Gold Hill mayor's race muddled by disqualification

Gold Hill City Councilor Christina Stanley wants to replace Mayor Jan Fish, who has decided not to seek re-election.

Stanley's chances got better last week when she voted with three other council members to disqualify her opponent, local business owner Pete Newport, owner of Sawyer Paddles and Oars, by a 4-2 vote for not meeting residency requirements. Newport said he plans to build a house on property he owns along the Rogue River, but he currently lives in an RV and uses the kitchen and restroom facilities at his downtown business.

Newport's name will still appear on the ballot, and he said he's still going to actively campaign to win votes despite being told he can't win.

Stanley said Newport's attempt to flaunt the council's decision was a bad idea.

"Our charter says you have to be a resident to run for office," she said.

"They decided to disqualify me after the deadline to withdraw from the race, so the county could not remove me from the ballot," Newport said.

"It's an interesting situation, and I may still win based on who votes, then I'll be disqualified after 10 days, and they will have no mayor. They could have easily just said let the voters decide, but they let Chris Stanley vote to disqualify her only opponent. I think they're a little bit afraid of me, but I don't think they realize how much I could help the city. "

Newport said he appreciated Stanley's willingness to serve, but he said he intended to let voters choose between two candidates even if the council stands by its decision to keep him out of City Hall.

If elected, Stanley said she hoped to encourage thoughtful conversation and productivity on a council known for infighting. The council in June fired City Manager Rick Hohnbaum for contentious interactions with city employees.

Stanley said she wanted to see the city "run like other cities in the Rogue Valley and help oversee our infrastructure for the people to live and thrive here."

"I was encouraged to run for mayor by the vision of the young families who have moved to Gold Hill and bought homes in Gold Hill," she said.

"Citizens need to know that every penny of their water and sewer rates are being put to the best use to maintain those operations," Stanley said. "I can't promise that rates will be reduced, nobody can, but I can promise to make sure the money that is paid to the city for services goes for nothing but the operations of the water and sewer. The same is true with the streets."

In addition to choosing a new mayor, voters will be asked to fill four council seats.

Mark Warwick, who was appointed to replace Karen Baker when she resigned, will face Deborah Davis for the right to finish Baker's term.

Five candidates will vie for three other seats, including incumbents Zachariah Dell and Gus Wolf, who will take on challengers Anastasia Wilkinson, Lisa Tognoli and Deb West.

Dell said his focus would continue to be responsible government and careful spending.

"There's a pretty big push by some business owners ... to spend Gold Hill's tax money to further their businesses and do what they think will benefit them," Dell said. "We need $2.2 million to update the reservoir, yet constantly we're doing low-priority projects like the dog parks."

West, a member of the city Budget Committee, said she hoped to encourage young families who move to town, while lobbying for a strong business core.

"I’ve served on the city Budget Committee for the last three years, so I am familiar with Gold Hill’s money and infrastructure needs," she said. "Gold Hill needs a wider range of shopping options and a bank again to help Gold Hill grow and stay viable."

Tognoli, also a member of the Budget Committee, said she would bring an open mind to the council and "not an agenda."

"I think there needs to be fair representation of this town, and people need to come together as independent thinkers and come to a consensus through healthy discussion."

— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at

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