Morton residents will see just one Morton-specific question on their ballots for the Aug. 3 primary election — a three-way race for city council position No. 5.
Councilwoman Jeanette Chamberlain is defending her seat this year against two others: Caro Johnson, a real estate agent experienced with community organizations, and small business owner Wendy McCully, who runs the MWP after-school program.
Chamberlain, who previously worked in preschools and as a substitute para-educator in Lewis County, now spends her time as a landlord and volunteer auxiliary officer with the Morton Police Department.
“We’re helping with movies in the park, getting ready to have the parade, for Jubilee we help with traffic. We help the officers in any way we can,” she told The Chronicle. “I always want to make sure that Morton is first, you know? I love this place. When I came here in 1990, it’s like, ‘wow, I wish I would’ve grown up here.’”
Chamberlain was appointed to her position last September. If elected to retain her position, she said her vision is to bring more businesses to town.
“When I first got here, the whole main street was full of businesses,” she said. “I’m glad we’re getting a new market here. We’re having a Dollar General move in, and I was part of helping a little bit with that. Just making sure this is a great place to keep coming back to.”
She’d also like to see Morton balance tourism while keeping its small-town charm, where “everybody’s friendly with everybody.”
Chamberlain describes herself as a “very simple person.” She’s volunteered for clean-up days in Morton and helped out as a crossing guard for schools.
“Everyone who knows Jeanette, she’s a very simple person,” she said of herself. “If I can help, if I have to give my shirt off my back, I mean, I’ll make sure I have another shirt. That’s just who I am.”
Wendy McCully, who can be found selling her crocheted wares at local markets, also has experience in education. She currently coordinates the local after-school program, teaching K-6 graders “positive action” curriculum.
One point where the candidates differ is the incoming Dollar General.
“I think it’ll hurt people,” McCully told The Chronicle. “Absolutely. It’s going to keep the poor poor … it’s going to close more businesses, in my opinion.”
Business-wise, McCully said her goal is to help the economy thrive without bringing big corporations in. She wants to see small businesses thrive, “and not just because I have one.”
McCully moved to Morton in 2017 after meeting her wife, who also works in education as a special ed teacher. While raising a teenage daughter, McCully said her priority is to help local kids and teenagers.
There’s lots of community activities geared toward young kids, she said, but not enough for teenagers. And without things to engage Morton’s young minds, she fears poverty or drugs could take hold of the new generation.
“What else is there to do other than go under the bridge and smoke pot and drink beer and get hurt?” she said.
“Nobody’s perfect, I’m not judging them,” McCully added. She pointed to options like a library, more nature paths, hiking groups, volunteer opportunities and community sports programs. “There’s a million different things I can come up with.”
McCully also hopes to see an LGBTQ support group form for local teens. There’s one in White Pass, she said, but Morton also needs one “so the kids have a safe space. Because I know there’s plenty here.”
A library could provide a meeting space for several new community groups, she said.
“It’s a conservative town. It’s one-sided. And I want to bring a little bit more open-mindedness to it.”
Caro Johnson says she’s been “involved in community groups all my life.”
That includes in Oregon, where she served as the executive director of the Lake County Chamber of Commerce and president of the Lake County United Way.
In 2020, the Centralia College graduate was the secretary of the East Lewis County Chamber of Commerce, and she’s currently the secretary of the Arbor Health Hospital Foundation. She points to her experience writing grants and serving on an out-of-state FEMA board.
She currently spends 50-hour work weeks at her Century 21 real estate job.
“I love what I do. I meet hundreds of wonderful people and look at some incredible homes and help some incredible people,” she told The Chronicle.
If elected, she said the position would take priority, becoming “a very important part of my life.”
When asked what her priorities would be on the council, Johnson said she wants to be an advocate for housing options, potentially rezoning the city to accommodate more multi-family units.
She’d also like to learn about the city’s infrastructure needs, potentially finding a way to update the city’s water and sewer lines, like how Packwood recently secured funding for a new sewer system.
Johnson pointed to her experience communicating with state lawmakers as something giving her a leg up in the position.
While the east side of the county has its own chamber of commerce, Johnson would like to see a city-centric business organization launch to help small main street businesses.
The organization, she said, could work to improve parking and signage, and could attract tourism.
The town should capitalize on tourism, according to Johnson, who said better advertising and signage paired with more community events could bring more people to Morton.
The Logger Jubilee is “a great asset that we do have,” and she’d like to see it expanded.
“I love Morton. Morton isn’t the place, it’s the people,” she said. “We’re closer knit, and I think connections are really important for us.”
Ballots have already been mailed out for the Aug. 3 election, and should be postmarked by election day or returned to a drop box by 8 p.m. that day.