Frustrated with Proposition 2, the demolition of Crown Park Pool, and the overall direction of city leadership, Barry McDonnell, 41, a newcomer to politics, is officially a write-in candidate for Camas Mayor.
With his write-in paperwork with Clark County just confirmed, McDonnell, who works in Loss Prevention for Sephora, admits it’s a long shot bid to unseat incumbent Mayor Shannon Turk but feels this is a worthy endeavor.
“Three or four weeks ago it popped into my head and I knew this was something I would be doing,” said McDonnell. “I was talking about the community with Anastasia (his wife), and felt this is something I could do. I want to protect Camas.”
Protect Camas from what?
“The reason we moved to Camas three-and-a-half years ago is because we were looking for a place to settle down,” he said. “We were so excited and we feel so lucky to have found it. But now we are seeing a lot of changes. There’s been frustration with those changes and the way communication works between the city and its citizens. There’s an opportunity here to change this.”
Top three reasons he’s running:
1) Bring transparency to city government.
2) Be fiscally responsible for taxpayer’s money — “I think when we ask for money we just have the base level of the project be more clear. They should have their details more pronounced.”
3) He wants to be a voice for the people.
McDonnell said his view about Camas leadership started with the Crown Park pool process and the ensuing demolition.
“I wanted to protect it and understand it,” he said. “The process didn’t feel right — I felt like there was another agenda. I look at the amount of time we pulled together as citizens and the research we did, and how we shared that information. But, when we attended the city council meetings it felt frustrating that we didn’t get any responses in those meetings. Randy Curtis (the City of Camas Parks and Rec Board Chair) told my wife in conversation during a P&R meeting that in closing the Crown Park Pool, they were hoping it would create a sense of urgency and enthusiasm in the public for a new community aquatic center. In our family, and our community of friends, it’s served to do just the opposite.”
McDonnell said the city rushed to build the community center outlined in Proposition 2.
“Looking at the big picture they’ve been trying to get a new pool for 18 years,” he said. “They’ve spent so much money trying to build a new pool, and we’re not any closer to it. It’s somewhat embarrassing. Between demolition costs and all their research I think we’ve spent $687,000, and that shows we’re not being very efficient. I still don’t think we’re any further getting the community a new pool.”
What does he thinks the community wants?
“We want a pool,” he said. “We all agree on that. The location and the price tag of Proposition 2 are red flags. If we change the structure I can find out what the community wants. Then we can change the way the city interacts with the people.”
How would he change the structure?
“First, change the formats of the city council meetings,” he said. “Be more interactive with the people in the council chambers. Explain why we’re going in a certain direction. For example, Proposition 2 doesn’t make sense to me. There’s a lot of public frustration. I don’t know where the vote is going to go. If it passes you go with that, but I feel like the city has lost its way.”
“I think there’s a lot of different things that happen. As mayor I would hold myself accountable to the people. I would encourage participation. It’s about bringing people together to formulate the ideas and have them bubble up from the people.”
If elected, McDonnell would start by getting a feel for what the people are looking for. Then he would get to know and understand city staff, understand the expectations, and take the time away from his family to be successful in the job.
Aware of the demands and responsibilities, he said his experience in Loss Prevention is a great asset because it helps to evaluate stressful situations and find the best solutions.
He knows that change is inevitable, and he sees the growing frustration in city limits about trees being removed, along with crammed and poorly designed housing developments — but how would he navigate the Growth Management Act?
“We know the GMA is a big obstacle, it is something my wife and I have looked into, and honestly, been overwhelmed by. The overarching theme of our campaign is to have a community driven focus for the future, and there are many things that I would need to call on our community members to help us, as a city, navigate and challenge together. I’ve heard from folks about how the neighbors in Sunningdale Gardens studied these laws and went to bat to challenge the developers. They were able to get more green spaces and parks than were originally planned, and I think that’s great and it’s important to me that we live in a city where both our government and the people are on the same page when it comes to being willing to challenge and have high expectations of developers who work in Camas.”
Creating a 30-year vision
“I will work with the community to help put that vision together. I don’t have all the answers. Working with them the vision will come forth. Listening is being a leader. Have a discussion. Understand what the situation is. The community is the one trying to create a vision.”
What’s his vision for North Shore?
“I couldn’t tell you. I’ll assess the situation. We’ll figure it out — at the end of the day we would like a pool. I would like to understand what all the options are. I don’t really know. I’m not going to have all the answers. My skill set is in helping identify the direction we’re going to take, and make sure there are check-in’s all the way.”
McDonnell insists he isn’t funded by any large or small interest group.
“I have a 30-day campaign,” he said. “It’s a last minute kind of thing. It’s just friends and ourselves. We’ve had a few people donate.”
Learn more at www.writeinbarryforcamas.com where he also has a podcast discussing this journey. He is hosting a candidate Meet and Greet at Crown Park this Sunday from 2-4 pm.
Originally from Ireland, he, Anastasia, and their four children have lived in Atlanta, Florida, Colorado, and Camas. He has the support of his whole family.
Is he opening to debating Mayor Turk?
“I’d be open to a debate with Mayor Turk,” he said. “I think it would be healthy.”