The newest Clark County Council member knows he has his work cut out for him.
Officially appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee on April 29, Richard “Dick” Rylander was sworn in as the county council’s district 5 representative on May 3. Rylander was chosen to serve North Clark County from three names forwarded to the governor after the council deadlocked in a 2-2 vote to appoint someone on March 29.
Rylander said he was excited when he received the notification from the governor, but he understands what taking on the role entails.
“You accept responsibility of something, and I don’t care how old you are, some of the angst and nervousness is still there,” Rylander said.
Rylander, who spent his career working in the biotech pharmaceutical industry, said he looks forward to getting business done after the council experienced numerous deadlocks with the lack of a fifth member.
As of last week, Rylander already participated in two meetings, both with high-profile matters of business. The council deliberated over the ongoing redistricting process and the placement of a .1% sales tax on the ballot to fund the sheriff’s department’s body camera program. Rylander said he has been watching the meetings virtually over the past three months to acquaint himself with the council’s matters ahead of time.
Rylander was previously among a slew of applicants for a position to fill the county council’s district 4 seat in 2019 following the election of then-seatholder Eileen Quiring O’Brien to the county council chair in the prior November election. Current district 4 councilor Gary Medvigy wound up being appointed.
At that time, the councilor seats were explicitly partisan. In 2021, voters approved amendments to the county’s home rule charter that approved the creation of Rylander’s district and made all councilor seats nonpartisan positions.
Because of that partisan nature, it was the county Republican party that ended up forwarding three applicants for eventual approval by the county council. Rylander said he was the fourth-ranked. Quiring O’Brien has since retired from her position as council chair-turned-district 5 representative.
For the latest appointment, it was current council chair Karen Bowerman who selected the three final applicants who were forwarded to the governor’s office. The district represents north Clark County, including Battle Ground, La Center, Ridgefield and Yacolt.
Rylander has also previously ran for the Battle Ground Public Schools’ board of directors and both the initial county home rule charter freeholders group and its successive charter review committee.
Rylander plans to file for the upcoming election in November. He said running a campaign is less of an immediate focus, as he wants to get feedback from his constituents to get an idea of what their priorities are.
“Rather than try to assume I know what people want … if I can actually hear what they’re thinking, understanding why and having a dialogue, it’s much easier, and much better in the long run,” Rylander said.
Although he understands some decisions will elicit impassioned feelings, he said he is a “big believer in facts and information.”
Rylander said he believes land use and property rights are a chief concern for those living in the rural parts of the district. He feels there are also frustrations on what property owners are able to do.
“Some of that is imposed by the state, but how do you lobby at the state level to try to increase that choice?” Rylander said. “I don’t have the answer, but you’ve got to ask the question and then start looking for the solution.”
Rylander’s intuition is that his constituents are more in favor of additional crossings over the Columbia River rather than focusing on the replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge. One of his own concerns is balancing the rural lifestyle with the availability of accessible jobs.
He stressed the importance of county government to not “sit in silos” when it comes to decision-making.
“There’s going to be pearls of wisdom out there, that if we work it to get those to come forward, and show people that they can be heard … we open up government broadly, we’ll serve the people,” Rylander said.
Rylander said generally the county’s finances are the largest concern. In particular, he is concerned about long-term inflation, given the amount seen in the past two years.
“I am absolutely of the opinion and convinced that people are tax-tired,” Rylander said.
He mentioned the median home price in the county surpassed $500,000, which can affect property taxes. He expressed worry about what services the county can provide without raising taxes.
“Do you unilaterally say to the people we’re going to raise this tax? My response is no,” Rylander said.
The new councilor said he is a proponent of taking the time to deliberate issues when it comes to county government decisions.
“From my standpoint, it’s listening to what they’re saying, asking questions to get clarifications, and to show them that I’m hearing what they’re saying,” Rylander said.
Overall, Rylander wants to steer the county in a way that benefits its residents.
“I want to make sure my children and grandchildren, and other people’s children and grandchildren, find Clark County to be a great place to live, to work, earn a great living, raise a family (and) feel safe to live life,” Rylander said.
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