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G'view Council incumbent faces youthful challenge

GRANDVIEW - At just 22, Maria Armendariz is ready to take on an active role at city hall. For that to happen, though, she'll need to defeat incumbent councilwoman Joan Souders for Grandview City Council position 1.

While Armendariz claims more effort needs to be made to involve the young people of the community in city government, Souders is replying on her experience to win the election.

A first term council member, Souders only has two years under her city leadership belt. The assisted living center administrator feels that experience is to her advantage in the city council race.

"I think both my term on the council and my four years of experience on the Yakima Valley Rural Enterprise Community Board have prepared me for the council," said Souders, who has lived in Grandview for the past 10 years .

A former Salvation Army missionary, Souders was elected two years ago to complete the remainder of a four-year term left vacant by the death of long-time Grandview community leader Amelia Garza.

"I finally feel as though I've got through the learning curve that comes with understanding how city government works," Souders said.

Souders said she decided to seek election to a full four-term to put to use what she has learned.

"I don't feel quite so overwhelmed as I did at first. I'm more confident in expressing my opinions, because I better understand the city's situation. Now I want the opportunity to take on what I consider to be serious issues facing our community," she said.

Souders pointed to such issues as the recent housing growth burst in the community. "I'm happy to see Grandview growing, but I'm concerned how the growth is going to impact the city's infrastructure.

"I am concerned the increased population growth will adversely impact our police and fire departments," she said.

"How are we going to stay within budget and still be able to meet the needs of the community?," she said. "I want to be there to make sure we do stay within budget.

"I believe I'm now a stronger advocate for my constituents," Souders said, adding she wants to continue advocating for changes in the Parks and Recreation Department as a member of its task force.

Armendariz admits she is young, but the manager of Grandview's Ready Money store feels that her youth can be an asset to the Grandview City Council.

"As young people, we often feel disconnected to the working of our city government," Armendariz said.

"We feel like we don't have a voice, and I want to be the person on the council who listens to the younger people's concerns," she said.

"Through my involvement, I want to help young people in the community take an active interest in making this a better place to live," she added.

Armendariz, who has lived all of her life in Grandview and attended Grandview schools, is now raising her family in her hometown.

"I want to bring a fresh ear to the council table," said the ambitious young woman, who is also planning to continue her education at the Grandview campus of Yakima Valley Community College.

"I'm happy to see the college expand to offer opportunities for more training for our community," she said.

But Grandview also needs more places for those trained people to work, she said. She said the recent opening of the Wal-Mart distribution center in Grandview has greatly improved the town's economy.

"I think we can build on that growth," she said.

In addition, Armendariz said the recent boom of new housing starts is a good thing.

"I'm proud of the community's support of the new family housing, but I think we need to do more to stop the cycle of young people not having enough to do in this town," she said.

"I want to see more jobs coming into the community, jobs with good pay," Armendariz said.

"I'd like to see the parks and recreation department expanded with more programs to keep our youth busy," she said.

Saying she was sorry the proposed aquatic center bond failed, she recognized that the plan may have been too grandiose for Grandview.

"I do think we need to upgrade the city's swimming pool. It just doesn't have to be so big (as the recent plan)," she said.

Armendariz said she is ready to support whatever needs the city's law enforcement and fire departments may have.

"I feel they are both doing an excellent job," she said.

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