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Washington council candidate state views in Chamber forum

Illa Earnest is running for the open Ward 3 city council seat. (Caitlin Yamada/ The Union)
Illa Earnest is running for the open Ward 3 city council seat. (Caitlin Yamada/ The Union)
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WASHINGTON — The two candidates for Washington City Council spoke during a forum on Saturday. Haleigh Brockman and Illa Earnest answered a variety of prepared and audience questions.

The candidates are running for the Ward 3 position that opened after Brendan DeLong resigned to become fire chief. The election will take place March 2.

“What do you believe your qualifications are for running for office?”

Brockman said she loves the town and considers herself an engaged resident. She said she is passionate about seeing Washington grow and progress.

“Really I think those are the only qualifications needs for City Council,” she said. She added she has other skill sets such as having a bachelor’s degree and managing finances in her career.

Earnest said she has lived in Washington for 40 years, is a property owner, has worked in city government and worked in retail.

She said her background working with the city gives her a good background of what the council is planning.

“What made you decide to run for office?”

Brockman said after the comments made by City Council members about the Kesho Scott presentation over the summer, she realized how little she was involved with local government.

She decided to do her best to become educated about the council and what work they do. She wants to be involved to ensure all voices in Washington are heard.

Earnest said she retired in December as city clerk and wanted to continue working with the city. She said there are big projects and issues she would like to be a part of.

“What is your decision-making style is and how will you employ it if elected?”

Brockman said she is an analytical person and likes to gather as much information as she can to make a decision. She said she is an over thinker, and it can be beneficial when dealing with complex problems.

Earnest said she likes to take her time and research the topic. She said it is important to have an open mind and be able to present the opinion to the other council members.

Both are interested in taking time to get the community perspective.

“What would you like to accomplish if elected?”

Brockman hopes to contribute to the proactive mindset of the council. She hopes that the reactiveness will expand beyond the large projects to areas such as community outreach and relationships. She said inclusion and diversity is a topic she hopes to help expand.

Earnest said there are many projects in the works. One project in particular she is interested in is the MLW subdivision. She also thinks the South 12th and East Washington stoplight is an important project.

“If elected, how would you make yourself available to voters and hear what’s on their minds?”

Brockman said COVID-19 has highlighted how many options there are for open communication. She listed in-person, phone, email, Zoom and social media as ways to stay in contact.

Earnest said email, phone, in-person and even at the grocery store as options to speak with her.

“Do you believe the city is adequately funded?”

Brockman said she believes any organization could always use more funding, but based on what she has learned from the most recent budget, it is adequately funded due to hard work from the city.

She said it is more important to focus on how the funding is being utilized.

Earnest said the city is adequately funded. She said the city is fortunate to have a city administrator focused on financials. Along with grant funding, the city is able to do the larger projects, she said.

“Do you have any plans or ideas as to what would make Washington attracting to younger families?”

Earnest said the school system is good, but housing is a problem. She said the city is continuously working on the housing system. She said recreation opportunities and day care are areas that can be improved. Employment is another area that could attract new families.

Brockman said the school is a great draw for new families. She said there are a variety of child care options but not enough space for growth. She said she would like the city to help in any way possible. She also highlighted jobs and housing as an area for expansion.

“What do you feel are the 3 most important factors to improve economic development in Washington going forward?”

Earnest said long-term budgeting for projects, seeking grants for different areas and working with local organizations to attract business. She added having public events to showcase Washington as a good place to live.

Brockman said jobs, available housing and child care. She said people should feel comfortable and welcome in the community. This would involve actively involving all community members, she said.

“What do you think is Washington’s greatest asset and greatest weakness?”

Brockman said the greatest weakness is a lack of active inclusion or anti-racism and the greatest asset is the people. She said someone will stop and help if they see a car on the side of the road. She said the proactive mindset of the city is an asset.

Earnest said the greatest weakness is housing and the greatest asset is friendly population and variety of recreation opportunities. She said the location close to Iowa City is an asset.

Ward 3 is located south of East Washington Street and east of South Third Avenue. Residents can check the ward bounties map on the city website at washingtoniowa.gov to verify if they qualify to vote in the election.