ELECTION 2020: McLaughlin, Vialpando face off in Vale mayor’s race

Two local men – incumbent Mike McLaughlin and challenger Tom Vialpando – want voters to chose them Nov. 3 to sit in the mayor’s chair at city hall. (Enterprise/File)

VALE – The two men running for Vale’s top political slot represent two sides of the same coin.

Tom Vialpando is relatively new to town, has never run for political office and wants to promote tourism and attract new business.

Incumbent Mike McLaughlin is a veteran – he was first elected to the mayor slot in 2009 – and wants to focus his next term on promoting existing businesses.

Vale mayor Mike McLaughlin. (The Enterprise/File).

The mayor’s primary job is to preside over city council meetings and work with the city manager to implement and develop policies. The position is unpaid.

Both men said they believe a vibrant Chamber of Commerce is key for the city’s future.

Yet they differ on what is the best path for the city in terms of economic development.

“We need more jobs,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin said Vale’s attributes include inexpensive housing, and a low crime rate.

While McLaughlin said attracting new business to Vale is important, the city must also help established merchants.

 “We are always worried about the new mushroom plant or the gold mine but my job is to make sure existing businesses are doing well,” McLaughlin said. “It is so difficult to make a dollar in Vale so we really need to look out for the small businesses here.”

Vialpando said he wants to promote Vale as a tourist destination.

“The pioneer murals, access to outdoor activities and the airport will play important roles in that process,” said Vialpando 

McLaughlin said he also believes tourism can help Vale and said over his 11-year stint as mayor he worked to promote that industry.

He said the city under his leadership partnered with the Vale Mural Society to create more than 30 paintings that adorn buildings across the city.

“We have been doing that for a number of years,” he said.

McLaughlin said one of his key accomplishments during his most recent tenure as mayor was the construction of a new water treatment plant.

The $7.2 million project was needed to slash the amount of arsenic in the city’s drinking water.

The new facility – next to the Vale airport – opened in November 2018.

“It will take us into the future,” said McLaughlin. “We will have more capacity so if, and when, an industry comes knocking we will have plenty of water.”

McLaughlin said he is also at work creating more housing.

McLaughlin said workforce and low-income housing are “hot button issues right now.”

“We are looking to upgrade the Cottonwood subdivision’s second phase. I have been speaking with a developer about some low income and workforce housing,” said McLaughlin.

The Cottonwood subdivision is in northwest part of town off the John Day Highway.

McLaughlin also pointed to his successful work on Vale park improvements. McLaughlin said under his leadership, new playground equipment was added at Wadliegh Park and a new Frisbee golf and soccer field were installed at Cottonwood Park in north Vale.

Vialpando said Vale’s two biggest strengths are “service and tourism.”

“It’s what brings people to Vale,” said Vialpando.

Tom Vialpando. (The Enterprise/File).

Vialpando said his community-oriented outlook will be a plus for Vale residents.

“I believe I have the skills needed to help Vale become the city that everyone I’ve talked to remembers it being. I have many successful years managing people and businesses. I take great pride in building relationships,” said Vialpando.

Vialpando, who moved to Vale two years ago, said he wants to spearhead work on a new community center. McLaughlin said he, too, believes a community center is a good idea for Vale. He said he worked with the Vale School District on an idea to convert the old middle school into a community center before the building was torn down.

Vialpando said he wants to work with local businesses hit hard by the Covid epidemic.

He said he will help in “locating, identifying and connecting them (businesses) with relief opportunities such as grants offered through the state and federal government.”

“I will continue to be their biggest advocate for increased advertisement and promotion,” said Vialpando.

Vialpando said he wants to improve Vale’s downtown by encouraging businesses to fill up the vacant store fronts and businesses.

“If they (buildings) are structurally sound I will push to attract businesses to occupy them,” he said.

Vialpando said he received endorsements from every resident he’s talked to.

“I will do everything I can to improve Vale. I have the skill needed form partnerships with community business owners and leaders that will benefit Vale,” said Vialpando.

Vialpando said he is a partner in an online laser business, Imagine That of Treasure Valley. Vialpando said he volunteers with the Malheur Council on Aging and the Vale Community Coalition.

McLaughlin said his volunteer work includes service with the Governor’s Northeast and Greater Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions Advisory Committee’s Economic Development Task Force. McLaughlin and his wife, Sandijean Fuson, run the non-profit Drexel H. Foundation, an organization working to restore the Drexel Hotel and Rex Theater in Vale.

He also serves, he said, as the chairman of the board of Rural Development Initiatives, and is on the board of Evalcree, an Ontario-based non-proft organization aimed at empowering minority communities in eastern Oregon.

McLaughlin, 62, said there is something “very special going on here in Vale.”

“We have a quality of life that is rare in this modern era of computers and cell phones. Vale is a great place to grow up and a great place for families,” said McLaughlin.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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