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Tackling Twisp
Mayor Soo Ing-Moody

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Soo Ing-Moody has been mayor of Twisp for 18 months.

Born in Canada and educated in Germany, Twisp mayor Soo Ing-Moody decided to get involved in small town American politics because “I thought it was probably my time to serve . . . People need to step up,” as she puts it.

She and her husband Michael, a native of the valley, settled in Twisp 12 years ago because they wanted to raise their children in the Methow. They operate Sojourner’s Bed and Breakfast, where Ing-Moody can greet guests from Germany or China in their native languages. She holds two masters’ degrees from Freiburg University in Germany, one in English and literature, the other in sociology. She also has a certificate in human resource management from Ryerson University in Toronto - training likely to serve her well in her role as mayor. 

Ing-Moody, 43, now a U.S. citizen, is 18 months into her first term as mayor. Initially serving as a member of the town council, she was appointed mayor just a few months into her council term when former mayor Bill Boosman unexpectedly resigned over a pay dispute. Today she’s the chief decider in a town of nearly 1,000 people and oversees an operating budget of $2 million, including grants.

Though their towns are only 10 miles apart, the Twisp mayor has different problems on her plate than Winthrop mayor Dave Acheson, who manages a town of 400 people with an annual budget of around $5 million, including grants.

One statistic tellingly illustrates the differences that define these two neighboring towns. Winthrop, with its mere 400 residents, gets nearly $300,000 annually from the sales tax, while much larger Twisp with 1,000 residents, gets only $209,377, according to Ing-Moody.

This disparity is caused by the influx of visitors who spend disproportionally more money in Winthrop, a town deliberately designed to function on a tourist-driven economy. Twisp’s economy historically was driven by logging, and the U.S. Forest Service was also a major provider of local jobs. When the logging industry collapsed, the town suffered economically.

Nonetheless, a renaissance slowly has been taking hold in Twisp in recent years, fueled partly by newcomers and people returning home to their family roots. Always the valley’s commercial center, Twisp has been evolving into an arts center. Though rural and isolated, it’s become a town where people can enjoy professional theatre and music, the work of world-class local artists, or shop for specialty groceries and locally crafted, up-market jewelry.

Improvements have been, or are being, made in other civic amenities as well. The town is in the early stages of planning the route for a pedestrian trail. A well-used grassy park has been developed next to the venerable Methow Valley Community Center, and a major street paving project added pedestrian-friendly sidewalks along Second Avenue and Highway 20. The airport’s runway recently was enlarged to conform with federal standards. And TwispWorks, an evolving community resource focused on the arts, culture, agriculture, innovation, education and economic development housed on the 6.4 – acre former Forest Service compound, is the outgrowth of a public development authority chartered by the town. And from late spring to early fall, the Farmers Market becomes the heart of the Methow Valley community, drawing customers from far and near.   

Ing-Moody became mayor at a time when civic amenities were improving but the police chief had been fired and the clerk/treasurer and superintendent of public works resigned. “One of our accomplishments is that we have competent staff in place again,” she says.

Another accomplishment has been getting the Twisp pool out of the news. A perennial problem that had been draining water and money, the pool still suffers from some water loss, says Ing-Moody, “but it has been drastically curtailed.”

A major front-burner headache is Town Hall, which is more than 60 years old. The roof failed just as the snow season approached. It’s now covered in blue tarps, awaiting further developments. When they tried to repair the roof, town officials to their dismay also discovered that the building’s walls are hollow. The building is temporarily structurally shored up from the interior, and a committee that included engineers and architects have studied the problem and recommended a plan for repairing the facility.

All that’s lacking is money to proceed, says Ing-Moody, who so far has been thwarted in her attempts to enlist financial aid from the state legislature. The town has no reserves to pay for fixing the building, so she’s hoping to find grants to pay for repairs. Failing that, she says, “Perhaps we could float a bond.“

The most enduring challenge facing the town is the inadvertent loss of some of its historic water rights. Ing-Moody says that while Twisp has enough water to supply new homes built on existing town lots, it lacks water rights that would allow more growth. “We’re talking about long-term building in the next 20 years,” she says. “We don’t really have enough (water) for 20 years out.”

Upbeat about the town’s future, the mayor nevertheless says she worries about the ill effects that “stagnation” can have on small towns such as Twisp. She says its important to focus on the town’s “long-term sustainability,” and that includes solving the water rights problem. The town is participating in the Methow Watershed Council’s efforts to explore ways to bring more water to Twisp.

“You cannot overlook the fact that we need economical stability. We also need social stability,” says Ing-Moody. “I’d like this town to be healthy and vital.”



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