Ballots for the Nov. 3 election go out Oct. 14, and Hermiston residents got to hear from the five candidates running for four seats on the Hermiston City Council during a candidate forum hosted by the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Topics ranged from encouraging more citizen participation to spending taxpayer money. Candidates answering questions were incumbents Rod Hardin, Doug Primmer and David McCarthy, and first-time candidates Nancy Peterson and Maria Duron.

Peterson, who is an accessibility specialist for the disability rights office at Columbia Basin College, spoke throughout the night about how she believes her personal experiences, from a past as a single mother to three months of homelessness, will help her represent a wide variety of Hermiston residents.

“As a full time job I work as an accessibly specialist helping college students with disabilities have equal access to their educations, so I spend a lot of time studying laws, making sure that their rights are respected, sometimes doing some creative problem solving, and also making sure that the school’s needs are met as well,” Peterson said. “And if if you think about it, that’s a lot of what government is. It’s taking care of the needs of the people, making sure the rules are being followed, and using what resources are available in creative ways, and I’m to that point where I feel like I can offer that to a broader community.”

She said she wants to see the city ask the school district what it can do to support the schools and see more solutions for affordable housing needs. She said the city needs to “go where the diversity is” in the community and listen to residents from all different backgrounds and social groups.

Duron, the other newcomer to the race, spoke of her past experience as a Hermiston School Board member and how past jobs have helped her work closely with the city, particularly the Hispanic Advisory Committee. She described herself as a “hardworking Latina” and a “servant leader” who wants to help the city continue to grow. She also said she would like to work on more outreach to Spanish-speaking residents.

Duron said Hermiston’s growth comes with many challenges, from infrastructure needs to increased crime, and she wants to see the city study how other communities are handling those problems. She said she wants to encourage more citizen involvement in city council and committee meetings.

“A lot of the time we draw our own conclusions based on what someone else might have said said, but I think you have better understanding as to how they arrived at the decision when you get to hear their interaction and all the work that has been done behind the scenes,” she said.

McCarthy, who was appointed to his seat on the council in June, cited his service to the community in roles such as Kiwanis Club president. He said he is particularly passionate about education, and about expanding access to technology. He said the city needs to start talking about what “going back to normal” looks like after the pandemic.

“One thing that shutdowns have taught us, and distance learning and Zoom meetings and live streaming, have all taught us is that we may have been very ill prepared for this, but we also didn’t ever expect this is something we would have to prepare for,” he said. “We have to examine the effects if something like this were to come into place again. We have to find ways of making things like that more accessible. We have to find ways of making services more accessible to people.”

When asked what he would do if the city had increased resources, he said he would like to see the city increase visibility and lighting around pedestrian crossings in town.

Doug Primmer, who has served on the council since 2012, said he has a strong sense of justice and of public service developed over a career that has included working for the Department of Corrections, being a rescue diver and a reserve for the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office.

When asked about the future of Hermiston, he said getting more water for agriculture and industry in the area is a key to the city’s future growth. He also said he wants to make sure the city continues to monitor its spending carefully and attract new business growth to make sure it has available funding for future projects.

“That’s the best thing we can do is to keep the money available to us and watching how we spend it,” he said. “As opposed to just throwing money at problems, we look at how problems are solved and the best way to pay for that.”

Rod Hardin, who has served on the council for 28 years, said he wanted to bring his experience to the council for one more term. He referenced the sign welcoming people to Hermiston that states the town is an “inclusive community” and said he feels Hermiston can truly say it is an inclusive community.

“I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to serve this community,” he said. “This is a community that you feel accepted when you walk through the door.”

He said as Hermiston grows he would like to see an expansion of public transportation options for residents. He also said he supports the city’s efforts to rebuild Funland Playground and said he hopes to see other recreational options, including a new skate park that was designed but has yet to get funding, added.

On Nov. 3, Hermiston voters will be able to vote for their top four choices for the four at-large seats up for reelection.

The top four vote-getters will be sworn into those seats in January.

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