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McCleary Mayor Dent challenged by former councilman

McCLEARY — Mayor Gary Dent will face a challenger as he tries to earn a sixth term this November.

Former City Councilman Chris Vessey filed to run against Dent. Vessey served on the council for 12 years, including stints as mayor pro-tem to then-mayor Wallace Bentley.

Vessey moved to McCleary in 1993 with his wife, who is from the area. Vessey says he thinks the city needs to do a better job of being transparent with its residents.

“I plan to open up and communicate more with residents,” Vessey said. “People need to know more about what’s going on in town. They need to be upfront with people.”

Pointing to the potential McCleary Steel pipe manufacturing facility, he says, “I just know what the word on the street is, what everybody else has heard when, I think, more could be said.”

Vessey says he spent 46 years as a logger and involved in heavy construction. He’s a cousin to the Vessey logging family.

“McCleary is a nice town, a friendly town and, although I was born in Aberdeen and lived in Olympia for a while, I think of McCleary as my home town,” he said.

Mayor Dent has been mayor five times since 1976. After 40 years, he retired as a teacher, his last posting at McCleary School.

He’s been involved with the Grays Harbor Transit Board, the E-911 Administrative Board and the Grays Harbor Council of Governments.

Dent says he has spent years trying to find a buyer for the old Port Blakely Tree farm pole site. Seven parcels, including that site, making up 350.7 acres were sold on Dec. 21 to Bellevue-based USA Investment Group LLC for a combined $2.695 million, according to sale records with Grays Harbor County. The large swath of land could take up as much as a quarter of all the land within the McCleary city limits.

The company, who bought the site, is looking to manufacture steel pipes at a new facility with several buildings up to five stories high.

Dent said he didn’t have any news to report on the company’s plans, other than it’s still in progress.

“This is exciting news for us,” Dent said. “And I want to be a part of it.”

Dent said the most sobering moment for him this year was when, Ardyce M. Taylor, a former McCleary utility accountant, was sentenced to prison for two years for the crime of “theft in the first degree as a major economic offense” with aggravating factors. Dent said Taylor was practically family to him, but her actions leading to about $400,000 missing needed to be addressed.

“This is a problem I inherited from the previous administration and we handled it swiftly and I think we did the right thing,” Dent said.

Dent says he wants to stay mayor because he sees a lot of potential in the city’s future.

“We’re on the right track,” Dent said.

Other filings made Friday:

On McCleary City Council, Lawrence Peterson will face Doug Krikava for Position 3. Michael Lant resigned his seat because he was moving out of the city.

Councilperson Brent Schiller filed for re-election for Position 4. Councilperson Bennie Ator filed for re-election in Position 5.