LA GRANDE — La Grande City Councilor Mary Ann Miesner wants to help the town’s businesses bounce back and regain the momentum they had before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. But for her to continue her work on that goal, she will have to prevail in the November election.
Challenger Kristine Alf Rippee also wants to help businesses and take on other issues in place of Miesner.
Miesner said her experience would help her achieve her goals if voters grant her for another term. She has served on the council a total of 16 years in two stints, from 2000 to early 2015 and from early 2016 to the present.
“I want to do everything I can to help,” said Miesner, a computer instructor for the Training and Employment Consortium who also served 19 years on the La Grande School Board.
The councilor also aims to help the city tackle its housing issues. She is particularly concerned, in this regard, about addressing the needs of the homeless in La Grande.
“I want to explore all policies as we look at what we can do to the best of our abilities to help them as a community,” Meisner said.
The councilor said the city council now is reviewing a recently completed city housing study. She said she believes the council should take action to address the housing situation after completing that review.
Miesner’s ongoing goals include finding ways for the cities of Union County to work together to help each other because she said everyone benefits when a town does well.
“If a new business moves into Island City, it will help La Grande by drawing more customers here,” she said, as an example.
While La Grande City Council positions are nonpartisan, Dutto, fellow councilor Nicole Howard and La Grande Mayor Steve Clements were the subjects of a recent accusatory rant on the website for the Union County Republican Central Committee based on their registration as Democrats. Miesner said she opposes efforts to encourage councilors to follow agendas of their political parties or to attack or support council candidates on the assumption they hold views that conform to their parties.
“I believe it is important to be fair and open-minded and strive to meet the needs of all citizens, period,” Miesner said. “I believe all of our current city councilors are honest, fair and very open-minded.”
Alf Rippee said if voters choose her, she will work to boost the business climate and create a safer environment for students walking to school.
She said she is concerned about students who live in areas such as those east of Fourth Street who walk to either La Grande Middle School, La Grande High School or Central Elementary School. The candidate said many of these students have to walk in areas where there are no sidewalks or crosswalks.
Funding for additional crosswalks and sidewalks, Alf Rippee said, might be available from the national Safe Routes to School program. The challenger said she wants to help make sure the city is doing all it can and to use all the resources it has available to help businesses being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I want to keep the downtown vibrant,” she said.
Alf Rippee said she finds the new businesses coming into town an encouraging sign, as well as how La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency is assisting them.
Alf Rippee has lived in Northeast Oregon since 2001 and has resided in Umatilla, Wallowa and Malheur counties. She and her family first lived in Emigrant Springs about a decade ago where her husband, Matt, worked for the Oregon State Parks Department. Alf Rippee said they and their four daughters made trips from there to La Grande to enjoy its parks, library and swimming pool.
Alf Rippee and her family have lived in La Grande for four and a half years. Her public service record includes years serving as a volunteer for Girl Scouts, the La Grande Swim Club and La Grande High School.
She also contended the partisan involvement in the La Grande city council races is a non-issue. She believes city council decisions should be and are made based on process and research.
“They have nothing to do with ideology,” Alf Rippee said.