On the surface, the contest between challenger Robbie Myers and incumbent Alice Phelps looks like a race between a first-time candidate and an entrenched incumbent — new school versus old school.
There is more to the race in Ward 2 for Aberdeen City Council than meets the eye.
Myers is a veteran and active member of the Democratic Party, who doesn’t like to sound like a politician. A concerned citizen who let friends talk her into running, Phelps has held the seat for nearly 16 years.
The candidates were interviewed recently, Myers in her corner office as a broker for Premier Real Estate, Phelps at her seat in Council chambers.
Ward 2 covers East Aberdeen from Fern Hill Cemetery to South Aberdeen, and includes the Olympic Gateway Mall, Think of Me Hill and some of the most strategic infrastructure in the city: Highway 12, the railroad, and the Chehalis River Bridge.
Myers has worked behind the scenes in state races for Congress, governor and Senate. Phelps is very aware of politicking (she mentions her family have been carriers for The Daily World for 30 years) and can be steely when she digs in on an issue.
Phelps also works two other part-time jobs, one for St. Mary’s School and at night when she answers after-hours calls for Fern Hill Funeral Home.
Myers is a former Grays Harbor County Democratic vice-chairwoman, and currently serves as the county chairwoman of the Boundary Review Board and on a state committee on women and leadership.
“I want my chance to be effective. I have some good ideas (and) really good resources,” Myers says.Neither takes the race for granted. “You can go door to door, talk to people, do whatever you want but you don’t know until the last vote is counted,” Phelps said.
Myers laughs that you have to be “brave or crazy … maybe both” to run against an incumbent. Myers supplements community groups and council meetings with email and social media. She wants to help start Neighborhood Watch citywide to combat vandalism and crime. She also wants to work on distancing beggars from drivers, which Phelps has also talked about. Phelps is all about the telephone and does not use email. She mentions ditches in South Aberdeen where constituents complain their children’s feet get wet in the mud, when asked about a local issue.
On our aging bridges, Myers talks pragmatically about the tons of money that will be needed to fix them. Phelps offers to dive in, literally. “I’d swim that river if the bridge went out and I knew I could help . . (even) though I am a tropical fish.”
Phelps is a faithful member of the Finance Committee and routinely questions line items.
Myers is passionate about Aberdeen’s history and she and her husband put their home, built in 1906, up for inclusion on the historic registry.
Both have some college education, and believe jobs are key to Harbor recovery.
Myers believes in the possibilities of marine business and tourism offered by the new Seaport Landing, where she is taking classes to help market the landing as a volunteer. She helps captain their 28 foot sailboat, Dream Catcher, and thinks a marine boat lift would help since the closest ones are in Ilwaco and Seattle.
Phelps also thinks the landing has the potential to bring business back to the Harbor.
Crude by rail needs more study before either will support or reject the plan to ship oil from the Harbor.
Myers wants to “use our history to help move us forward.” Both see Aberdeen as a destination spot for travelers.
Both love the water. Phelps swims in the morning at the YMCA, Myers sails when she can.
Phelps quotes a friend who asked why would someone challenge her, since Phelps is a mighty night owl (a mascot from Matlock), a grizzly (from Hoquiam High) and a bobcat (Aberdeen High).
“I wouldn’t want to challenge that — the animals, I mean,” Phelps chuckles.
Phelps is originally from the woods near Vancouver, Wash., and grew up on the Harbor. Both are married, Myers to Gil for 12 years and Phelps to Jack for 46. Both have grandchildren.
Myers moved to the Puget Sound when she was five. She lived in Westport for 10 years before moving to Aberdeen in May.Asked for endorsements, Myers provides a list of local heavy hitters including: Lynn Kessler (former state House majority leader from Hoquiam), Seaport Landing executive Les Bolton, Grays Harbor College President Ed Brewster, County Commissioner Frank Gordon and his wife, Pat, Westport Mayor Michael Bruce and former Aberdeeen councilman Paul Fritz.
Grays Harbor Democrats and several restaurants also back her.
Asked for her list of endoresements and supporters, Phelps replied, “Who do I rely on? The Lord and Jesus Christ.”