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Conn draws 2 challengers for city council position

John Brewington, Lonnie Lee running for St. Helens seat


John Brewington.Susan Conn will not receive a bye as she runs to be elected in her own right to the St. Helens City Council in the Nov. 4 general election.

Conn, who has served on the council in Position 3 since her appointment in January 2012, will face political newcomers John Brewington and Lonnie Lee for the right to serve a four-year term.

Brewington, a longtime member of the St. Helens Parks Commission who worked as the sports editor for the Spotlight until last summer and remains an occasional Spotlight contributor, filed to run for City Council last Thursday, Aug. 14.

“Even though I retired, I think I can still make a contribution to the city,” Brewington said Wednesday. “I’ve been involved with the city in one way or another for the better part of 40 years.”

Brewington added, “I like to think I’ve been a part of the community and ... think I can make an impact one way or another. I don’t have any real agenda that I want to do, but I want to be a part of things and maybe make things a little better. Maybe improve the business climate. There hasn’t been a new restaurant in St. Helens in, God, 10, 15 years.”

Lonnie Lee.Lee is a bus driver for both Columbia County Rider and First Student Transportation, which serves the Scappoose School District. He said he has lived in St. Helens for 13 years.

In an email Tuesday evening, Lee identified three goals he has for the City Council: expanding recreational opportunities for younger residents of St. Helens, increasing business opportunities in the city and revitalizing the downtown area.

Lee wrote, “I feel that our community is in need of more commerce. This would improve employment in the area and give our citizens more options for shopping and to stay in St. Helens instead or of going outside of our community.”

Conn was appointed to fill the vacancy created by the death of Phil Barlow, a city councilor who died while visiting Thailand in September 2011.

“I want to stay involved,” Conn said Wednesday. “I enjoy being on City Council. I want to continue with the projects that we’re working on. I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the last three years.”

She concluded, “I really care about the community and hope to have the opportunity to work for them again.”

Susan Conn.So far, there is little evidence of acrimony between the candidates. Brewington and Conn are acquainted, although both said they do not know Lee personally.

“I’m not planning a very aggressive campaign, and I have nothing bad to say about my opponents. I’m not running against them as much as I’m just putting my name out there and myself out there for City Council,” Brewington said. “The voters can decide who they think best suits the job.”

Earlier this year, Conn was one of the most visible supporters of a successful levy campaign called “Don’t Bail on the Jail,” frequently wearing a campaign button in public and at City Council meetings. Columbia County voters ultimately approved a temporary property tax hike to fund the Columbia County Jail, which county officials were preparing to close.

Conn mentioned the jail issue, as well as the ongoing process the city is going through to acquire and ultimately redevelop more than 20 acres of waterfront land owned by Boise Cascade Co., as issues with which she has been involved. Both Brewington and Conn said they want to be involved in the waterfront project going forward.

Conn also listed several priorities she has as a member of the City Council.

“I know that business and jobs are critical,” said Conn. “I don’t believe public safety should ever be compromised.”

Conn also said she wants the city to work together with other organizations, as well as governing bodies, on common issues.

“I think that collaboration with other organizations and other groups are important,” Conn said, adding, “All of the electeds in the area ... serve the same people, and we need to work together.”

Position 1 on the City Council is also up this year, but the incumbent in that seat, Council President Doug Morten, is unopposed for reelection.