Aberdeen’s Ward 4 City Council race features technicolorful City Council President and businesswoman, Kathi Hoder, flamboyant and earthy — versus Elaine Redner, a businesswoman who is definitely no shrinking violet, but a muted palette by comparison.
Hoder has served on the council for nine years and been president for the past two. “I do a lot of goofy things. I ride Harleys, I pack a gun … I rescue animals with my daughter, and I like to volunteer to do fun things.” She owns Hoquiam Licensing (ironically located in Aberdeen). It has been run by women in her extended family since 1932. Hoder is an ally of Mayor Bill Simpson and aspires to succeed him one day.
Redner came here about a dozen years ago from Oregon. She works in private rehabilitation and vocational medicine for self-insured companies. She co-owns Anytime Fitness with her husband Richard, who was laid off from the logging industry. She volunteers to decorate windows in some of the historic buildings downtown, joins in city cleanups and often attends council meetings. She ia also on the city’s Planning Commission and has been active in Facebook forums concerned with bettering downtown.
Both have a healthy respect and admiration for one another in public, Redner of Hoder for her love of the city; Hoder of Redner for her brains and ideas. Any implied or direct criticism by them or by their supporters of the other’s campaign is mostly kept off the record.
Redner uses her Facebook page as a platform for criticizing the current city government as well as exploring solutions. Hoder says her young supporters monitor Facebook, but do not tell her about it at work, because she admits, she is tough but thin-skinned.
Not much divides them on issues. Each believes she is the right kind of action-oriented person to get the job done. Redner believes the city is in trouble from drugs, crime and low property values and thinks she could do a better job.
Hoder says it’s complex and stands on her record. She does not think the city is in crisis but that the homeless, addicts and vandals may have been squeezed out of the downtown area into residential areas due to effective action by police and other agencies.
Both speak of the need for what Hoder calls a “myriad of plans” approach. Hoder believes it takes a village of resources. “Not one person is going to fix” the issues, it is going to take a “bunch of us,” she says.
Redner thinks there are two types of people involved. There is the drug addict and vandal problem and the “punk kid problem” where “they need to be taught manners.” She advocates exploring making parents responsible for the actions of their children.
Redner proposes establishing a structured system to provide a tent city that would include “homeless showers” where people bathe and use facilities so they won’t “defecate and urinate” on the streets.
Hoder favors programs that meet the basic needs of the addicted, helping those who want treatment by offering treatment, but simply providing shelter for those who don’t.
“I am going to get lights on (the Chehalis River Bridge) if I am on council or if I am on the moon,” Hoder says, citing issues of safety for pedestrians on the bridge. She also thinks council should go back to meeting every week and is proud of the workshops and downtown cleanups she has organized.
Redner’s prime focus is on downtown, its rundown condition and the related problems of everything that goes with downtown decay. Specifically, she wants to see the city’s revamp of its master planning document implemented.
Hoder worries some constituents may still be upset with her for supporting the connection via Basich Boulevard of the Grays Harbor Community Hospital area and the Herbig Heights area. She said that for her it was a public safety issue, inspired by the floods of 2007.
Redner agrees. “Do I think (the road) should be closed? Absolutely not. It’s not so much a matter of convenience or inconvenience — but a matter of safety,” Redner said. But speeding cars can be an issue, she added.“The conflict is (that) the through traffic is not well monitored,” Redner said. “The roads are some of the best in town so they are easy to drive on. The (speed limit) signs are nil. The only sign between the top of Basich and Montview is on the south side of Bel Aire. It’s not enough. People not familiar with the neighborhood are driving up there like it’s a raceway! Because it is up and out of the way … it has tended to be safer than most areas of town. The opening of the Basich pass through road has changed that. Those residents, where I live as well, are seeing an increase in opportunistic crime,” Redner also noted.
Redner talks animatedly over breakfast at a local cafe downtown. The Redners made an attempt to move out of Aberdeen after he was laid off, but could not sell their house. So they worked in both Oregon and here, eventually deciding to stay and re-establish here. They have three adult children, two grandchildren and two small dogs. One son is developmentally disabled. Redner says he teaches them both how to look and laugh at life in new ways.
Hoder’s business is part animal rescue, part department of motor vehicles. The line of customers waiting to buy vehicle licenses is used to the squawks, chirps, meows and puppy noises. Her only daughter, Angela, helps run the business, which is filled with folksy antiques, and the wildlife photos by her husband of 43 years, John. Prominent on the wall is a photo of her mountain-climbing father, a French Canadian Cree, who taught her self reliant values and the love of the beasts of the field.
Each candidate has causes. By donating her council salary, Hoder gives to Stevens Elementary, PAWS, the food bank and city projects that aren’t funded. “I couldn’t come up with ($334 monthly council pay) out of my own pocket” so it’s fun. She looks at council as a privilege.
Redner plans to form a chapter of Altrusa, an international service group. Win or lose she plans to start work on it the day after Thanksgiving.
One of the first people she will likely ask to join? Kathi Hoder.