By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
“I had no aspirations to be the mayor,” recalled Twisp’s mayor, Soo Ing-Moody. Yet, the former sociologist and bed and breakfast owner has spearheaded the effort to help the citizens of this small town in Okanagan county back from the devastating July Carleton complex fires and subsequent flooding that has ravaged the area.
Soo Ing-Moody was once a graduate student in Germany working for a professor that studied fire ecology. Ing-Moody states that none of the work she did on the study and origination of fires and international fire management prepared her for what has happened to her town this summer.
According to Ing-Moody, her job as a small-town mayor is “multi-fold and then some.” Without a city manager or city administrators, Ing-Moody and her small staff play a big part for the town. This included emergency management and preparing an evacuation plan for the town.
She recalls planning with her staff on July 18th the potential need for evacuation and advising on what to do. The unpredictability of the fire made the situation for the town “very scary.” The same day as the meeting, they had to enact the plan. Ing-Moody stated that she and her staff personally went door to door to houses during the Carlteon complex fires to warn Twisp residents and advise of the possibility of evacuation.
Even though the federal government has stepped in to assist the area, she is still advocating for further help for the citizens and business owners that have lost their homes and livelihood. President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency for the area because of the fires. The declaration allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to coordinate disaster relief and help state and local agencies with equipment and resources. While the declaration allows for help for public resources, the town of Twisp was denied assistance for individuals and business owners. Thus, Ing-Moody is working with local officials including Governor Jay Inslee’s office in providing the federal government an appeal to the initial denial. The federal assistance would provide homeowners and business owners that have suffered damages with financial assistance. It would also cover those underinsured and still in need of help. Ing-Moody indicated that she is still gathering information that would show the gravity and impact the fires have had on the community.
Although the damage figures have yet to be finalized, 326 homes in the town of over 1,000 people have been affected by the fires. The town also faces the problem of flooding. The collapse of three small dams in the Benson Creek area has caused flooding and mudslides which has caused more damage to the Twisp area.
Ing-Moody was appointed mayor after the previous mayor stepped down. She served on the town council and was appointed after just a few months into her service. “I applied because there was a need and it was ‘my time’ to serve,” recalled Ing-Moody of working on the town council. Little did she know that she would be called to head the entire town of Twisp after just a few months of service on the council.
Originally from Canada, Ing-Moody was a sociologist studying at the University of Toronto and then at Frieburg University in Germany where she received two masters’ degrees. She is fluent in Chinese and German.
While a student in Germany, an opportunity to work on a project in Mongolia led her to the Methow Valley.
It was in Mongolia where she met her husband Michael. Michael was originally from the Methow Valley. After work and travel, the two decided to settle down in Twisp and opened a bed and breakfast. They have two boys, ages 11 and 13.
“It’s the smallest place I’ve ever lived in my life and the most rural,” said Ing-Moody. While the area may be vastly different from her past residences, she enjoys the outdoors and the many recreational activities Twisp has to offer. (END)
Jason Cruz can be reached at email@example.com.