WARRENTON — Mayor Henry Balensifer handily defeated challenger and Hammond resident John Washington on Tuesday.
Balensifer, communications manager for Lektro Inc., has served on the Planning Commission and was elected to the City Commission in 2012. He was appointed as mayor last year to serve out the remainder of former Mayor Mark Kujala’s term after Kujala stepped down. He promised to run for election to the post this year.
Washington, a retired automotive technician and commercial truck driver, ran a door-to-door campaign with an emphasis on increased government transparency and a renewed focus on Hammond.
“I take this election to be a vote of confidence in the (City Commission’s) direction and the goals it has set as well as affirmation of the good work we’ve begun in the last two years since I took on the role of mayor,” Balensifer said after earning 74 percent of the vote to Washington’s 25.2 percent.
“It’s been full steam ahead since I took over as mayor,” he added. “And I don’t expect the pace to stop.”
The race was the first time Washington had pursued a public office and said it will likely be his last. He has no plans to be involved in city government now that the campaign is over.
“The people have spoken, and congratulations to him,” Washington said. “Next time I see him, I’ll shake his hand.”
Housing, livability and economic development emerged as dominant themes during the campaign.
Washington was firm in his belief that the city could do more to promote the building of affordable and workforce housing, while Balensifer pointed often to steps the city has been taking to better understand its housing market. Balensifer chaired a committee for a countywide housing study.
Balensifer cited his proven track record within city government and his ability to cooperate with other commissioners. He has helped to push forward city ownership of the Hammond Marina, as well as revisit long-term planning documents to help guide future development. He has also held a number of town halls and community meetings to meet with citizens and discuss city issues and projects.
Washington, too, noted that the mayor is just one person on a five-member commission and cooperation with other members is key. He clashed with City Commissioner Rick Newton at a meeting in October, however, following an incident where Newton crashed a meet-and-greet Washington was hosting.
Newton disputed Washington’s claims that the city wasn’t doing enough to inform citizens or deal with ongoing issues like the elk herds that roam Warrenton and Hammond.
Newton, who was unopposed, won re-election to a second four-year term on Tuesday.
• View election results: View the latest results here.