The Aberdeen Mayoral Candidates Forum is a civic affair

Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave’s term as mayor is nearly over, leaving the question of who will take the city’s top job next.

Two Aberdeen mayoral candidates, Douglas Orr and Debi Pieraccini, sat a few feet away from many constituents Tuesday to talk about the city’s problems and their ideas for fixing those problems. The Grays Harbor District general election is scheduled for Nov. 7.

The event was hosted by Lynnette Buffington, CEO of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. Carl Schroeder, deputy director of government relations for the Association of Washington Cities, talked about how when people think of cities in Washington state, they usually think of Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia. They don’t think of smaller towns like Aberdeen. But they face similar problems.

“One of our big things is to reinforce to the state that one solution is not going to fit all communities,” Schroeder said.

After Schroeder spoke, Orr began his opening remarks. He thanked those present for coming because it shows they care about the city. He too.

“I joined this race to be your mayor … because like many residents of the city, I’m a little frustrated with some of the things that are happening right now,” Orr said.

Orr wants to solve some of the city’s problems

“I believe some of the current problems in our city are caused by us putting up barriers and stifling creative change,” Orr said. “I think it will be something that will take a lot of courage to accept these changes and move forward. …I also believe that there is no single solution to our problems that our city is facing right now.

For example, Orr used the Gateway Center, a project that was brought forward after years of research and obtaining most of the necessary funding. He pointed it out because it cost the city.

“I believe we were the ones who put all the eggs in the basket,” said Orr, who prefers to take small steps.

“I happen to have a lot of ideas that are small,” Orr said. “With those and with the help of the community, I think these ideas can come to fruition and move us in a more positive direction. I think we can find money to solve a lot of our problems without raising taxes.”

Orr then passed the microphone to Pieraccini, who delivered opening remarks:

“My name is Debi Pieraccini,” she said. “I am a mother, a grandmother, a business owner and I want to be your mayor. It is an honor and a privilege to currently serve the City of Aberdeen as a City Councillor. I currently serve as chairman of the finance committee. I’m the chair of the Homeless Response Committee.”

Pieraccini then listed several of her other roles and her completion of the Advanced Municipal Leadership Course through the Association of Washington Cities.

“I’m very proud of it,” Pieraccini said. “The Advanced City Leadership Course provides over 60 hours of training in various areas of city leadership and proven local community service. As a successful local business owner, my facility provides financial support to my employees, including seven families. I have experience in running a company and I know that the skills I have acquired will be of great benefit to me as mayor.”

Pieraccini continued her successes as a city councilor and then moved on to what she would be like if elected.

“We all want Aberdeen to be safe, healthy and welcoming for visitors and industry,” Pieraccini said. “I am determined to lead us in this direction. We have amazing staff in the city, incredible citizens and an open opportunity to be part of Aberdeen’s transition from a driving city to a driving destination. Aberdeen has a bright future ahead of it if it is led in the right direction.”

Buffington asked about infrastructure investment

“The new infrastructure is very exciting,” Pieraccini said. “We have a railway project, we have a flood dam project, we have the Mladá Street bridge. All of these things add to the community. It will make us a major community. I think one of the biggest problems we have is the homeless problem. We are now on the verge of finding solutions and accommodation for the homeless. This will stop major production in the city center. It’s very difficult for a lot of people.”

Pieraccini wants to “present healing in our community.” She said the projects will bring more infrastructure and “people will want to invest in our community.” That’s what he wants to lead.

Orr followed him.

“We have a lot of infrastructure projects planned,” Orr said. “I think one of the best opportunities we have is that we have a lot of these things planned that could be connected to other projects. I mean we have the levee project and we have the Young Street Bridge project. Can the two be combined when viewed together in terms of other grants?

Orr said he thinks “there are a lot of opportunities where we have different projects that could also be added than just having a levee. Some of that levee could be used for other projects that our city needs, like creating more parks and more access to the river and stuff like that.”

Orr used the Young Street Bridge project as an example.

“I think the same thing with the bridge project — recognizing our music and our history and our heritage,” Orr said. “We’re adding more opportunities for young people to go to that park and do things like play music or have concerts there rather than having the park as it is right now.”

Buffington asked the candidates about political divisiveness as a national, state and local issue, and their approach to building consensus, overcoming differences on the council and what examples of leadership they have shown in their past. Orr went first.

“I think one of the biggest problems in our nation, not just in Aberdeen, is this partisan idea of ​​’my way is the only way,'” Orr said. “I think when I reach out to both sides, I like to think of myself as non-partisan, so to me everyone in the community has equal value in their opinions. It is necessary to listen to all sides and then agree on some kind of consensus. There is always something of mutual interest that we can bond over. I think reaching out to the community, hearing what the community has to say, and then incorporating that into whatever process is going on is a key component of being impartial and getting things done. We all have big dreams and sometimes those dreams need to be cut short to better suit the needs of the community rather than just your party or ideology.”

Pieraccini said she has changed since she started as a city councilwoman

“When I first started I went in knowing that I was right, I knew that everything I wanted should go my way and after a few years you learn that when you go in you have to listen to everybody,” he said Pieraccini. “You have to meet people halfway. We don’t always get what we want. One of the things is $15 million. When you have something stuck in your inbox three hours before a council meeting and you haven’t had time to read it because you usually have two or three days to do it, you don’t make a decision as quickly when there are questions. When seven people say ‘no’ out of 12, you have to respect that and then you have to move on. You don’t drag it through the mud for six months. You realize it was an opportunity that maybe was wasted because it wasn’t presented properly, and then you move on.”

When it comes to bridging the political divide, Pieraccini wants to get to know people why they believe what they believe and “maybe try to find a compromise.”

The candidates also gave brief closing statements. Orr went first.

“I believe Aberdeen is a gem, it is a gem,” Orr said. “We are all blessed to live here. I feel bad that when I was a kid and lived here before, I didn’t recognize the value of what was here. My goal was to leave. I think most young people from our community grow up and that’s their goal. They want to leave this community. I think we have a lot. We have historic buildings, we have parks, miles of waterways, great fishing and hunting. We are the center of the port so it seems like a natural starting point for everywhere else in the county.”

Orr said he visited “hundreds of small towns that were like Aberdeen, many of them successful and some not”.

One of the biggest problems he sees is how Aberdeen is “stuck in being a timber town”.

“That’s, from the things I’ve read, one of the biggest barriers to small towns that are financially strapped moving forward,” Orr said. “We have to let go of the idea that we’re ever going to be a lumber town again and figure out what our assets are, embrace those assets and move in a new direction. We must determine what we want to become. I think the destination is a great place. Our No. 1 asset is the 10 million tourists who pass through our community each year, and we don’t harvest them. But when you come to the city, you look at all the fast food places. They are big businesses, they realize the potential that 10 million people have. That’s why everyone parks their businesses at the entrance to our city.”

Orr sees plenty of opportunity for Aberdeen

“We have to create an identity and we’re never going to move forward if we don’t,” Orr said.

Orr also wants to see more community pride.

“We need everyone in this community to be able to say ‘we’re proud to be from Aberdeen’ and hopefully work to make Aberdeen better,” Orr said of their words.

Pieraccini talked about why she is the best candidate.

“I’m approachable, I’m willing to do the work, I’ve put in the hours and I’m ready to do the work,” Pieraccini said. “As we look to our future in Aberdeen, I will continue to focus on and support the projects currently in the works, as well as several others. I will support economic development, new businesses and the rejuvenation of our business district’s infrastructure. We will work with the county to directly address the homeless community and mitigate the impact on our business community.”

Pieraccini wants to explore “additional options for city events, potential community space for family entertainment, concerts, possibly specialty markets and more.”

In addition to the amphitheater, which Orr also pushed for Tuesday, Pieraccini also wants to add food trucks and invite “our local, great artists to sing and play their music.”

“I’ll tell you what, if I was driving through a small town like this and I’d see people on a stage playing music, I’d be like, ‘Honey, let’s stop there, let’s stop there and see what’s going on.’ Pieraccini said. “And we would be that target city.

Both candidates positive

“I feel very confident in my answers,” Pieraccini said. “I feel like I was prepared and I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to the community. I really enjoyed it.”

Pieraccini praised Orr’s performance.

“I like Doug,” Pieraccini said. “I think I’m a stronger candidate. I think he has great ideas. I think being on the city council for a few years would refine his thinking and understanding of what goes on behind the scenes. You don’t see that when you’re just a citizen. You will see it when you get to the council. You see, “I see why they do it.” But I enjoyed his comments.”

Orr was also confidential. He also praised Pieraccini.

“I think it went really well,” Orr said. “I was really nervous. I’m still nervous, I’m still kind of shaking. I thought it went really well. I didn’t get to say everything I wanted to say, but I’m really glad I did. You know, Debi and I, we agree on a lot of things. Even though we’re running against each other, we’re not really enemies or anything. We’re still friends. Whichever one of us gets into office, I think the other one is going to work hard to help. I’m going to work hard for her and I think she will work hard for me.”

Orr said Pieraccini’s knowledge of the city’s inner workings helped her keep her answers “a little more succinct” than his.

“But I’m all about thinking outside the box and not sticking to what’s traditionally been done,” Orr said. “I think her answers kind of take us in the direction we’re already going, and I think I might change that direction a little bit if I’m elected.”

Contact reporter Matthew N. Wells at matthew.wells@thedailyworld.com.

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