Leonard Stoehr prioritizes business, pushes for affordable housing
Springfield City Councilor Leonard Stoehr is finishing his first term on the council, and although he was on the fence about whether he wanted to run again, there were issues close to his heart and voters’ hearts that he wants to continue to be a part of, he said.
“I see people out there, and I see that many of them are in pain and I’m going to do everything I can to help them,” he said, referring to Springfield residents.
Stoehr was first elected to Ward Four in 2017, and is running unopposed for the seat.
Two top priorties for Stoehr are protecting business interests and ensuring rights of homeowners, particularly those who are vulunerable.
He pointed to homeowners who have had their homes for generations, and the potential plight of being displaced.
“I’m talking specifically about Patrician Mobile Home Park,” he said. “It seems to me that there are a lot of people, myself included, who are fuzzy on zoning laws and building codes that still understand the idea of getting kicked out of your house.”
He added that it is something he has experienced personally, and he would guess that most Springfield voters have experienced at one point in their life.
The biggest challenge of living in Springfield right now, Stoehr said, is being able to pay the rent.
“I know so many people who are having to work two jobs to keep a roof over their heads,” he said. “I would say that’s the biggest challenge and that it is exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.”
In being on council, Stoehr said one of the things he would like to see happen is nailing down the definition of affordable housing as housing for lower- to middle-income citizens of Springfield.
“Affordable housing has been a slippery term over the years,” he said, adding that it would be an advantage to Springfield to have the young professionals and workers in town who are looking for their first home.
He said being able to afford housing will keep young professionals in Springfield.
Prior to moving to Springfield, Stoehr drove a truck for 17 years, and he remains active in the union, serving as a Teamster representative in his spare time.
He said he met people from all walks of life just trying to survive, which are the same struggles he sees in Springfield today.
“A lot of (Teamster) members are getting displaced and laid off as a result of the virus,” he said. “Who knows when they’ll get their jobs back?”
It’s why Stoehr wants to unite citizens under the banner of “Team Springfield,” he said.
“If they’re looking for a reason to black in the box next to my name,” he said, “I would hope that they will realize that I’m going to advocate for them at the city council level against entrenched powers.”
Gregg Ybarra wants to serve community, support small businesses in area
Gregg Ybarra said he simply wants to represent his community and serve it. Having joined the Marine Corps when he was 17, he said that desire to help has been ingrained in him.
“It seems like the right time for me to get in there and do this. I don’t have any main topic other than the underlying theme to serve.
“Plain and simple,” he said.
Ybarra is running against incumbent Joe Pishioneri for the Ward 6 Springfield City Council seat in the May 19 election.
Supporting small businesses is an important part of his platform, Ybarra said. As a small business owner himself — he co-owns Hearing Associates and Ybarra Properties – Ybarra said he wants to represent that segment of the community.
Especially, he said, because after talking with business owners on the Ward 6 section of Main Street, he said owners told him they feel like they haven’t been listened to, particularly about how Main Street development has – in some cases – adversely affected their businesses.
Even before COVID-19, Ybarra has always been in support of helping small businesses thrive, he said.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the community and they need to get healthy,” he said. “Successful businesses equal jobs and create successful families and successful families support our local businesses.”
He said the focus now is on recovery. Although he doesn’t want to rush businesses into opening too early, they need to get up and running because of the ripple effect it has.
“I want to make sure it’s safe for everyone first and let the experts tell us when, but as business owners we want things to go back to the new normal,” he said, adding that as a small business owner he can relate to what other owners are going through.
Beyond business, Ybarra also said he believes in having a solid police, fire and life-and-safety services. He said that’s his biggest priority, and if elected he wants to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs and keep the public safe.
Springfield is continuing to grow, and Ybarra said he wants to have a say in it. He said his concern is uncontrolled growth, and he wants to balance the ability to expand with maintaining a hometown feel.
Ybarra said he is a hard worker and he commits to everything he does. He looks at all points of view and he wants to listen to what other people are saying. He said it’s “frustrating that people haven’t been heard” and he wants to work on hearing people.
Although he has never been in politics before this experience, Ybarra has lived in the Thurston area for more than 25 years and loves the city and said that it makes him a different and new type of candidate.
“If elected,” he said, “I’m confident I’ll do a good job for my neighbors, my ward and my city.”
Joe Pishioneri brings energy, experience with eye on the big picture
Joe Pishioneri first ran for Springfield City Council in 2004 because he said he’s a true believer in “if you think something should be better, instead of complaining about it, become part of that solution and get involved.”
Pishioneri has essentially served on the council from 2004 to today, except for one 12-month gap where he ran for state legislature. He is running for Ward 6 re-election against Gregg Ybarra.
He said it’s rewarding to drive down Springfield and say he has taken part in something happening, whether it’s changing the way roundabouts are built to keep from tires hitting the edge, or adding guard rails around the power transmission poles on Pioneer Parkway because of a concern for car accidents.
“It seems minor but you do a bunch of those things throughout an entire city and it adds up to a whole entire picture,” he said.
This is the main reason he wanted to run for councilor again: to continue to be part of the projects in Springfield and Glenwood. He explained that government time is different than normal time, and everything moves slower so he wants to be able to see the completion of Franklin Boulevard through Glenwood and see that area of Springfield thrive as an employment and service hub.
The biggest challenge Pishioneri sees is the response to COVID-19. Although the city has put a zero-spending instruction in place, he doesn’t want to think about any distractions to helping businesses get back on their feet as well as the community.
COVID-19 is one of the reasons that Pishioneri said that it’s important to vote for people with experience. He said he is supportive of Mayor Christine Lundberg and Springfield has gained so much with her as mayor.
“To cut that off with someone with zero city or mayoral experience would throw us through a tailspin,” he said.
He added that he has “a lot of respect for Gregg” and said if he wins this race he’ll keep Ybarra close and mentor him, because he thinks that Ybarra would “add a lot of good stuff to the city” if he was on the right commissions and committees and got a broader understanding.
“You can’t just walk onto council; it’s a huge learning curve,” he said. “I will mentor him and anyone else so they can hit the ground running.”
Pishioneri said there are exciting projects coming to Springfield and he’s hopeful to continue to be a part of it.
“Based on the historical perspective of what I’ve done, I’ve done very well and, I think, I’ve represented the citizens very well,” he said, “and I want to continue to do that and keep the energy very vibrant and energized.”