Candidates in the only competitive race for Ridgefield City Council made their case for why they should be elected last week, with the challenger to the incumbent acknowledging the city’s “Mayberry” charm may not last through the city’s rapid growth.
During a virtual forum on Sept. 30 hosted by the League of Women Voters of Clark County, incumbent Jennifer Lindsay answered questions alongside her challenger Ken Spurlock for the city council’s position 6 seat.
Appointed in 2018, Lindsay ran unopposed to retain her seat in 2019. She said her focus is to keep a rural feel as the city grows, while hearing citizens’ concerns. She also wants to maintain a balanced economic base.
Spurlock, a longtime Clark County resident and recent transplant to Ridgefield, said the city hasn’t been successful in providing affordable housing, as rent prices for apartments approach $1,500 for a one-bedroom unit.
On housing, Lindsay said the city is beholden to the state’s Growth Management Act on density requirements, which for the city averages six people per acre.
“We get to decide, kind of how the layout is, but we don’t necessarily get to decide how much growth happens,” Lindsay said.
She said the city has been focused on filling the “missing middle” of housing needs with multiplex units and townhomes.
Acknowledging the desire among citizens to keep Ridgefield’s small-town feel, Spurlock said that won’t be likely given the city’s rapid growth. Population projections show the city will grow to 25,000 residents by the year 2035. With development scheduled at areas like the Interstate 5 junction and the city’s waterfront, Spurlock said providing businesses with incentives to move into the downtown area will help keep that part of town thriving through the population increase.
“There needs to be a complement of what’s happening at the waterfront as well as what’s happening in the downtown area,” Spurlock said.
Though she didn’t want to frame it as new businesses in the city versus old ones, Lindsay acknowledged keeping the established businesses downtown is important as the city moves forward. She said keeping “vital services” like city hall, the post office and the library downtown would ensure the area will not be neglected as it grows.
Both candidates didn’t see a need for extensive reform of the city’s police force.
“Police nationally (have) been kind of militarized, but I see Ridgefield as having a very friendly group of people providing services here,” Spurlock said.
Lindsay said she’s been on multiple ride-alongs with Ridgefield officers since new laws governing police tactics went into effect in late July.
“I think people who go into policing want to do it because they want to help people and now they have limitations of being able to proactively help people,” Lindsay said.
Lindsay said she believes the laws now on the books will change with upcoming legislation.
She said she is in favor of a staffing study to see if the city has enough officers.
For the city’s future, Lindsay envisions the waterfront as a “vibrant, interconnected … jewel” for Ridgefield, adding the city’s environment will be key to Ridgefield’s identity.
“I see the outdoors as being a common theme in wherever we go forward in the next 20 years,” Lindsay said.
Spurlock wants the city to become a cultural hub, as he pointed to its history with indigenous cultures and pioneers. He reiterated that whatever direction the city takes, it will likely evolve past its current small town aesthetic.
“We’re not going to look like Mayberry in the future because we are changing,” Spurlock said. “It’s going to be exciting, but it’s going to be a different look.”