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Wilkeson voters will narrow field in pair of primary races

By Jessica Keller, The Courier-Herald

Two new faces will grace the Wilkeson Town Council next year, and Wilkeson residents will reduce the number of candidates to four in Tuesday's primary election.

Three candidates each are vying to fill council positions No. 2 and No. 4, left open by ex-Councilman Jerry Loran, who resigned for personal reasons earlier this year, and Councilman Dale Perry, who decided not to run again.

Position No. 2 was filled last week when the council appointed Darla McQueen, who is also a candidate on Tuesday's ballot, to fill the vacant position for the interim. The other candidates for position 2 are Janet Kepka and Kevin Schoon. The candidates for Position No. 4 are Kim Schoon, Bernd "Ben" Odanovich and Joan Miller.

Council Position No. 2

Janet Kepka

A resident of Wilkeson since 1978, Kepka has served three terms on the Board of Adjustors as secretary and chairman, assistant clerk, responsible for utilities and cemetery funds and was a town councilwoman in 1996 and 1997.

Kepka said the first thing Wilkeson needs to do is continue rebuilding its infrastructure. She would also like to see the Arch rebuilt in its original location, and "Just continue trying to have our business and professional meetings that will attract citizens to attend."

Kepka feels one of the things lacking on the current council is a willingness to listen to people.

"It' s not that it can't be done, it's just that they've made up their mind and they won't listen," she said.

Kepka said more needs to be done to attract new business to Wilkeson, while managing the growth of the town.

Darla McQueen

McQueen, a seven-year resident, said she decided to run for council because she has been involved in the community through volunteering for the Booster Club and the Wilkeson Eagles and decided to do more.

She said she and her family like the family atmosphere in Wilkeson, and feels the town has a lot of potential.

"Wilkeson, as a town, needs to definitely find more ways to increase revenue and bring in people to the town," she said.

She feels there needs to be better communication between the Town council and the people. She said more needs to be done to address transportation issues, a need for a shuttle service, "and just to make Wilkeson a more user friendly community."

McQueen, the director of marketing and case management at the Live Care Center of Puyallup, also said more needs to be done to provide for the health and well-being of the senior residents in Wilkeson by enhancing resources available to them.

McQueen would also like to see if something can be done about utility costs.

Kevin Schoon

Schoon, who has lived in the area for about 10 years, is an equipment mechanic and also self-employed. He has attended council meetings in the past and would like to see some things changed, prompting his decision to run for office.

Schoon, a cub master for the Wilkeson Cub Scouts, said he feels more police presence is needed in town. He would also like to see the number of businesses grow.

"I think it has a lot of potential as a town to grow," he said. "I'd like to talk to people and see what they'd like to bring in to town."

Tourism is another issue that needs to be addressed, Schoon feels, because so many people drive through town without stopping.

Council Position No. 4

Kim Schoon

Schoon, a medical billing specialist for a family practice and den mother for the Wilkeson Cub Scouts, has lived in the Buckley/Wilkeson area for more than 20 years.

She said the biggest issue that needs to be addressed is communication, which she thinks could be improved by a community newsletter. She also thinks the town needs new faces on the council to break away from some of the cliques that have formed and might have hindered progress.

Schoon feels state Route 165 traffic issues need to be addressed and believes the town needs to come up with more activities for the community. She said the loss of the library in town hurt the community, and something needs to be done to replace that loss.

"We lost that education portion of the town," she said.

Joan Miller

Miller has been a resident of Wilkeson for seven years and feels her experience working with the historical society, the Foothills Trail and interest in the town is an asset.

"I've been highly involved in the community and attend all the council meetings and feel the current council doesn't represent the majority of the residents in Wilkeson," she said.

She thinks the town needs to fix its infrastructure, lower sewer rates and work on the survival of the small businesses. She would also like to see the town grow by bringing in more small business.

Miller said the cultural and historical heritage needs to be preserved, and if elected to council, she would do more to raise money and find grants for the town.

Ben Odanovich

Odanovich, a resident in Wilkeson for more than 35 years, said he decided to run for council because he has more time to devote and would like to do what's best for the town.

"I'd just like to see the city working together a little bit better," he said.

Odanovich said his experience as the chairman of the board of the Carbonado Community Church for 14 years, running and working with the business and financial aspects, in addition to the spiritual aspects of the church, would help him as a councilman.

"I'm kind of familiar with that aspect, and it wouldn't take me long to pick up the rest," he said.

He said sewer and water rates are pretty high and, if elected, he would work, if at all possible, to lower them. He would also like to see more activities for younger kids and more of a community atmosphere in Wilkeson.

"There was a time when everybody in town knew everybody, and I think we need to encourage that again."

Jessica Keller can be reached at jkeller@courierherald.com

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