In the race for Hamilton mayor, incumbent Joan Cromley and challenger Carla Vandiver have contrasting views on addressing flooding and cleaning up the town.
When it comes to flooding, Cromley is championing a project with nonprofit land conservancy Forterra to extend the town outside the floodplain.
That project took another incremental step Tuesday when the Town Council approved annexing 45 acres in the urban growth area north of Highway 20 into town limits.
“The time and energy people have put in to get this project to this phase, I’m excited we are finally able to take this step,” Cromley said, recognizing former mayor Tim Bates and former town planner Margaret Fleek for their early vision for the development. “It doesn’t seem like much, but it is a big step.”
Vandiver, a first-time candidate for elected office, said she feels it’s a step in the wrong direction because town residents aren’t interested in moving into the housing Forterra is planning to build.
“They can do what they want, but the residents of Hamilton are not moving. They don’t want to go anywhere,” Vandiver said.
She said she would address the town’s frequent flooding instead by cleaning out waterways such as the clogged Carey’s Slough and building higher levees along the river “to limit the amount of water that comes in during high water.”
To protect residents in the event floodwater does inundate the town, she would raise the houses.
Vandiver said other priorities of hers include cleaning up the town, from addressing drug use to removing invasive blackberry bushes.
“We need help with law enforcement to get the drug houses out, the squatters ... just generally clean up Hamilton,” she said.
Cromley has been working toward addressing those issues during her seven years in office, forming partnerships with Skagit Land Trust and other organizations interested in removing invasive plants, and launching conversations with the Town Council about establishing and enforcing town codes for cleanliness.
“There are opposing views on code enforcement, whether more or less is needed,” she said.
For voters, the choice between Cromley and Vandiver may come down to differences of views on issues such as flooding and code enforcement, as well as whether having a couple serve together as mayor and council member poses a conflict of interest.
While Carla Vandiver is running for mayor, her longtime partner Dean Vandiver is running for Town Council.
The Vandivers said they don’t see their campaigns as a conflict of interest because although they are together they are divorced.
Cromley said that as a small town Hamilton has had family members serving in various government roles before, such as when three members of the Bates family were in office at the same time.
“We’ve had those family connections before, but not quite this direct as in being in the same house,” she said of the Vandivers. “That’s for the people to vote on and decide who they think is best for the job.”
Cromley has held the nonpartisan position for seven years.
She was appointed mayor by the Town Council in 2013 and elected in 2015. She now hopes to secure another four-year term.
Vandiver relocated to Hamilton from Kittitas County in March 2018.
The two tied in the primary election in August, with 27 votes each.