Two Hamilton residents have stepped up to challenge Mayor Joan Cromley for the job.

Cromley has held the nonpartisan position for seven years after being appointed by the Town Concil in 2013 followed by her election in 2015 to stay in the position. She now hopes to secure another four-year term, but Renee Barley and Carla Vandiver say they think they could do a better job.

Barley, who moved to Hamilton from Sedro-Woolley in 2013, said she brings new perspective that could break what she sees as “good ol’ boy” behavior in town government.

Vandiver, who relocated to Hamilton from Kittitas County in March 2018, said she wishes to speak up for long-time residents who disapprove of a developing plan to relocate, or expand, the town outside the flood plain.

“There are people that have lived there for years ... their kids have been raised there, some have been there their whole life,” Vandiver said of historic Hamilton, which sits along the north bank of the Skagit River and is largely encircled by a side channel called Carey’s Slough. “There’s a lot of history there and no one wants to leave it. ... There’s got to be another solution.”

Her idea of a better solution is to raise the existing homes in Hamilton one by one. With the backing of Washington Laborer’s Local 292 of Everett, she believes that alternative is possible.

Barley, on the other hand, is focused on a mission to break what she said is a cycle that prevents those seen as newcomers, regardless of their education or qualifications, from securing a position in office.

“The problem I’ve had in Hamilton is favoritism and cronyism,” she said, explaining that that’s why she believes she hasn’t been elected to council or mayor over several years of attempts. “Everything is run on favoritism.”

She also said she thinks Town Hall is run like a welfare office and, if elected, would work to stop handouts for utility services such as garbage and water.

Cromley disagrees with both challengers.

“I’ve never told anybody not to run for office,” she said on the issue of favoritism in local politics.

To the accusation of handouts, she said the town doesn’t provide any garbage service — outside of occasionally providing dumpsters for cleanup days, particularly after flooding damages yards and homes — and has recently worked to tighten its enforcement on past-due water bills.

As for the effort to focus the town’s growth outside the floodplain, Cromley said the project has been years in the making and will provide residents who have experienced repeated flooding with options.

“We’ve been saying all along and we will continue saying: We will never force somebody from their home as long as it’s safe,” she said.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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