Hood River voters firmly decided Nov. 3 to stay the course when it comes to leadership at City Hall.
In the General Election tally, the council pack was clearly divided between the three incumbents, and the three challengers.
The winners — Gladys Rivera, Megan Saunders and Mark Zanmiller — received between 21.5 and 17.7 percent of the vote, and the challengers — Susan Johnson, Brian Towey and Don Harring — polled between 15.2 and 8.8 percent.
Mayor Kate McBride defeated Dani Correa by a margin of more than 3-to-1.
“I feel grateful that a large majority of Hood River citizens have faith in my leadership and have re-elected me,” McBride said. “This has been a challenging year in so many ways for the country and the city. It has brought into focus what is important and essential. Equity, diversity, and inclusion have risen to the top of the list this year. The fact that Gladys Rivera, a young Latina woman, received more votes than anyone else for council, shows that our citizens believe that too.”
Rivera and Correa did not respond to requests for comment.
This was Towey’s second attempt to reach council; he ran in a large field in 2016, as did Johnson, a six-year City Council member who, in 2018, ran for mayor against Paul Blackburn instead of seeking council re-election.
Towey said, “As far as the election being an affirmation of the incumbents, I campaigned against harmful policies favored by our current council and this election seems to affirm that voters don’t associate those policies with the people responsible for them.
“A good example of what I mean is that last year, voters protected parks by a 72/28 margin, and this year, the mayor and councilors who were on the wrong side of the issue were reelected.” (Towey referred to the successful 2019 ballot measure that resulted in the rescinding of the city’s 2018 decision to turn Morrison Park into an affordable housing project.)
“This makes me believe that rather than an affirmation of the incumbents, this election is an indictment of my ability to run a political campaign,” Towey said. “The fact that I am unskillful in communicating in a way that elevates vote count is not proof that others are doing a good job managing city business.”
Harring said, “I want to wish all the incumbent candidates all the best and hope they continue to serve the city well.” This was Harring’s first attempt at local office.
Johnson did not respond to requests for comment.
Zanmiller said, “I am honored that Hood River elected me to a third term on council. Given my minimalist campaign and the challenges of campaigning during the pandemic, I am happy that people are aware of what myself and council are working on and that we should continue that work.
“That a large and strong field of council candidates indicates that we have to improve on how we communicate the City Work Plan — the roadmap for our actions over the next year(s). My interpretation of the other candidate platforms is that there were not so much disagreements about the direction the city is heading, but how we are involving everyone and ensuring plans are clearly communicated.
“I am happy that Mayor McBride, and Councilors Saunders and Rivera have been re-elected — we (entire council) work well together and discussions are challenging in a way that benefits the city.”
Zanmiller, who hand-made his distinctive diamond-shaped signs dominated by a rainbow-colored “Z,” Zanmiller added, “I am at a bit of a loss with respect to the long-term yard-art potential for 50 little ‘Z’ signs.”
Saunders said, “I am honored to be given the opportunity to continue to represent this community. I look forward to continuing to work with my co-councilors, staff, the community, and partner entities to make this community better. We have plenty of work ahead, but it is re-energizing to see we are going in the right direction to build the future this community wants. A city council does not work in isolation, and it is difficult to make real progress without community support, engagement, and collaboration, so I hope all of the voters will stay engaged and continue to make their voices heard well beyond election day.”
In an email, McBride added, “This election has also highlighted what some citizens feel is lacking in our community. I heard that more outreach and communication is desired. The fact that all the incumbents were reelected tells me that the majority of our citizens also feel that the sitting council is doing a good job. We listen, are thoughtful, have diverse ideas, and work together, even though we do not always vote the same way. We can be civil to each other and welcome each other’s perspectives and in-depth discussions about the direction for the city and other decisions that need to be made.
“I am looking forward to the coming year, although I am sure it will bring many challenges centered around COVID.
“Democracy is the messy business that we are all participating in. I recognize that there are challenges that we all need to come together around. Cooperation with our neighbors is essential! Please make your voice heard by reaching out during surveys, meetings, or e-mail myself or other council members. We will be asking for citizen input around the city work plan within the next month.”