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Valdez appointed to Othello City Council

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | November 8, 2022 4:25 PM

OTHELLO — Danae Valdez has been appointed to fill the empty position on the Othello City Council. Valdez was appointed to the seat after council members interviewed four candidates at the regular meeting Monday.

Valdez replaces Maria Quezada, who resigned Oct. 24. In her resignation letter, Quezada said her job made it difficult for her to give the council position the time it warranted.

Valdez is an Othello native, she said, and the branch manager and loan officer for the Columbia Bank branch. She has three children, one each in high school, middle school and elementary school.

She was one of four candidates for the seat. The others were Alma Carmona, Darrel Barnes and Odelia Linden.

Council members asked each candidate a series of questions, detailing some of their positions on existing challenges, growth and Othello’s future. At the end of her interview, Valdez had a question for the council.

“What are you guys looking for in the next council member that you appoint?” Valdez asked.

“In particular, what I’m looking for is somebody that understands the challenges faced in this position,” council member John Lallas said in reply.

The council candidates talked about economic development, but that’s a challenge in itself, Lallas said. The council and city officials have been working on that, he said, addressing subjects like housing, but all of that presents challenges and takes time.

“It’s very complicated and trying to get something like that to work well doesn’t just happen,” Lallas said. “You have a lot of considerations that you have to put together.

“But then you’ve also got to consider - the challenge is, how do you steer that growth to work with the rest of the community?” Lallas said. “That’s what I want in the council position, is that they have an understanding of that challenge.”

Council member Angel Garza said in his opinion the council has to think about the future, not only how to promote growth, but how to accommodate it. The housing market has cooled, he said, but it will bounce back. When it does he wants Othello to be ready, he said.

“We have to be ahead of the game, and say okay, these lands are available, here’s what we’re going to do,” Garza said. “So we, as the council and the planning commission, we have to plan. Right now it’s kind of slow, it’s going to slow down - but it’s okay, let it slow down. Let us plan during that slow time, so when the boom comes we’re ready for it.”

Council member Jon Erickson said he thinks council members must be available for and accessible to Othello residents.

“I think time availability is one of the biggest things,” Erickson said.

In addition, he said council members should be able to work together.

“I think this council has had its differences, minor differences, throughout the three years I’ve sat on it. But we’re all able to debate professionally and come to a resolution,” Erickson said.

In answer to a question from council member Corey Everett, all four candidates said they would be able to vote against the majority if they thought it was the right thing to do. All four candidates said they wanted to improve opportunities for youth, both for children and for young people who want to stay in Othello or return to Southern Grant County city.

In answer to questions from council members, Valdez said she thought the city’s short-term focus should be on rehabilitating and refurbishing existing commercial spaces and focus on increasing housing in the longer term. The housing market is uncertain right now, she said, and will look different in a year or two.

Preparing young people for the future is one of her priorities, she said.

“What I’d like to work on is building the youth, because they’re going to take over one day here soon, and I don’t know that they’re there currently,” she said. “I don’t know that they’re ready to step into the workforce right now. So I have a passion for that.”

Cheryl Schweizer may be reached at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com. Find more news - including additional photos - with the Columbia Basin Herald app, available for iOS and Android.

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CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD

New Othello City Council member Danae Valdez takes her seat during Monday’s meeting between council members John Lallas, left, and Corey Everett, right. Valdez was sworn into office before seating herself with the rest of the council.

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