Vader citizens will vote this November to elect a mayor and to fill one position on the city council during the Nov. 2 general election.
The candidates for the two positions fielded questions about the city’s priorities and growth during a candidate meet-and-greet in Vader’s community center Wednesday evening.
In the mayoral race, incumbent Joe Schey and challenger Judi Costello are the two candidates who secured the most votes in the August primary election to compete in the November general election. In the primary, Schey held a wide lead with 62.5% of the vote while Costello received 25.74% of the vote.
Schey served on the city council from 2014 through 2019, when he was appointed mayor following former mayor Ken Smith’s resignation. “It’s been fun, exciting. I’ve had a good time doing it,” Schey said. “Challenging at times, but I’ve learned a lot, I continue to learn, and we’ve got some great things in the works right now and even more kind of wishlist things coming. If I get elected again, hopefully we can keep this kind of momentum going.”
Costello moved to Vader with her husband in 2008 and has since served on multiple volunteer committees and was elected twice to serve as a city council member. She owns two businesses, Apple Electric and Spin City Laundry.
When asked why she wanted to be mayor, Costello said, “I have a lot of ideas and I think it would be very beneficial to the city. My thoughts would be, I really want to enhance our historical part of our community, both in advertising, promoting business, etc. Because I've always been about that. Joe's done a great job. … I think everybody brings something different to the table. And so as mayor, I would be learning along with everybody else, probably. But my focus would be on business, historical, and bringing things into the community.”
In the race for position 1 on the Vader City Council, incumbent Donna Rogers and challenger Marie Anne MacIntosh tied in the primary with 35.04% of the vote each. Challenger Jason Vance was eliminated with 27.74% of the vote, and 2.19% went to a write-in candidate.
Rogers moved to Vader in 1986 and first got involved with the city government via the planning committee in 2004. She was elected to the position 1 seat in 2019, when she went up against Kevin Flynn in a bid to replace outgoing councilor Randal Hall.
“If I get elected again, I’ll continue doing what I’ve been doing,” she said, later adding, “I want to see more community involvement. There’s the city council, the city government, and then there’s the community over here, and they’re totally disengaged from each other. And I want to see that stuff.”
MacIntosh moved to Vader 5 years ago and said she wants to be on city council to “make Vader great.”
She later elaborated, “I think we have a lot to offer people. We need to bring in new blood. Bringing new businesses in, I want to see that. I think we would help Vader grow as a community.”
When asked how she would go about that, MacIntosh answered, “I have no idea, okay? I’ve never been on city council before, but I’m a quick learner. I’ve managed for a corporation of businesses so I know I can do it.”
Residents asked the panel of candidates questions ranging from management of the city’s roads, to how COVID-19 relief funding should be used, to whether Vader should establish its own school district and police force, to the current status of an ongoing sewer project and the candidates’ opinions on roosters in city limits.
Schey and Costello agreed in most of their answers to the questions, with Schey offering additional background on the history and regulations associated with each of the issues presented.
Rogers spoke to her position on each of the issues, while MacIntosh largely limited her comments to when she was asked a direct question, instead spending the forum listening intently to the other candidates.
Expanding Vader’s School
Costello said she would like to see the Vader school, which is part of the Castle Rock School District and currently only serves pre-K, serve children pre-K through third grade or higher via the addition of several more portable classroom units to the current building.
The Vader School District previously served K-8 but was dissolved in 2008 due to a lack of funding.
“There’s been a lot of kids come this summer, a lot of new families that have moved in with small people. So I think that would be one of my interests, if mayor, would be to check into the Castle Rock enhancing data.”
Schey said he would like to see the school revitalized in town, but was wary about the possibility of having the current school building renovated or rebuilt anytime soon based on the Castle Rock School District’s failure to pass its own school levies in the past. He added that while establishing an independent Vader school district likely wouldn’t produce cost savings, it could be possible if the community backed the effort. “But you don’t need to be mayor to make that happen,” he said.
Establishing an Independent Police Force
The candidates were asked about the possibility of Vader reestablishing its own police force or partnering with either Winlock or Toledo to form a joint police force.
“When I came there, Vader had a police force,” said Rogers. “It’s kind of pro and con for me because after seeing how it was done, usually the police officers would come here and we would pay for all their training for a couple of years, and then they’re gone. And the same thing would happen again and again and again. So I don’t know what to think about it if we had our own police force, I see it going through the same cycle again, and it's expensive, it's really expensive. But on the other hand, I really don’t like having the sheriff here because they don’t do anything. They don’t enforce our ordinances, they won’t touch them. If we want to have a noise ordinance, we have to adopt Lewis County’s … that’s the problem I have against it because we’re just kind of hanging out here, we don’t have anybody to take care of our ordinances or things like that.”
Vader currently pays approximately $85,000 per year for the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office to conduct law enforcement services for the City of Vader, which includes 911 response, 20 hours per week of active patrol time, municipal court costs and jail services.
“Believe it or not, it’s a sweet deal,” said Schey.
He later added that, like an independent school district, an independent police force could become possible in later years with the growth that’s coming to Vader.
“You want everything now, but you need to kind of build a base and momentum to get there,” he said.
Reclaiming Vader’s Water System
When asked by a reporter their opinions on Vader reclaiming ownership of its water system from Lewis County, which has been officially managing the system since 2014,
Both Costello and Rogers said they wanted to leave the system in the county’s control.
Under its current agreement with Lewis County, Vader has until the end of 2023 to start the year-long process of reclaiming the water system, which includes the City of Vader proving it is financially stable enough to manage the system.
“We don’t have the equipment, the operators, any of the above to do it, and I think the county has done an excellent job,” said Costello, adding that the city hasn’t had to issue water boil since the county took control, and the county has been responsive to repair needs. “I think the way we’re doing it right now is perfectly fine with me.”
“I do too. I don’t see us being able to handle the water at all … I think it’s done wonderful at Lewis County. They should keep it.”
Schey, however, expressed interest in reclaiming the water system.
“To make our sewer system more manageable, we almost need to get the water system back so we can join the two back together again,” he said, later adding, “We can run the system effectively. We’re good at that, we have good business practices. It wouldn’t be a problem.”
In addition to being a worthwhile effort for the city, he said reclaiming the water system would make Vader seem more legitimate compared to surrounding cities.
“I’d like Vader to be one of the cities that is not having problems and is in charge of itself, has all its ducks in a row, we’ve got all our utilities back, maybe we have our police force back in a handful of years, and we’ll be doing better than others cities. I’d like to see that,” said Schey.