Candidate Q&A: City of College Place

This Q&A is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2013 elections. For a complete list of races, endorsements and other candidate Q&As, please visit our Elections Center.

Mayor

The race for the College Place mayor’s position features two candidates, challenger Lonnie Croft and incumbent Rick Newby.

Newby is finishing his first full term as mayor after being appointed to the position in March 2009 after former Mayor Ed Ammon resigned because he and his family moved to Denver. Newby went on to win the seat in that year’s November general election.

Croft is making his first run for a city elected office.

Following is biographical information about each candidate, as well as their responses to questions the Union-Bulletin submitted to them.

Rick Newby

Age: 53

Occupation: Manager, Field Information Technology, Bonneville Power Administration

Education: BA in Business Administration; Certificate of Municipal Leadership

Personal Statement: I am passionate about serving the people of College Place, and I remain committed to managing growth responsibly, promoting economic prosperity, limiting government, delivering quality services, and preserving the character and values of our community.



Lonnie Croft

Age: 47

Occupation: Maintenance worker at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mill Creek Flood Control Project

Education: Graduated from Walla Walla Valley Academy in 1985. Bachelor of arts degree from Eastern Washington University in 1996.

Personal Statement: I care deeply about College Place because I grew up here. My life’s work has been in service to my country, my state and to College Place. I am running for mayor because I want to serve my community again. I want to make help make this city the best city it can be, as its mayor.



Why should voters choose you instead of your opponent?

Newby:In short: passion, experience, leadership, integrity, results. I have served the College Place community almost 12 years, the last 4½ years as mayor, during which time we have improved our roads, addressed state water and sewer mandates, expanded economic growth, streamlined operations, cut costs and eliminated dependency on state subsidies. We have maintained clean audits, an “A” bond rating, and Tier 1 preferred insurance rates. Many challenges and opportunities are ahead that require the knowledge, credibility and relationships forged through the experience of dedicated service, leadership responsibilities and ongoing education. There simply is no substitute for direct, relevant experience.

Croft: I’m certain I will bring a fresh perspective, a new set of eyes, to the way business is done in College Place. There are some real inefficiencies in the manner in which the administration operates. Not all the in efficiencies can be identified until a full comprehensive analysis is completed. The current administration is out of touch with this community. This is the perfect time for the voters to choose if they are happy with the way things are going or do they want a different, more in-touch-with-the-community kind of government.



The city has in the past several years invested heavily in infrastructure development. Why or why not is this the right route to follow?

Newby: Residents have been clear: fix our roads and promote economic prosperity. Our focus has been improving roads and pedestrian facilities around our schools, Walla Walla University, arterials and businesses, fixing our water and sewer systems and opening access for new economic development. We are competing within a regional market and excellent roads, utilities, schools and growth opportunities are major factors in achieving economic success. Even during the past five years of recession we have made steady progress with over $45 million in new construction, $142 million total new assessed value, 150 new housing starts, and 12 new retail business starts.

Croft: Infrastructure development is still a necessity for College Place. However, the way in which the projects are prioritized should have been done differently. For example, the section of Larch that was repaved was in need of repair but it could have been postponed. The same could be said of Southwest Davis Avenue. At the time of construction, both roadways were in reasonably usable condition. By comparison, the unrepaired portion of Southwest Fourth street remains a significant pedestrian hazard which does not appear to be a high priority of Mayor Newby.



Are there areas where you feel the city is not spending its money wisely? If so, which specific areas or programs would those be?

Newby: Our commitment to limited government and quality core services has enabled us to increase efficiency, cut costs and reduce staffing by 18 percent, saving over $650,000 annually. The biggest challenges involve state mandates and processes which drive up costs and waste money — such as taxing capital projects and redundant project reviews. We will continue to address these issues by working with our legislators directly and by partnering with local and regional stakeholders in support of reducing the state’s unfunded mandates and regulatory footprint.

Croft: Yes, absolutely, a couple of them. I understand that the mayor’s so-called transportation plan, as it has been referred to by a key city staff member, addresses some of the transportation needs of the city. However, certain streets in the city that were recently chip-sealed and completely ground and repaved at a significant cost were not in a condition that warranted the expense. This money would have been better used for other street projects or programs. These are of course, only two examples of a much larger problem.



What would you like to see done to encourage more business development?

Newby: College Place is doing its part by improving transportation and utility infrastructure, focusing on core services, cutting costs, streamlining operations, increasing contact with business developers, and opening over 90 additional acres of prime commercial property for development. We are also transforming College Avenue into an attractive destination to promote new business development and enhance visibility and accessibility for existing businesses. It’s time for the state to start doing its part to encourage economic growth by cutting costs, lowering taxes and reducing regulatory burdens on business development and operations.

Croft: I think that the development process is an ongoing team effort. Recruiting any business into College Place is a great idea. However, it does no good to recruit a business into our community that has no chance of lasting. My idea is twofold. First, try to recruit high volume businesses that will add real value to the tax base. Secondly, we should recruit those businesses that have a proven track record of economic sustainability and longevity.



Is there another issue you would like to address or anything you’d like to add to your previous responses?

Newby: Despite a struggling economy, budget cuts, and growing state and federal regulatory burdens, College Place has moved forward. Since 2000 retail sales tax revenue has grown from $283,000 to over $1.1 million and since 2008 we have had $45 million of new construction and $142 million total new assessed value. In contrast, city government is smaller and more efficient, while still providing quality core services. We are on a steady, beneficial and cost effective path and I remain committed to promoting economic prosperity, limiting government and preserving the character and values of our community..

Croft: Mr. Newby has inquired of my executive experience asking for specifics. As a first-time candidate, I perhaps do not possess similar experience an incumbent might. However, a mayor is not a one-person proposition. The greatest skill needed to be successful is the ability to recognize and utilize the talents of staff and citizens. My skill in this area has been developed over the years I spent in the U.S. Marine Corps and while mentoring the sometimes difficult young men as a dean of boys (at Auburn Adventist Academy in Auburn, Wash.). Team building is a challenge but offers the greatest benefit and is sorely needed at College Place.



Council Position 1

Although the ballot will list two candidates for the College Place City Council Position 1 seat, one candidate has announced his withdrawal, essentially making it a one-person race.

Julie Scott is the remaining active candidate after the second contender, Wesley Bernal, announced he was dropping out due to family concerns. His withdrawal, however, came too late to remove his name from the ballots mailed out Friday.

Scott is already serving on the council after being appointed in July to the Position 1 seat to complete the term of former councilman Steve Dickerson, who had to resign after moving out of the city.

Julie Scott

Age: 51

Occupation: Leadership development consultant (self-employed)

Education: MBA; University of Washington, Leadership and Policy Studies, PhD

Personal Statement: I believe that many excellent decisions have been made in College Place over the last few years resulting in more business development, some street improvements, and significant additional improvements on the way: a new CP high school, a new Davis Elementary, and College Ave./Rose St. upgrades. I think these signal a significant change for the city. I would be honored to help continue this progress.



Why should voters choose you?

I have been a homeowner in College Place since 1994. I avidly read the papers, vote and have closely followed College Place issues. I also have some useful background with an MBA and an understanding of financial statements and fund-based accounting, as well as formally studying public policy at the Evans School at University of Washington. Within that study we did extensive public policy analysis, which is basically actively looking at issues from multiple perspectives and also considering unintended consequences as thoroughly as possible in the process of policymaking. I would use these skills as a council member.



What are the top two or three priorities you would like to see the city administration working on?

Being responsible with finances is a priority for city governance — smart investment is part of that. Within wise constraints the city needs to continue to work on financial growth (especially via business development, not necessarily through big plans for residential expansion). It is also a key priority to continue to keep up the College Place infrastructure — roads, sewer, water, etc. And of course, up-to-date safety equipment and personnel (police and fire) are a very important priority for our town.



What would you do as a council member to encourage more business development?

It has been interesting to observe the businesses and retail chains that have been successful in College Place. I notice that it is often the small things that make a difference to an entrepreneur — some working space with Internet capabilities, some marketing advice, small startup money, etc. As we continue to improve the look and livability of College Place, attracting businesses and creative entrepreneurs can happen. We also need to keep our citizens aware of small business resources to help them.



What is your past experience in developing and managing budgets?

In addition to my educational background as mentioned above, I have for the last 11 years run my own leadership development consultancy. I work primarily with large Northwest companies integrating leadership development systems created by Korn/Ferry powered by Lominger in Minneapolis, Minn. In my own world I prepare proposals, bill clients and prepare all of my own taxes. This experience makes me very sensitive to how money is used, knowing that as a council member I would be responsible for allocations of money provided by hardworking, taxpaying citizens.



Is there an issue you would like to address not raised in the previous questions? If not, would you like to add anything to your previous responses?

Providing a high school for College Place students is great for our students, and also for our city. In addition, our own high school will provide more possibility for city spirit and unity through sports and arts activities that can include the whole community as fans and participants. Similarly, the new Davis School is a structure of which we should be proud. Support from the council and the preparation of improved streets and sidewalks will be part of the success of both of these projects.