Monday’s candidate’s forum helps set the stage for November

By Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan Valley residents attended a Primary Candidate’s forum on Monday evening.

The Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce hosted a Candidate’s Forum for the upcoming August primary in Manson High School’s Commons on Monday evening, July 19.

Mike Steele, executive director of the Chamber told the assembled Valley residents that each candidate would have two minutes to give an introduction to their candidacy and one minute to answer any written questions and 30 seconds to rebut any challenges to their statements.

The MHS Commons unfortunately has, at least for this journalist, poor acoustics which made it very difficult to understand some of the candidates issues.

School Board candidates:

Both Chelan and Manson had a number of candidates running for positions on each school’s respective school board. Chelan has seven candidates representing three districts within the School District. They include: Jerry W. Lopez and Erik Nelson – District 3; Stephanie Fuller and Cole Soreano – District 1; and Kristi Collins and Barb Polley – District 2.

Manson has a number of candidates vying for the At Large District 4 position being vacated by Jama England who has served the board for many years. They include: Jennifer Pittman, Catherine Willard, Allan Torgesen, Blanca Lehman and Susie Miller Fox. Greg Neff and Janel Lyman are opposing each other for the District 5 seat.

Since I couldn’t catch all of their introductory comments, suffice it to say that all of these candidates want more transparency. Some running for both the Chelan and Manson boards feel that parents are not being heard and that communication from the board to the parents is crucial to move forward. Kristi Collins running for a Chelan position echoed a lot of what was stated by the candidates. “The school board needs to be responsive and receptive to dialogue. The community has a right to be heard.”

One major issue some parents of both districts have is student masking. The candidates, for the most part agreed that the issue is a tough one but that most of it is state required protocol.  Catherine Willard said, “There are two sides to this issue. We need to get the facts out.” Her fear is that non-compliance with state health regulations the school might have to go back to remote learning.

City Council candidates:

Sheri Dietrich (left) is running unopposed for Chelan City Council while incumbent Chris Baker (right) is being challenged for his seat by Madonna Konshuk.

Sheri Dietrich who has served on the Chelan Planning Commission for the past five years is running unopposed. She told the audience that she has learned a lot on the Planning Commission and feels she is ready to serve on the City Council. “We have to protect the Valley and I consider it an honor to serve.”

Madonna Konshuk is running against incumbent Chris Baker who was appointed to Position 3 last year when Ray Dobbs moved out of the City. Konshuk is currently a special education teacher at the Lake Chelan School District, but said she has extensive experience in the construction and development industry which she would like to bring to the Council position.

Before being appointed to Dobb’s council seat, Chris Baker served on the Parks Board for eight months. He owns and operates his own house painting and security company in theValley. His vision is to make sure that growth in the valley is responsible.

Fire Commission:

Fire Commissioner Russ Jones is being challenged by two candidates; Ben Laughlin and Brogan Kelly. Jones has not only served on the commission as board chair, but has been instrumental in helping to bring Marine 71 to the district. Jones just became a Nationally certified EMT and said, “I would like to continue to help more the district forward.”

Laughlin was not present at the forum, but submitted a letter indicating his concerns and issues with Jones. Laughlin, sat on the recent committee discussing the future of the district. If elected, Laughlin would work towards combining both District 7 and 5 together under one fire chief. He would also like to see the communities EMS services moved to the fire district and would also like to rebuild the volunteer base and not hire more career firefighters.

Hospital Commission:

Incumbent Fred Miller is being challenged by Shannon Motley and Lori Withrow for his seat on the hospital commission.

Incumbent Fred Miller, who has now served 30 years on the hospital commission, is being challenged by two candidates: Shannon Motley and Lori Withrow.

Miller, who is an experience commissioner, told the audience that he would like to continue on the commission until the new hospital is completed while Shannon Motley, a self-employed business woman, wants to bring her expertise to the table with new technology and new options for the hospital. “We need a new hospital.”

Withrow, who is actively campaigning in the Valley feels that she would bring her professional background in construction and business management to the table. She told those in attendance that she wants to make Lake Chelan Health a strong institution for the future.

At the end of the forum, Mike Steele reiterated that the Chamber would be holding another candidate’s forum in the fall prior to the general election.

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