Two councilors vote for Elma mayor’s vacancy; position 4 also on the ball

Mayor Elma

When Jim Sorensen announced earlier this year that he would not seek a third term as Elma mayor, two current City Council members — Josh Collette and John Heater — were vying to be the next leader of the small but fast-growing east county city.

Collette said he has established a long-range planning process during his four years on the council and will continue that process to address delayed maintenance of public infrastructure. He named the intersection at Main Street and Highway 12, the rebuilding of the public safety building, the demolition of the Elma Theater, sidewalk and crosswalk safety improvements and park improvements.

With the anticipated increase in rail traffic through Grays Harbor, Collette said he will work with the proper agencies to ensure emergency vehicles are not blocked by trains on key routes throughout the city.

As mayor, Collette said he will work to implement technology, improve city processes, seek additional sources of revenue and reduce employee turnover.

During his 15 years living in Elma, Collette served as a volunteer firefighter and on several community boards and committees.

“I am raising my family in Elma, I love this community and I want it to thrive,” Collette wrote in an email. “My leadership and professional experience in government finance and operations make me the best candidate to get the most out of our resources and see progress in our city.”

Heater, his opponent, is nearing two years of service on the City Council, time he said inspired the mayoral bid.

Two decades of living in Elma as a small business owner and experience as a “lifelong entrepreneur” give Heater a “unique” perspective that he said he would apply to a leadership role in the city.

“When you really look at it, the city is nothing more than a business,” Heater wrote in an email. “Taxpayers are our customers, and in order to keep our doors open, we need to deliver a necessary product that sees value in what we do.”

Heater said he would focus on completing delayed public infrastructure maintenance, including “pleasant and inclusive parks, dynamic crosswalks, road repairs and sewer system replacement.” He said hiring a grant writer on the city’s staff would increase that effort.

In addition to the grants, Heater said he will “start looking outside the box” to find funding opportunities and urge each department to find ways to raise revenue without raising taxes.

“We’ve been doing it the same way forever and it’s not working. Let’s try something else,” Heater wrote.

Position of the Elmo City Council 4

Mike Cooper is trying to defend his seat against challenger Shane Jhanson in the Elmo City Council Position 4 race.

Cooper has held the seat since 2019. Outside of Elmo’s governing body, he brings significant elected experience: he represented the 21st District in the Washington State House of Representatives, serving two terms from 2001-2004; served as chairman of the Snohomish County Council; he was then elected mayor of Edmonds before moving to Elma.

He worked professionally as a firefighter in Shoreline and served on several fire and non-fire related committees and commissions.

He highlighted the city’s work to facilitate the construction of a new municipal justice center to house the police station, municipal courts and emergency operations, using grants and loans in lieu of increased taxes.

That project is his top priority as a councilman, he said, but other priorities include completing the demolition of the Elma Theater and addressing staffing shortages across the city, particularly by restoring the role of Code enforcement.

“During my time as a legislator, council member and mayor, I have fought to promote recreational opportunities for families and seniors,” Cooper wrote in an email. “I continue this fight as we master the 10th Street Park plan to make it a park for people of all ages and abilities.”

“I will continue my fight for a viable business community, safe sidewalks and streets.”

Cooper’s challenger, Shane Jhanson, did not provide an email address or cell phone number through the Grays Harbor County auditor’s website, and attempts to contact Jhanson through the city of Elmo were unsuccessful.

According to information Jhanson provided in the voter pamphlet, Jhanson served as a volunteer firefighter with the Elma Fire Department and contributed to numerous charities through the Old Hippys Motorcycle Club.

In a personal statement, Jhanson wrote, “As a lifelong resident of Elma, I am committed to putting the needs and interests of our community first. I am a former volunteer firefighter for the city of Elma; and have been directly involved in planning and organizing several charity events to benefit organizations such as the VFW, Backpacks for Kids, ARC of Grays Harbor, Elma Cub Scouts and several others. I enjoy giving my time to the community and look forward to working with the citizens of Elma.”

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or

Josh Collette

John Heater

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