Former Warrenton Mayor Mark Kujala will run for a Clatsop County Board of Commissioners seat.
Kujala was the city’s first elected mayor in 2014 after being appointed to the post in previous years. He served as a city commissioner and mayor for 12 years before stepping down last year.
He was recently appointed to state Department of Fish and Wildlife Fish Passage Task Force and serves on the Oregon Community Foundation North Coast Leadership Council.
Even as a city commissioner and mayor, Kujala imagined potentially serving on the county commission.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” he said. “I thought it’s a natural fit.”
Kujala, 47, graduated from Warrenton High School and has a business degree from Oregon State University. In the past, he has served on the boards of Liberty Restoration, the Clatsop County Community College Foundation, Clatsop Economic Development Resources and the Way to Wellville committee. He has also been a Warrenton Rotary Club president and an Astoria Regatta admiral and admiral’s aide.
Prior to stepping down as mayor, the Skipanon Brand Seafood owner said he wanted to focus more time on his business. Kujala is now the membership coordinator for the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I had some issues with our business, so I had to step down, restructure things and get a new job. So that’s what I did,” he said.
Jobs, economic development, public safety, urban renewal and levee certification were some of the focuses of his time as mayor. He also oversaw tense disputes such as Oregon LNG’s attempts to build a pipeline and terminal in the area, as well as a debate between the city and the Skipanon Water Control District over control of the Eighth Street Dam.
Scott Lee, the county board’s chairman, holds the District 1 position but announced last year that he would not seek re-election. Kujala said he would like to see the commission work closer with other local bodies.
“I would’ve liked to have had more input from him and to have given more input,” Kujala said of Lee and the county while he was mayor. “I’d want to have more of that with the commission, and I think I’d be effective at that.”
Kujala also said he has been “dismayed” by the partisanship he has seen in recent county commission elections.
“I see political parties becoming more involved in counties in general,” Kujala said, while differentiating from his time as a Warrenton commissioner. “We didn’t care about Ds and Rs. We cared about ideas. I just would hate to see a hardening of positions based on what your political party is.”
County commissioners have been divided in the past year over the scope of their roles. Commissioners Lianne Thompson and Kathleen Sullivan have called for the board to play a more active role in county operations. Kujala, meanwhile, said he would work collaboratively with county staff but that daily decisions are not within the commission’s purview.
“I think the county charter is where you decide the role,” Kujala said. “The charter says the county manager is in charge of day-to-day operations.”
George McCartin — a retired attorney and regular presence at public meetings — and Andrew Davis — a medical data analyst — have also filed for the seat. The district covers Warrenton, Hammond and the west end of Astoria.
Two other positions on the board will be up for election in the May 15 primary.
Peter Roscoe — a former Astoria city councilor and Fulio’s Pastaria owner — and Pamela Wev — an Astoria land use consultant — have filed for the District 3 seat. That seat is currently held by Lisa Clement, a co-owner of Clemente’s Seafood who has not announced whether she will seek re-election.
The District 5 position is held by Thompson, who will campaign for a second term. Susana Gladwin, a Jewell farmer, has also filed for the seat.
The filing deadline for the primary is today.