At the end of this year, Karen Bowerman and Gary Medvigy will leave their positions on the Clark County Council. Bowerman is in her fourth year as a county councilor, and Medvigy is in his sixth year.

What impact their departures will have on the council remains to be seen.

But both offered the same words of caution to their replacements: Prepare for a steep learning curve.

Despite being considered part-time positions, the councilors’ jobs require extensive time and effort, Medvigy said.

“Now that I’ve done it for almost six years, this is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had,” he said.

County charter cited

Both Bowerman and Medvigy said they chose not to run for reelection because of the way the county charter is written: It separates the powers of the legislative branch (the elected county council) from the executive (the appointed county manager).

“If you look at the way the charter was constructed … the separation of the legislative and executive branches was key,” Bowerman said, adding that the charter places strict limits on what the council can do.

“All the capacity is with the executive,” Medvigy said.

“It means that for us, as individual councilors, when we come upon an issue that needs resolution through the county bureaucracy, we have one path.

That is through the county manager. Otherwise, we are ‘interfering,’” Bowerman said.

While Bowerman said she is completely supportive of County Manager Kathleen Otto, she said the charter language creates a bottleneck.

Medvigy did have suggestions for whomever wins his seat.

“In order for us to fulfill our role as county councilors, we need to sit down with the manager at the beginning of the year and say, ‘Here are our priorities. Here’s what’s going well. Here’s where we would like to see improvement, and we would like to measure that improvement in a few months.’ Then, at the end of the year, do an evaluation,” he said.

That kind of end-of-year evaluation is common practice elsewhere but isn’t in the charter or the county manager’s contract, Medvigy noted.

Both Medvigy and Bowerman said the state’s open meetings laws are limiting the council’s effectiveness.

“Two members constituting a quorum means that we can’t have a real conversation outside of a meeting,” Bowerman said. “I’ve always felt that some of the best discussions that take place are in an informal environment.”

Medvigy compared getting the council to reach consensus on anything akin to herding cats.

“I understand the need for open meetings laws, but it’s really self-defeating not to allow conversations to get someone’s view,” he said.

“We have so precious little time with the array of issues we have. I understand the need for it, but I wish it was different.”

The candidates

Neither Bowerman nor Medvigy was ready to say which of the candidates they’re hoping will replace them. Those running for Bowerman’s District 3 seat are Chuck Keplar, John Jay and Wil Fuentes. The candidates for Medvigy’s District 4 seat are Shannon Roberts, Joe Zimmerman, Matt Little, Dorothy Gasque and Peter Cutile.

“I won’t support a person overtly — just behind the scenes — because I think that really is not my role as a councilor,” Bowerman said.

However, she said she’s always willing to sit down with any of the candidates and talk about the issues.

Bowerman said one of the most challenging issues for the new council members will be getting up to speed on the comprehensive plan update, which is due to the state by the end of 2025.

“That is front and center in terms of what needs to be accomplished well,” Bowerman said. “That has got to be the No. 1 thing I point to, both for the council as a whole and for individuals, to become familiar with those issues.”

With about six months left in their terms, Bowerman said there’s still time to wrap up a few more tasks.

One issue she will be working on is bridge safety. After the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge in March, the county council passed a resolution calling for a complete safety analysis of the Interstate 5 Bridge replacement.

“To have that become front and center is so important,” she said. “Not only does it protect our investment; it protects our ability to transport (goods), our ability to get to work.”

Medvigy has some ideas for his remaining time in office.

They include finding a new home for the sheriff’s office, integrating mental health services into schools and making improvements to the county’s permitting process.

“There are still a lot of mom-and-pop businesses struggling with permits,” he said.

While Bowerman said she would rather focus on the future than look back at past accomplishments, she’s proud to have supported sales taxes to benefit public safety and mental health initiatives.

They are providing enormous benefits to the community, she said.

The public safety sales tax money paid for body and dash cameras for the sheriff’s office. Bowerman said she remembers the first time there was an incident where body camera recordings were available.

“They made a difference. They made it a transparent process,” she said.

Medvigy said he was proud of the work he’s done in office, especially when it comes to conservation efforts, such as Moulton Falls, the Hantwick trail, Horseshoe Falls, converting Cedars Golf Course to a natural area and other projects.

He said he continues to work to preserve existing farmlands.

“That’s an ongoing progress that will eventually win the day and finally get put in place,” Medvigy said.

It’s perhaps no surprise that the recent addition of a public defender’s office would be high on the list for Medvigy, a former attorney and judge.

“There’s a transition period we’re going through now, but ultimately we’re going to see better indigent defense services at less cost,” he said.

Managing 30 to 60 contracts for each attorney providing contracted public defense services was inefficient and expensive, Medvigy said.

He said the creation of a jail services department to take over management of the Clark County Jail, which took effect in 2023, was another move in the right direction for the county.

“We are making great strides after many years of angst,” he said.

Bowerman and Medvigy agree that the mental health sales tax has provided needed funding for mental health and substance-abuse services.

“Getting the mental health sales tax back out to the community in ways that serve the community is important, too,” Bowerman said. “So many of these things are new for Clark County. There’s just a lot of joy in getting them launched.”

What’s next

What do each of the councilors have planned for after their term ends? Bowerman said she’s looking forward to getting back to writing. In 2014, she co-authored an undergraduate textbook titled “The Business of Leadership: An Introduction.”

“I really enjoy writing,” she said. “I can’t wait to get started again with blocks of time available.”

Medvigy said he plans to head out to the open skies.

A longtime member of the Red Tailed Hawks Flying Club, he said he wants to finish getting his instructor’s permit.

“We’re expanding down to the Portland-Vancouver area to introduce aviation to underrepresented and disadvantaged youth,” Medvigy said. “I hope to do a lot more with that.”

Shari Phiel: 360-735-4546;; @ Shari_Phiel