature of democracy. You have to be open and willing to compromise on matters to work with people who might feel differently about your opinions or political decisions. So far as diplomacy goes, it is important to have strong working relationships so that we can all work together in a positive way. I like to listen to other people’s opinions, especially ones I may not agree with, and finding creative ways to achieve goals, particularly in a political sense, with people who might disagree with you. Drawing on my experience as an attorney, I have an ability to come up with creative solutions to problems.

Q: What is your view on Code enforcement, or lack thereof, by the City of Goldendale?

JH: I think if you are going to enforce code laws on the book you need to do it in a balanced manner. You can’t just enforce some of the laws and not the others. If we want to change certain codes there is a process for that. But if we find that some codes that are in existence, and their enforcement is not positive or healthy for the community, then maybe something needs to be changed.

Q: What do you perceive as your biggest challenge to getting elected, and what challenges would you face if you are elected?

JH: Perhaps the biggest challenge are the questions voters might have about my qualifications and my interest in trying to be on the city council. Maybe certain presumptions about my newness to the community might be perceived as a lack of qualifications. If I can overcome that, then the next challenge would be learning how the City Council operates, and finding ways to understand the city’s position or the council’s position on a number of issues including legislative changes, and finding ways to bring people together in a positive way. I’m not going to be there expressing my own personal political opinion. I’m running for city council to try and help the greater good of the community.

Q: Any last comments to voters you would like to make?

JH: If people want to know more about me I would simply invite them to come talk to me. If they have more questions, comments, or concerns they can find me at the brewery pretty much every day, and I’m willing to answer any questions they may have.

Miland Walling is running unopposed for Goldendale City Council. Walling has had a long connection to Washington government circles at various levels.

Question: Among other things, you were working in Economic Development for Klickitat County, weren’t you?

Miland Walling: That was a great experience, because you had an opportunity to see what other counties were doing and you could also see you what competition there was in that county. I did a lot for the west end, and I was able to bring in close to $3 million for the city of White Salmon. One of the frustrating parts of the position is, I always felt, ‘What more can we do for the city of Goldendale?’ If I’m elected to be on the city council, that’s going to be one of my goals: more Economic Development for the City of Goldendale. Now the Chamber is doing a lot, and the city is doing a lot for our potential Economic Development. But hopefully I can help for all of us. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re going to improve Economic Development for the city. The reason I say hopefully I can help is because of when I was with full-time with the Economic Development office, I know a lot of people on the west side, quite a few of the legislators and staff people, and of course the state senators and U.S. senators. I’ve been good friends with Senator Maria Cantwell for a long time. She knows me well.

Q: Can you expand a little bit more on any other challenges facing the city that are that you can particularly help with?

MW: I want to try to recruit potential businesses. That’s really what one of my goals. I’m working with King County, trying to get closer contacts with King County and maybe there might be potential Economic Development coming from that. I’m a former fire commissioner, and I was on the legislative committee for 20 some 25 years. And I still keep in touch with the fire commissioner association. One thing I want to do is to have a workshop meeting, hopefully sometime this fall, to talk about what incentives can we do for the volunteer firemen. This is for the whole state of Washington. And I talked to Senator Honeyford about it back in January. I hope that the fire commissioners will work on that, to help the fire departments—they’re having difficulty retaining and recruiting volunteers. Back on Goldendale, I want to work for the local fire department.

Q: And you’ve expressed concern for senior citizens.

ML: I support anything for the senior citizen. There are programs that they’re working on, and I support them. But not just seniors; we need youth programs as well. I look forward to working with the Goldendale city council. And I really hope that we the city council and the County Commissioners can work even more closely together. That way, what Goldendale does benefits the county, and what the county does benefits Goldendale.

 

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