While Wheeler’s municipal election has pretty much been decided – there’s five incumbent and uncontested candidates running for five open council seats – Mayor Stevie Stephens Burden said it’s still important for residents to vote.
By Ann Powers
“I would really appreciate it if they still took the time to mark their ballots,” she said. “It is a way that they can show their support for the council and the hard work they are doing on the behalf of everyone in Wheeler.”
Burden is one of the five names Wheeler voters will see on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. There’s also a marijuana measure question. The four city councilor hopefuls include:
- Dave Bell (four-year term)
- Jim King (two-year unexpired term)
- Loren Remy (four-year term)
- Heidi Wilcox-Siglin (four-year term)
Burden has been the mayor on and off since the late 90s. She’s been at the helm this time around for nearly six years.
The long-term resident, whose family first settled in the area in the late 1800s, said her decision to run again simply comes down to a collective community duty everyone shares.
“That’s how it works here,” Burden explained. “When you live in a community as small as Wheeler everyone needs to pitch in and help make it work. It’s my turn.”
And for her upcoming turn, the mayor said she will use her civil service experience to focus on Wheeler’s water infrastructure needs, road repairs, as well as land use and planning developments.
“We are looking forward to working with the property owners and other partners to preserve Botts Marsh, support the Salmonberry Trail and increase both our business and housing options,” she said.
Burden also serves on several committees including:
- Northwest Area Commission on Transportation
- Col-Pac Economic Development Board
- Tillamook County’s Hazard Mitigation Program Steering Committee
- Year of Wellness, Healthy People – Healthy Places Committee
Some North Tillamook County residents have called for a tri-city consolidation of Wheeler, Nehalem and Manzanita to streamline local government, bolster public services and reduce costs. The mayor said she’s against the idea.
“Currently it doesn’t make fiscal or administrative sense to merge the municipalities,” she said. “There could come a time in the future if our populations continue to grow or resources become spread too thin. For now though I enjoy our distinct little cities and am in no hurry to move toward making the Nehalem Valley area the next Lincoln City.”
Burden has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and as worked in Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment since 1982. She said she’s focused most the last two decades on working with Native American tribes and other indigenous peoples.
She’s been married to her husband, Alan, for 30-plus years. They have two children, five grandchildren and two dogs.
Wheeler City Council
Bell quips that he “enjoys making sawdust in my workshop.” But in reality, the 74-year-old Navy veteran, and current council president, has a jammed-packed schedule that often takes him away from his beloved man cave.
He served on the Wheeler Planning Commission and chaired the Wheeler Business Association before being appointed to the council in 2007, and then elected in 2008. He is active with the Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay, the North County Recreation District Riverbend Players, has organized several local steamboat meets generating business revenue and is into his 46th season as a Portland Trail Blazer radio producer.
As a city councilor, Bell said his priority issues include a “much-needed review” of Wheeler’s Comprehensive Plan, a functional waterfront for businesses, preservation of Bott’s Marsh and developing the property surrounding it, roadwork and fixing storm water runoff issues.
“I’m a true independent and represent no individual or faction,” Bell said. “I do not come with a personal agenda. So, I will do what I have always done – strive to be a team player that works to meet the needs of the city as a whole, not any one area of interest.”
However, one area of interest he doesn’t favor is a complete tri-city consortium – for the time being.
“Meeting the needs of each through consolidation may be an issue for the future, but not for now,” he said. “We have taken the first steps toward that with the unification of the sewer and fire districts. That’s all I would feel comfortable with at this time.”
Bell’s family has been in the area since the early 1900s. He had his wife, Jan, moved to Wheeler full time in 2004. They have two daughters and five granddaughters.
The 74-year-old incumbent was appointed to the council in March, 2015. King and his bride of 52 years, Nancy, have been Wheeler homeowners for 21 years and full-time residents for the past three.
“I have been a business owner in Hillsboro for most of my working and so (I) understand the needs and challenges of small towns and their citizens,” he said. “I believe that Wheeler must maintain a vibrant business district balanced against our quiet residential community. In order to survive and thrive we need to be open to planned and managed growth.”
King also said the city has a critical need to upgrade its storm water drainage system to reduce flood damage and is concerned about the recent closing of the Tsunami Grill – a longtime Wheeler business.
“This has been a significant draw for our city, as well as a source of revenue,” he noted. “We need to attract a quality restaurant to fill that void.”
King said while he supports tri-village cooperation and joint projects to save money and improve efficiency, he opposes combining the three city governments.
“I feel we would lose our unique small-town feel by merging,” he explained. “Lincoln City was, at one time, five separate and unique small towns. Today it is a strip town lacking personality and definition.”
King has two children, both of whom are teachers. He said he and Nancy are “ardent seekers of antiques and collectibles” and have been dealers at the Wheeler Station for over 15 years.
Much like his council colleagues, Remy said his civil servant priorities include street repairs, keeping Wheeler’s bay feasible for transportation and recreational use and water infrastructure needs. He added that the city hasn’t had a water rate increase for several years, and believes one is overdue.
“We’ll definitely have an increase in the water rate,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Unlike his counterparts, Remy said a tri-city merger is a good idea, but doubted Manzanita would be interested because of that city’s generous tax base.
“Everybody wants to protect what they have,” he said. “We’ve already consolidated our water and sewer, so now all that’s left is city government.”
Remy, 76, has been on the council for six years and said he likes working with his fellow council members.
“I enjoy the people on the council,” he said. “We don’t always agree on everything, but we manage to work it out and everyone walks away happy.”
Remy and his wife, Sue, have been Wheeler homeowners for 16 years and fulltime residents for nine. They have two sons and two granddaughters. In his free time, he said he likes to fish on the Nehalem River.
While Wilcox-Siglin shares the rest of the council’s concerns for water system needs, she said emergency preparedness is her primary concern.
“My focus for the city is emergency preparedness,” she said.
Wilcox-Siglin, 51, was appointed to the council last year and has served as the city’s liaison with the Emergency Volunteer Corp of Nehalem Bay.
She added roadwork and economic development are also important issues she plans to continue working on as a council member. She said she’s opposed to a tri-city consolidation.
“I do think the towns can offer each other assistance,” she explained. “But they’re each different villages with its own group of citizens and I would not be in favor (of a merger).”
Wilcox-Siglin first moved to the area in 1976, moved away and then returned six years ago. She owns Beachside Home Services and has two daughters and one granddaughter.
She said she enjoys canning in her free time, as well as “everything outside” including gardening, boating and surfing.
The ballot question Wheeler voters will determine is an option granted by the Oregon Legislature. It allows citizens to decide whether their city should impose a three percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sales.
Currently, there’s a 25 percent temporary state tax on recreational marijuana and related products, which will be replaced by a permanent 17 percent tax next year.
If approved, the city’s tax would be added to the state tax. There is no tariff on medical marijuana.