COQUILLE – As Election Day approaches next month, The World caught up with candidates to discuss their campaigns. This year, a total of 11 candidates are vying for three open spots for Coquille City Council.
Meet the candidates
Coquille businesswoman Donna Hundley said she felt compelled to enter this year’s council race after struggling in the past to get clear answers from members on the Coquille City Council. Among the 11 candidates, Hundley, of Coquille Floral, wants to improve the city’s communication, housing and revitalize its downtown.
“I think the downtown area is the bones of our city,” Hundley said. “It keeps people here.”
If elected, Hundley proposed doing an update and beautification of downtown Coquille. As it stands now, Hundley said the streets and sidewalks are in need of major repair.
“We run a business right down First Street and we have two to three blocks of bad sidewalks,” Hundley said. “We have a lot of elderly people who use these sidewalks and it’s not good for them.”
As a resident of Coos County for 27 years, Hundley said she’s traveled multiple cities within the county and has seen firsthand how streets in places like Coos Bay and North Bend are better than in Coquille.
“With the county seat here, that should be a big push to make our town nicer,” Hundley said. “Our town needs to be updated.”
In addition to improving the city’s roadways, Hundley said she also likes the city to include more housing options for its retirement community. She mentioned possibly seeking developers interested in opening a senior-living facility on the former Georgia Pacific site.
“I want housing for elderly people who don’t have a lot of places to go here in town,” Hundley said. “They are taxpayers and they love this small community and in order to keep them here we need some kind of assisted living here.”
Hundley is a member of the Coquille Rotary Club and the Coquille Chamber of Commerce. She has worked in various retail stores including thrift shops located in Reedsport and the Empire District in Coos Bay.
“I don’t think that people’s voices are being heard right now and they need to be,” she said.
Retired bus-driver Jo Teel wants to see a Coquille economy that is not only growing, but thriving. Teel is among the 11 candidates this year running for city council said she decided to toss her name into the race after seeing City Hall miss out on numerous opportunities to help boost the area’s local economy.
“I believe I can make a difference for the residents of Coquille and the outlying areas,” Teel said. “Right now, there is so much untapped potential to help improve Coquille without losing its small town character.”
As her way of doing that, Teel has proposed that council improve on its solicitation procedures to secure future investments from outside businesses and landlords. The city needs to take on a more active role, she said.
“We have empty storefronts all down First Street and empty buildings all over town,” Teel said. “These places could be profitable and companies would want to come and open its doors here. I think we need to seek them out and go after that.”
If elected, Teel said she would work to help the city promote the former Georgia Pacific site as well as make herself as available as possible to residents in an attempt to improve city relations.
“It’s something people complain about here, that there is no one to talk to,” Teel said. “I would be eager to have open communication and listen to residents’ ideas, concerns and gripes.”
Teel also wants the city to be involved in the community’s youth programs. As a previous youth baseball coach, Teel said she’s recently heard from concerned parents about potential problems with favoritism and budgeting.
“I'd like to see the city oversee it and take a more active role by forming some kind of volunteer group or committee,” Teel said. “It will form accountability for youth programs.”
For the past four years, Navy veteran Brandy Olmstead has sat at numerous Coquille City Council meetings unsatisfied with how things have been running.
“I have concerns about the council and whether they are doing enough due diligence on issues that come before them,” Olmstead said. “I’ve been going to the meetings and it’s kind of the same stuff. I want to see changes being made for improvement.”
Olmstead is among the 11 candidates running for Coquille City Council this year. After moving to Coquille in 2014, Olmstead has made it her mission to be aware of the city’s operations and plans. She quickly found communication a challenging issue.
“I feel like the city doesn’t communicate with residents very well,” Olmstead said.
If elected, Olmstead said she would improve on the city’s notices to the general public as a way to encourage more community involvement and participation at city meetings. She also mentioned updating the city’s website to make information on city plans more easily and readily available.
Olmstead also criticized the current council for its lack of marketing of the former Georgia Pacific site. She said she has not seen it listed anywhere online besides the city’s website.
As for jobs and housing, Olmstead acknowledged the two are among some of the big challenges the city faces today.
“I’m open to seeing the town grow and improve,” Olmstead said. “I would be interested to hear people’s ideas on how we can bring in more revenue and jobs.”
With that being said, Olmstead said she’d like to expand the city’s tourism industry by drawing more visitors to enjoy its recreational activities. She said she envisioned having a local kayak shop open up to offer equipment and tours of the Coquille River with a starting and ending point at Sturdivant Park.
“We need to boost tourism,” Olmstead said. “I don’t know if the (Coquille) Carousel is going to do that…we need a multitude of activities for everyone.”
Olmstead served 20 years in the Navy as a Seabee, a naval construction team deployed throughout the world to work on various construction projects. She began her career in the military working hands-on in a number of projects including building temporary housing in Cuba to entering a leadership position taking on more administrative duties.
“As a Seabee, I did a lot of humanitarian work and betterment of other people and I miss that,” Olmstead said. “I want to make things better for the people of Coquille and improve the community.”
Currently, Olmstead works as an operation support specialist for First Community Credit Union and on the city’s planning commission. She is also a member of the Coquille Kiwanis Club and co-adviser for Coquille High School’s Key Club and the Coquille VFW.