Washougal, WA — Washougal Mayor Molly Coston has been in office for a little more than a month now, and while she gets familiar with the job, she’s also setting an ambitious agenda for the “Gateway to the Gorge.”
“Things are going great here,” said Coston. “I find that I’m liking the job very much. Lots going on and I love the challenge of moving our small city forward, although there are many challenges and opportunities ahead. We have a very professional staff, and a wonderful community; I’m so pleased to be able to represent them all.”
With Washougal (like Camas) having a Strong Mayor government, that gives Coston the authority to set the agenda and operate like a CEO — in conjunction with the City Administrator.
”Right now I’m in a listening and learning mode,” said Coston. “I’m meeting with business leaders, like Angelo and Pendleton and seeing what they need. I want to build more coalitions and have a strong relationship with the Port of Camas-Washougal port commissioners. The economy is always a concern. We’re working closely with Camas because our fire departments are merged. We’re on the cusp of a transition with all the growth happening in Washougal.”
She wants more movement in the city’s downtown core with commercial growth — referring to a new East Main Street apartment complex. She believes that will spur more commercial development.
She said she’s in favor of a building a aquatics complex/community center — in conjunction with Camas, and possibly with the Port. “The community has asked us repeatedly for that, and we need to deliver,” she said.
With the stalled Washougal Bike Park, Coston said she’s looking for way to deal with the mandates that caused problems with that project. She said there’s the perception of gifts being mingled with public funds, and there are some permit issues that paused the construction of the park.
”We’re looking for way to get this going again,” said Coston.
With finances, she said the city’s costs continue to rise, but that the city doesn’t have as strong a retail/sales tax base as it needs. That’s why she’s in favor more development in the downtown core.
”We have to be prudent and cautious about how use taxpayer dollars,” she said. “The expectation from citizens is still huge. We have $42.9 million in annual revenue, and $13.5 million in the general fund.”
She also wants to tackle the homeless problem.
”Most have been here for quite a long time,” she said, “but it’s getting more noticeable now. People are getting pushed out because of increasing rent prices. I want our local government to facilitate ways to help them. It’s a growing problem in Camas, too.”
Washougal is working with a coalition of faith-based and community groups, including St. Thomas Church and St. Matthews Church to resolve the homeless issue.
”The police say there are least seven to ten individuals that are consistently homeless,” she said. “But, we think there are more in the rural areas. We want to train people on how to help them.”
Port of Camas-Washougal Commissioner John Spencer supported Coston’s run for mayor.
”I think it’s important to help Washougal navigate through their growth,” he said. “And, those who live in Camas need to understand we’re all connected here in East County. Camas and Washougal share emergency services and work together on many things. We need to think as one larger community.”
And, how would Coston handle hot button issues like marijuana?
”My philosophy on marijuana is that if we do it for revenue purposes that’s the wrong approach,” she said. “I’d have that open discussion with the council.”
To learn more, visit www.cityofwashougal.us