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Former Sunnyside councilman seeks 15th District post vacated by Newhouse

Citing his hands-on legislative, law enforcement and business experience, former Sunnyside City Councilman Donavon Vlieger has thrown his hat into the ring for the post recently vacated by Rep. Dan Newhouse.

County commissioners are tasked with appointing someone to replace Newhouse. The 15th District lawmaker resigned from the Washington State House of Representatives last Wednesday, after accepting Gov. Christine Gregoire's appointment as director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Vlieger has already contacted local Republican leaders and expressed his interest in being named as Newhouse's replacement. The Republicans representing the three counties that fall within the 15th District are charged with providing county commissioners with a list of three possible candidates. County commissioners will then select one of those candidates to serve in Olympia.

In order to retain that seat, the person named as Newhouse's replacement will have to seek approval from local voters this fall.

Vlieger, a city councilman in Sunnyside who was first elected in 1998 and was re-elected four years later, in 2002 unsuccessfully campaigned for the post he is now seeking. He was defeated by Newhouse that year in the Primary Election.

The owner of the Sunnyside Inn Bed & Breakfast since 1989, Vlieger said the experience he gained campaigning for the state legislative seat back in 2002...canvassing more than 9,000 homes and raising over $22,000...will help prepare him to defend the Republican seat in November of this year.

Vlieger also points to the nearly eight years he served as a city councilman in Sunnyside, the largest city in the 15th Legislative District. During his tenure as a councilman, Vlieger cites policies that were implemented that resulted in a dramatic reduction in crime within the city, as well as general fund surpluses, robust economic development and reduced taxes while increasing revenues to the city.

Prior to moving to Sunnyside with his family, Vlieger was employed as a deputy sheriff for Los Angeles County, which he said included providing security for the 1984 Olympic Games and serving as an airborne observer in a patrol helicopter. He is also credited during his nine years as a deputy sheriff in California with designing and implementing gang prevention, intervention and suppression strategies. Those policies, he notes, resulted in substantial reduction in school violence and gang problems.

Vlieger, too, served as the school safety administrator in Sunnyside from September 1991 through June 1994, a time, he points out, when there was a marked reduction in violence and gang activity in Sunnyside schools.

In 2002, Vlieger was appointed by Gov. Gary Locke to serve on Washington's Juvenile Justice Committee.

He and his wife Karen have been married 29 years, and have three children, ranging in age from 17 to 23.

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