Two civic-minded Centralians will duke it out next month for a non-partisan, open seat on the Centralia City Council being vacated by Councilor Mark Westley, who’s seeking a district seat.
Leah Daarud, 34, an assistant planner with Lewis County Community Development, and Steven Hubbard, 42, a team member at I-5 Auto Group, are the candidates competing for the Centralia City Council’s at-large Position No. 3.
Daarud has served as an appointed board member on the Centralia Planning Commission and was previously the secretary of the Lewis County Young Republicans. She’s also served as a budget task force team member with the Centralia School District and worked as a forensic mental health facilitator. She said she’s worked “the better part of the decade” in behavioral health and criminal justice prior to being hired by the county as a planner.
She said she’s lived all over Washington state, but she and her family of four have decided to call Centralia their home.
“I have a unique skill set that fosters unity and encourages collaboration,” Daarud said during a debate hosted by The Chronicle.
If elected, Daarud’s priorities include supporting public safety, voting for a balanced budget with no new tax increases and working to collaborate with constituents and neighboring municipalities to develop the infrastructure and increase housing stock, according to her voter’s guide statement. Daadrud holds two degrees: one in criminal justice from Centralia College and another in behavioral health science with an emphasis on trauma informed care from Grand Canyon University.
Hubbard, a 40-year resident of Lewis County, holds a degree in criminal justice and a certificate in corrections from Centralia College and previously worked as a corrections officer at Green Hill School.
He’s also been involved in the Lewis County Gospel Mission and a nonprofit he operates alongside his wife, Lisa Striedinger, also a Centralia City Council candidate, that links resources to community members and veterans struggling with homelessness called “Friends Without Homes.”
His priorities include working to keep the veterans services in Lewis County and making the city a better, cleaner and safer place to live and do business.
While Daarud has applauded the work the city has done to address the community’s housing shortage, Hubbard says he believes there’s a better way the city could be going about addressing these issues on a larger scale.
“I’m not somebody that’s been on the council for 15 years, I’m not going to make the same decisions they’ve been making over, and over and over again. I’m not going to stay in this stuck system,” said Hubbard, noting his opposition to public school masking and COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
Hubbard said he’d also like to see a certain percentage of lodging tax dollars reinvested back into homeless and housing services, since a portion of those dollars are generated by homeless individuals who often stay at hotels and motels.
“I think maybe some of that money should go towards prevention processes, cleanup processes. Put it back into the community that’s giving us the money and try to help get us some different services and things in place for them,” Hubbard said, voicing his support for a mitigation site similar to one that’s operated in Olympia.
Daarud, who’s worked with unhoused people for 15 years, said it’s important for them to get ahead of it, though she notes she would not like to follow in Olympia’s footsteps.
“I think Centralia has an eclectic and historic charm that we need to make sure we preserve,” she said, noting that the city needs to take a housing-first approach.
Both candidates say they wouldn’t enact any property tax increases if proposed.
Daarud said she should be on the council because she’s transparent and holds the leadership and municipal experience needed to understand the work the city does. Hubbard said voters should choose him because he’s got a “big heart, open and honest” and isn’t afraid to stand alone on issues.
Daarud has also been involved with the Hub City Mission, the Salvation Army Community Garden, the Centralia Clean Team, Friends of Seminary Hill work parties, the Mobile Meals Ministry and as a domestic violence support advocate.
This year’s general election will take place Tuesday, Nov. 2. Whichever city council candidate receives a majority of the votes cast in the race will be elected to a two-year, at-large term starting January 2022.
Four other seats on the Centralia City Council are up for reelection this November.
Cameron McGee has found a challenger in Lisa Striedinger; Westley is running unopposed for a district seat that’s being vacated by Councilor Susan Luond; incumbent Rebecca Staebler is being challenged by Sarah Althauser; and incumbent Max Vogt, the current Centralia mayor, is being challenged by Rhoda Angove.
All registered Lewis County voters will receive a ballot by mail for the general election starting next week, according to Lewis County Elections. Ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2 or in a county-certified election drop box by 8 p.m. on election night.
Voters can confirm their ballot status after submission by going online to www.votewa.gov.
The last day to register or update voter registration via online or by mail to vote in the Nov. 2 election is Oct. 25. Washington state voters can still show up in-person at their local auditor’s office to register or change their address up until 8 p.m. on election day.
More information on Hubbard’s campaign can be found by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on Daarud’s campaign can be found at www.facebook.com/electleahdaarud.