Dunes City Council candidates share their vision

Oct. 25, 2022 — What are the Dunes City Council candidates’ vision of Dunes City? What could be done about the water situation, and do they have a vision for city services, such as law enforcement?

With ballots now arriving in the mail, Siuslaw News reached out to the candidates of Dunes City’s only contested race to see how they view the future of the city.

There are four candidates vying for three open positions for Dunes City Council, all of which are four year terms. Additionally, current mayor Sheldon Meyer is running unopposed for his position.

There are three incumbents and one new name which people can select. Susan Snow was first appointed to the position in 2017 after a vacancy on the council was left open, and was officially elected in 2018.

Incumbent Melissa Stinson was sworn in this past July, after a vacancy was left open. November marks her first election for the council.

Duke Wells is the longest serving incumbent, serving on the council for over a decade.

Non-incumbent Rich Olson, owner of Darlings Resort and Marina, rounds out the list of candidates.

Snow, Stinson and Olson answered questions supplied by both Siuslaw News and Dunes City residents on their vision for the city. Wells did not submit answers by press time.

  1. What is your vision of Dunes City as it is now, where it should go, and why are you best qualified to lead the city into the future?

Snow Snow:

Dunes City is a rural city. People live here because they enjoy the non-urban environment. Dunes City needs to be good stewards of the natural resources within its borders. This is why I volunteered to become the Water Quality Committee Chairman, so I can better understand the issues with the lakes as a drinking water source.

I had 32 years working in the government, building and repairing infrastructure and dealing with budgets and funding prior to becoming a Dunes City councilor in 2018. I understand government funding and how to partner with government entities.

Leading Dunes City into the future means watching resources, both natural and monetary. I have a degree and experience in strategic resource management within the government. I was on the board of directors of a homeowners association (HOA) with more than 1,200 homes and have experience with water, roads, infrastructure, ponds, policy and funding in a community environment. I was the HOA treasurer for five years.

We face very similar issues in Dunes City with 860 homes. My federal government, HOA and Dunes City experience has prepared me to lead the Dunes City into the future.

Melissa Stinson:

I am running for the position of councilor on the Dunes City Council. When I moved to Dunes City in May 2021, I could see that the vision of “A great place to live” needed some help. A small community that sees more tourists in one year than the total residents in recent census studies is a concern. Our small town needs to be re-established as a small town. Our “vacationers” and “tourists” make up a higher census than our current long-term residents of Dunes City.

As a successful businesswoman I will lead our community in its values. Our aging population will not be here forever. I do not want to see Dunes City become a resort-only town. Being a younger generation will allow us to guide when our older generation is gone.

By becoming involved and leading now, visions and lessons are learned, and our beauty will continue our future of being a “great place to live.”

Dunes City gives the residents the ability to enjoy life, not live in a town of cement and asphalt. We need to preserve the beauty of our lakes, beaches, forests and hiking areas. This will always be my forefront in keeping Dunes City alive and well.

Rich Olson:

My vision of Dunes City is a city that thrives while maintaining its small-town appeal. A place where residents can receive critical services fairly, lawfully, and timely without the red tape that restricts larger governments. As a former Public Works Director for a small city, I have proven experience with water systems, budget and oversight, municipal planning, government funding, codes, policy development, and road construction, to name a few.

  1. Recently, Dunes City has been experiencing a variety of issues with water, most notably the failure of certain wells that have cost the city thousands of dollars to tend to. What do you think is causing water issues in Dunes City, and how do you plan to address the issue?


There are a variety of issues with drinking water. These come from a variety of events: the placement of the intake in the lake, lack of maintenance on equipment, and issues with keeping up with the government standards in order to keep the water permits. Water companies going out of business are a business management issue. Dunes City has stepped up in order to provide quality water to the residents affected with water shut downs. Dunes City has also spent thousands of dollars trying to meet government regulations in order to maintain our water rights, so residents have access to drinking water.

I believe Dunes City needs to continue to focus on government regulations to keep our water rights. I also believe Dunes City needs more input into how the dam is operated on the Siltcoos River. The depth of Siltcoos lake is vital to the individual water intakes and the pump equipment that are in the lake. If the lake is too low, it causes numerous issues for many residents in Dunes City. Now the dam is up for sale and this could impact many of our residents, if it is sold to a party that does not consider the residents’ interest.

We need to stay focused on water issues for quality water for our homes and to maintain our beautiful lakes for recreation.


Water issues will always be a foremost concern here in Dunes City. Homes were built on the water and have always depended on the lakes for supply. Our problem at Dunes City was the lack of accountability and actions that were in place long before we all came here. Everyone must have water. It is a basic human need. As a nurse, denying water to current Dunes City residents is unethical. If it was your family, what would you want? Help them or desert them in time of basic need. That is what Dunes City is doing. We help one another. Our grandfather's water reserves in wells are running dry. Major growth in housing and water diversions have burdened our lakes making them the sole water source.

We as the representatives of Dunes City need to have accountability and say no to any new homes without new wells at the expense of the potential buyer of property or development of a new home. We don’t have a municipality and cannot guarantee water to any new house or development that has not already been permitted. We must preserve our Woahink and Siltcoos Lakes.


The city’s water issues stem from wells that are too shallow, lack of rain and lack of infrastructure. As a former Water Distribution Manager (WDM), I will help establish common sense policies and look for a permanent water solution for our city.

  1. Throughout the years, Dunes City has run into issues with having a limited tax base, including a lack of law enforcement, city services, and small city staff. While voters have turned down proposals of even minimum tax services in the past, do you feel that Dunes City needs more funded services, and if so, what are your plans to fund them? If not, how do you see Dunes City dealing with these issues in the future?


Dunes City has been a tax-free city for nearly 60 years, living off grants and funds provided by the county and state. The most important service that Dunes City provides is staff that can take care of the issues of the city. In order to do this, we need to pay and retain the appropriate staff. If the residents want more services, they will need to vote for additional monies, as the grants and subsidies are barely enough to keep the city running at a minimum level and does not provide enough funds to properly maintain the city infrastructure. This could be in the form of bonds to raise capital for specific needs.

The only other way to increase revenue is with an increase in grant writing. If the residents choose to live off grants, this requires another full time staff position to write, follow up, and track grants for Dunes City. We need to maintain good staff, quality water, roads, trim trees, and maintain the community center, as a minimum. We are severely constrained in accomplishing these few tasks with the current funding available.


Yes, our residents have turned down proposals for minimal taxes to aid in safety and health services for our residents. We need funding to provide for our residents.

Dunes City will continue to strive in protecting our residents. We are addressing our growing issue in lack of control on our visiting tourists when it comes to short-term rentals. Dunes City representatives have stepped up, addressed the issues and are currently working on accountability and limiting short-term rentals. We are holding those owners to safety and security while their property is being rented. We are exploring different plans to help with the security of Dunes City, as one of our councilors has suggested. A resident leads a volunteer safety force. Since we are unable to ask for voting to be placed on the ballots again, we must think outside the box and request that our residents help us. We the people of our town need to take it back and report unlawful individuals. Unity is where we stand, and we will decrease the risk of violence and non-law-abiding people that misbehave in our city. We will continue to investigate grants as a source and continue to utilize funding from permits as a resource.


State and county agencies are collecting and retaining most of our tax dollars. I will investigate whether any of these funds can or should be returning to Dunes City.

As a business owner, I can attest that we need a law enforcement presence in Dunes City. I will investigate law enforcement grants offered by the state and federal governments and work diligently to fulfill this need.

Our city needs more staff. The state provides resources for internship programs in state government agencies. We will investigate whether these programs can be made available for small cities, like ours. We can launch a nationwide search for qualified applicants who would love to live and work on the beautiful Oregon coast. Finally, recruit qualified volunteers from our talented and knowledgeable retirement community.