Only two local mayors gave city updates at Friday’s meeting of Lewis County mayors in Chehalis.
In May, the county’s monthly event at the Lewis County Courthouse was derailed by Winlock Mayor Brandon Svenson, who refused to wear a mask and began reciting the state Constitution as commissioners canceled the meeting.
This week, Svenson — who is also the chair of Lewis County Republicans — doubled down, standing with a handful of protesters outside the courthouse as other officials met inside. He declined to comment on whether he attempted to get into the building, or what city business he might have otherwise discussed at the meeting.
A county security guard was manning the courthouse, and although County Commissioner Lindsey Pollock said she was aware Svenson would again refuse to mask up for the meeting, she was unsure if the guard was placed there because of Svenson.
Commissioners have yet to adopt a policy allowing vaccinated individuals to not wear masks in the courthouse, although they will take up the issue next week.
“I don’t know where the rest of them are,” County Commissioner Gary Stamper said at the beginning of Friday’s meeting.
Centralia Mayor Sue Luond was in attendance, and Vader Mayor Joe Schey participated via Zoom. Pe Ell Mayor Lonnie Willey signed onto Zoom briefly, but was off the call by the time mayors began giving their updates. Chehalis Mayor Dennis Dawes was absent, but city manager Jill Anderson gave an update.
“I’d personally like to shoutout to the mayors who have a little bit more participation,” Luond said. “They’re holding this meeting for us. It’d be nice if you guys would attend.”
Stamper noted that the meeting is an opportunity for mayors to talk among themselves and hear from state and federal partners. On Friday, that included representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.
“We’ve always felt like it’s a unique meeting,” Stamper said, adding that the drop-off in attendance could be due to COVID-19 or the start of summer. “No (other county) to my knowledge has got the one we have.”
In a conversation with The Chronicle, Morton Mayor Dan Mortonsen said he was unaware of Svenson’s protest, and did not attend the meeting due to a prior engagement.
City officials who did attend announced good news and upcoming events.
Centralia City Manager Rob Hill, for example, cited the groundbreaking of the United Learning Center next Tuesday, something Stamper said could “revitalize” the city.
“I think it’s going to be a great thing for our community,” Commissioner Sean Swope said. “I think it’s going to be a good economic resource for our downtown area.”
Anderson spent time commending the recent reopening of Chehalis’ Penny Playground, a “brand-new, fantastic playground that is accessible to kids of all abilities.”
She also noted the city pool would reopen July 1, and that Music in the Park will resume this summer, with events on July 30 and Aug. 6, and potentially Aug. 13.
“So it looks like there’s going to be a lot of fun activities for everybody to enjoy this summer,” Anderson said. “I think everybody’s ready to get out and enjoy this beautiful area.”
Along with good news of a Vader housing boom, and plans to chip-seal several roads this summer, Schey also reported the death of “Old Blue,” Vader’s 30-year-old city tractor.