WARRENTON — A Hammond man will challenge Mayor Henry Balensifer in the November election.
John Washington, 54, has lived in Hammond for 18 years. Now retired, he worked as an automotive technician and commercial truck driver. He served on school boards when he lived in Idaho, but this will be his first time running for a government office in Clatsop County.
Balensifer was appointed to finish out the rest of former mayor Mark Kujala’s term after Kujala resigned last year. Balensifer, who was elected to the City Commission in 2012, promised to run for mayor when the term he took over from Kujala expired.
Balensifer works for Lektro as the towless aircraft tug company’s communications and government relations manager.
Washington plans to campaign on street repairs, greater transparency in city government and more attention to people’s concerns.
“I feel that people in Warrenton and Hammond need a voice,” he said. “The citizens of Warrenton and Hammond have become complacent to the fact that the City Commission doesn’t consider much of what they have to say.”
He was inspired, in part, to run over the City Commission’s decision in 2015 to restrict marijuana businesses to the east side of U.S. Highway 101. Warrenton voters had approved the sale of recreational marijuana in 2014, but the city had enacted a one-year moratorium on dispensaries earlier that same year.
At the time the commission passed the ordinance limiting where the drug could be sold, Commissioner Rick Newton said they were trying to respect the will of the people while also “doing our best to deal with an activity that we don’t support.”
While Washington says he does not use marijuana, he is not opposed to others using it. Listening to the commissioners, he thought, “What gives the five of them the right or power to decide for the entire town of Warrenton and Hammond?”
“OK,” he decided, “it’s time for me to do something about it.”