Tenino voters will narrow the field of candidates in two primary races Aug. 4, including a critical contest for the mayor’s job.
Mayor Bret Brodersen is running to retain his position against Tenino City Council members John O’Callahan and Wayne Fournier. Meanwhile, three candidates are competing for Fournier’s soon-to-be-vacant council seat: Ken Jones, Leslie Lamb and Susan Copeland.
The top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the Nov. 3 general election.
Despite being the incumbent, Mayor Brodersen is vulnerable heading into the primary because of his controversial decision to fire the city’s popular police chief earlier this year. The firing was related to a financial snafu involving the chief’s employment contract and overpaid state retirement benefits.
The council subsequently issued a 3-2 vote of no confidence in the mayor. O’Callahan and Fournier led the vote while criticizing the mayor’s decision.
Brodersen stands by his decision and is confident he can advance to the general election. The one-time council member was appointed to the position in June 2013 when then-mayor Eric Strawn resigned after a tumultuous 16-month tenure.
Since then, Brodersen said he has helped restore stability to the city’s finances and working relationships.
As Tenino’s chief executive, the mayor wears several hats in this small city of about 1,700 people in south Thurston County. Duties include crafting policies, budget management, public relations and human resources issues. Brodersen said his experience as mayor, coupled with professional experience as a state financial consultant, is an asset. He also has served on the city’s planning commission.
“I absolutely deserve another shot,” Brodersen told The Olympian.
Brodersen’s challengers also have deep roots in Tenino.
O’Callahan was elected to the council in 2013 with about 69 percent of the vote (248 votes total). He previously served on the council from 1995-2009 and represented the city in several capacities.
He is a former chairman for the Thurston County Republican Party and a former ambassador for the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce. He also led a recent fundraising campaign for the Tenino Quarry Pool and chaired a group that steers youth away from drugs and alcohol.
O’Callahan said a strong police department can have a positive ripple effect on the city’s economy. A properly staffed police department will help business owners feel confident, he said, and send a message that Tenino is a safe place to live and do business.
O’Callahan, who works as a business and advertising consultant, said his experience in community and county affairs set him apart from the other candidates.
“I don’t say that I’m going to do things. I do them,” he said. “I am not an elected official. I’m an elected servant.”
Fournier was elected to the council in 2011 with nearly 56 percent of the vote and currently serves as the council’s police liaison. In his day job, he works as a professional firefighter with the Aberdeen Fire Department and teaches Thurston County fire recruits on the side.
Fournier, 35, is calling for more transparency from the mayor’s office as well as more inclusive decision-making with the community on matters such as hiring the new police chief.
“I bring some much-needed outside perspective,” said Fournier, whose grandfather was once the city’s police chief and whose great uncle signed the city charter. “The mayor needs to understand the balance between preservation and progress.”
One of Fournier’s goals is to boost Tenino as an agricultural center for Thurston County, drive demand for local products and create opportunities for local food producers and the city to team up. Ideas include creating a local food hub and taking advantage of the city’s location on the Thurston County Bountiful Byway, a scenic route intended to promote agricultural tourism in rural areas.
“If we embrace that, I think we’ll flourish,” he said. “Tenino is never going to be Lacey or Olympia, and we don’t want to be. We just want to be a better Tenino.”
TENINO CITY COUNCIL POSITION 5
Three candidates are vying for Tenino City Council Position 5 currently held by Wayne Fournier, who is forgoing re-election to run for mayor.
Ken Jones previously served on the council from 1998-2004 and was mayor from 2004 until 2012. He was unseated by former mayor Eric Strawn over public unrest about the city’s new multimillion-dollar sewer system, which was installed under Jones’ watch.
Jones said the system was needed and eliminated years of septic problems and pollution. It was a tough decision at the time, but Jones said he would make the same decision today.
“The primary is the way for me to find out if people are still up in arms about the sewer system we built while I was here,” he said.
Jones served as chairman of the Thurston Regional Planning Commission while mayor. Now, he serves on the Civil Service Commission, and before retirement, he ran a sporting goods business for several years.
Jones, 73, said one priority is to attract more businesses to Tenino. Another priority is to beef up the police department, which is currently down to two officers and needs a new chief.
“A working chief and four full-time officers would be ideal for Tenino,” he said. “We need to find the finances for another officer next year.”
Leslie Lamb, 62, is a first-time candidate for public office. The disabled U.S. Air Force veteran is a chaplain and past commander at the American Legion Post 69 in Tenino. He also has served with the Air National Guard.
One of Lamb’s goals is to help restore the city’s police department to four officers — including a school resource officer — to join the new chief. Other priorities include maintaining sewer and water rates, and promoting a more transparent government.
Another priority is to help the city expand its population and business sector. Lamb would like to see the city annex more property and build more houses and also make Tenino a more lucrative place for military veterans to live and do business.
“We need to focus on getting some growth in this town, not only business-wise, but population-wise,” he said. “I’m going to listen to what the people got to say and bring that to council meetings and stress those points.”
Susan Copeland, 45, is a first-time candidate and former Tenino parks commissioner who has helped craft policies, including those related to designated camping areas in the city.
In her day job, Copeland runs the acute mental health unit as a program manager at Green Hill School, a juvenile detention center in Lewis County. The job has helped her hone skills related to conflict management and decision making, she said.
Her top priorities include community safety, specifically in regards to rebuilding the police force to include a school resource officer.
She also will focus on finding additional revenue sources to prevent or minimize increases in sewer rates, foster a better business climate, and bring more order to City Hall.
“We need to do a better job of keeping businesses that we have and make it a better place for people to come and spend money,” Copeland said. “I just really want to see this town go in a positive direction.”