LaDonna Page appointed to Kelso City Council | Government and politics

Kelso City Council nominated LaDonna Page, an ambitious political novice, to a vacant council seat Tuesday night.

Council voted 4-2 to select Page to fill the vacant seat formerly held by Mayor Nancy Malone at the regular council meeting. Keenan Harvey and Lisa Alexander were the two board members who voted against Page’s nomination.

Page, 35, is a mortgage loan officer for Sierra Pacific Mortgage and runs the Kelso Sister City exchange program. Page grew up in Kelso and told the council she was willing to work on housing issues and improve the town.

“What is chosen here has far more impact on my daily life than what is chosen in Washington, DC, and I would love to be a part of that and help make those decisions,” Page said during his interview Tuesday.

The board held interviews with the four candidates for the open seat at a special meeting prior to the regular board meeting. Candidates seeking the seat were former council members Jeffrey McAllister and Richard Von Rock and last year’s city council candidate Kirsten Markstrom.

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Page’s age and enthusiasm were cited as a point in her favor by Kelso board members who voted for her nomination and a concern by those who voted against her.

“As I have more and more gray hair, it’s important to recognize the young people who can come to an organization like this and bring variety and diversity of thought,” Councilman Brian Wood said.

Alexander said his vote was not about Page’s opinions or goals for the board, but rather about his relative lack of experience.

“I felt we needed someone who was already used to the board. Wood is still getting used to the way we work and now we’re adding someone else,” Alexander said.

Harvey hopes Page would do well as a board member, but remains convinced it was unfair that the seat was opened in the first place. Malone lost the seat at the last meeting in December for missing too many board meetings.

Biographical details on the page

Page first moved to Kelso when she was 9 years old. She went to college at the University of Arizona and lived in Arizona for several years, until her husband retired from the United States Army and their family moved back to Kelso. They have two children enrolled in the Kelso School District.

Last winter, Page ran for the board seat left vacant when David Futcher stepped down. Page said a busy schedule kept her from running in the 2021 election, but now has time to commit to serving on the board.

Given his job as a mortgage agent, Page is familiar with the housing issues facing the city. She said she wasn’t sure what the city council could do to change the types of housing on offer. Whichever route the council takes, she believes it’s important to create more affordable housing for middle- and low-income families.

“The biggest challenge facing many of our local citizens is that the housing market is outpacing our incomes,” Page said.

Another big priority for her is the city’s water system. Page said she had worked with clients who had moved from Longview to Kelso due to the difference in quality in the water supply.

“Protecting this water is important to me. I drink it every day, I let my kids drink it,” Page said.

Other Town Hall Business

Outside of Page’s nomination, the biggest drama for Kelso City Council on Tuesday came from what wasn’t on the agenda.

Harvey interrupted the discussion on the approval of the minutes of the previous meeting to ask about two items that were not on the agenda, the next stage of the city’s moratorium on offender housing and a zoning change along a realigned section of West Main Street.

“This is a new administration and this is the third time an agenda item has been dropped,” Harvey said in an interview Wednesday. “Why have my articles been continually left out?”

City attorney Janean Parker said the public hearing on the moratorium was pushed back because Kelso was unable to provide the required 14-day notice before Tuesday’s meeting. No clear answer was provided about the proposed zoning feature, which would create a retail zone along West Main.

Harvey then tried to force a council member to relinquish his seat for abstaining from voting at the Jan. 18 meeting. Harvey argued that the wording of the forfeiture section of Kelso’s town charter meant that any action not authorized by the town’s charter, such as abstaining from voting, was grounds for removal.

City officials disagreed with this interpretation. In an email interview with The Daily News on January 12, Parker specifically used abstentions as an example of a city charter violation that would not require a seat to be vacated.

“Section 2.09(c) states that every member votes and abstentions are not permitted except where there is a conflict. If a board member abstains, I don’t believe they have lost their position,” a writes Parker.

In other matters, Kelso City Council acted at Tuesday’s meeting to:

  • allow the city to list the land at 314 Oak Street, a former Kelso City Hall parking lot, as surplus property and begin the sale process.
  • sign the Spirit Lake-Toutle/Cowlitz River System collaboration agreement.
  • organize a discussion on the approval of the new rules of conduct and procedure of the council until the meeting of February 15

About Jefferey G. Cannon

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