The is the second in our series of responses to questions asked of all 18 candidates for public office in Ocean Shores this year. Ballots will be mailed late next month for the Aug. 6 primary election, which involves City Council Positions 3, 4 and 7, the Mayoral contest and the Hospital District 2 seat.
Council Position 3 incumbent Lisa Griebel previously announced that she would not seek re-election, prompting what initially appeared to be a four-way fight for that seat. Richard Wills and Frank Elduen filed after both were turned down as they sought appointment to vacant Council seats in the past year. Dennis Schulte filed for Council in 2015, then didn’t campaign and pulled just under a third of the vote against Jon Martin. John Schroeder was elected to Council in 2011, defeated in 2015 and finished third in a four-person primary for Griebel’s seat in 2017. He filed, but decided — after the withdraw deadline — not to run, so his name will still appear on the Aug, 6 primary ballot.
Frank Elduen is 62 years old, has been an Ocean Shores homeowner since 2004 and full-time resident since 2017, when he and his wife moved here from Auburn. He retired after 43 years as an electrician, foreman, superintendent, and union organizer in the electrical construction industry. He has been a volunteer track coach for North Beach High School for the past two years, is vice-president of the North Beach Booster Club, a member of the North Beach HS long term facilities committee, a KOSW radio board member and board secretary, as well as a volunteer on-air DJ, a member of the Eagles Aerie 4197 Ocean Shores, and the Beach Boyz Car Club. He enjoys classic cars, fishing, kayaking, golfing, AKC dog events, clamming and crabbing, and other beach activities.
Richard Wills, 71, is a native of Grants Pass, Oregon, who grew up in Seattle. He and his wife, Alex Suarez, moved to Ocean Shores from Spanaway in 2016. He is retired and has worked as a massage therapist, handyman, assistant gym manager, EMT for the city of El Paso, TX, computer consultant, half owner of an aerobics business employing 12 – 16 instructors, retired from US Army after 24 years active duty as First Sergeant of a 200-plus person Army Air Defense battery. He earned a Bachelor of Science in computer management from Park Extension College in 1988 or 89 while still on active duty. He has been a member of the Ocean Shores Planning Commission for approaching one year, and a trustee for the Ocean Shores Fresh Waterways non-profit corporation for over a year. He lived on a sailboat in Friday Harbor, WA for over 11 years, and enjoys jogging, adult tricycling, couples dancing and photography.
Dennis Schulte graduated high school in Golva, ND, and moved to Ocean Shores in 2014 from Parkland after 22 years with the Air Force, then working full-time for Sears Automotive. After retiring from Sears, he moved to the beach in 2014. He said his time now is spent on the beach helping people and animals, as well as collecting a lot of trash. He enjoys helping NOAA and Cascadia Research with observing, collecting, and assisting with necropsies on marine animals.
What is the number one thing you’d like to see the City accomplish in the next four years? What will you do to make that happen?
Edulen: The city is in desperate need of an urgent care facility. Lack of medical care is a major reason why some citizens move away from Ocean Shores. Since 2015, Ocean Shores homeowners have been paying taxes to Grays Harbor Public Hospital District 2. In 2014 there was a promise of a clinic in Ocean Shores if the city voted to join the hospital district. The Hospital District hasn’t fulfilled its obligation. We need to pursue the promise to Ocean Shores, and if the Hospital District cannot deliver on its promise we need to look into requesting de-annexation from the hospital district. This action would require a petition and public vote. We could then look at possibly joining hospital district 1, if they are interested in putting an urgent care clinic here, or reaching out to other providers.
Wills: Make downtown more pedestrian friendly. However, several issues need to be addressed, starting with: drainage, parking, crosswalks, unpaved gravel lots, pot holes etc. The Point Brown project that the citizens soundly rejected addressed all of those issues. The project was expensive because federal and state grants come with specific requirements. Even if Shores chooses to simply put in sidewalks, parking spaces will be lost and drainage, both in parking lots and the street will need to be addressed. It is not as simple as pouring a sidewalk. Some of those issues could be mitigated by using a meandering sidewalk that hugged business fronts, leaving current parking (mostly) alone. When the citizens rejected the project, they seemed to focus on the $15 million price tag and ignored that Shores portion was much less. Without grant assistance, any sidewalk, crosswalk project may strain our resources.
Schulte: The city is looking at many projects, but the most important subject is future economic sustainability. When the beach closes for vehicle traffic in the not too distant future, we will have to survive a tourist decline far greater than fifty percent. We need to make sure that everything we have now is maintained so that it can survive a few years during lean times. I will concentrate on maintaining what we have, instead of getting new shiny objects.
Should the City prohibit homeless shelters and services in certain areas, Which areas and why?
Edulen: I think the city should provide temporary shelter and help for the homeless. The homeless often times have needs that the city cannot provide, such as mental health treatment, addiction issues, and job training. We should guide them to needed services and resources to help them become productive citizens. The planning commission is looking into zoning for homeless shelters so I would defer to their recommendations as to shelter location.
Wills: The Planning Commission (PC) is currently addressing this issue in depth. Prudent council members will wait for the PC to supply needed facts and data. The county currently spends about $2 million and realistically only helps 1 in 4 homeless. The city’s job is to create the rules, just like is done for businesses and residential homes. Churches and nonprofits are best for implementing and providing facilities. Shores should not engage in actually running a homeless facility for the same reasons it does not run a store. Shores certainly should not allow encampments. We are too far away from the plethora of services needed to help mitigate homelessness. After the PC does its job, the council can evaluate needed changes to ordinances such as: potential zoning changes, distance from schools and residential areas, bathroom requirements based on expected daily traffic and ramifications of overnight facilities, etc.
Schulte: We clearly need to regulate homeless shelters and services. Just like a tire shop should not be in the heart of the shopping district. They need to be easily accessible, be it by bus or a short walk. It also needs to be within reasonable reach of jobs.
Are you satisfied with the direction the city is taking with the Convention Center? If not, what would you have it do differently?
Edulen: The Convention Center is a great facility and asset for the city. I often see the Convention Center sitting empty and unused. I would like to see more business type conferences and conventions scheduled, which would require a more aggressive marketing plan. Many companies and organizations are looking for places to hold their meetings, training, and conferences. We should personally reach out to businesses and invite them to come and see all that Ocean Shores has to offer. In addition, if the Convention Center produces more income, it frees up more lodging tax funds for other city endeavors.
Wills: The city has done a pretty good job of running the convention center. They only have 3 or 4 persons on staff. The chef so many complain about wears two or three hats: operations manager, head chef and working cook. The facility is reasonably modern, clean, very functional and busy most of the year. Losing events is a disingenuous myth. The convention center has two income sources, LTAC and income from events. LTAC is unpredictable. From the budget documents: CONVENTION & TOURISM FUND 106: 2014= $624,442.72; 2015= $658,995.65; 2016= $783,521.76; 2017= $888,502.22; 2018= $985,472.58. 2019 106 fund income is $409,613 putting the convention center right on track for the year. Sheryl has done a fabulous job running the center. Diane brings a whole new level of expertise and experience. Why would anybody want to change a winning formula?
Schulte: The convention center needs to increase usage, and I believe we are on track to do just that. We are at the end of the world here, and it isn’t as easy to book events that venues along the I-5 corridor can get. A group of workers can hop on public transit to reach anything north or south of Seattle. Without a car, the beach is difficult. We encountered a stranded group from Seattle that got their rideshare car disabled because it was to far from its home base.
Wouldn’t it be great if Ocean Shores could ________ ? (fill in the blank)
Edulen: Wouldn’t it be great if Ocean Shores could be a destination on everyone’s bucket list?
Wills: Motivate more people to engage and vote. There are approximately 5,000 registered voters in Shores. Last election approximately 2,000 people voted in the local election. A lot of misinformation circulates in Shores. In my opinion, although communication to voters can be improved, the city does a decent job. Voters also have a responsibility to seek out information and mindfully engage in the communication process. There is a big difference between candidates who simply talk and make promises and incumbent candidates with a track record of improving the city or new candidates who consistently engage council. Vitriolic accusations of ineptitude presented without offering real solutions do not equal mindful engagement presented with facts and data along with plausible suggestions for solutions. Effective communication involves much more than biased, disingenuous coffee klatches. If elected, I will do my best to help all voters perceive they are being heard by council members.
Schulte: Wouldn’t it be great if Ocean Shores could get Dolphin Avenue extended out to 115, and Point Brown be changed over to a mall type area! It would provide easier egress to residents on the east side, provide a less congested route out of town, and slow down traffic on Pt Brown, while providing a huge parking area.