Passed over for appointment to a council seat in February, four people are now taking their case to voters on why they should be elected to the Lakewood City Council for the next four-plus years.
The victor will succeed Councilwoman Helen-McGovern-Pilant, whom the council chose last winter to succeed former Mayor Doug Richardson when he was elected to the Pierce County Council. McGovern-Pilant decided against running for a full term.
Don Daniels, Ria Johnson, John Simpson and Bryan Thomas were among the 12 applicants who had sought the appointment.
The top two vote-getters following the Aug. 6 primary will advance to the November election.
The other three council seats up for election in Pierce County’s second-largest city are uncontested, which means incumbents Michael Brandstetter, Mary Moss and Jason Whalen are shoo-ins to secure their second terms.
Politics in Lakewood have calmed down after a rather tumultuous period about a decade ago. The primary candidates generally agree the city has been well managed.
All four say economic development remains Lakewood’s highest priority, but each highlights their different backgrounds and experiences.
Don Daniels and his wife owned The Fan Club sports bar (formerly called Little Leaf Pub and Grill) on 83rd Avenue Southwest for many years.
“I’m the only person in this race that has owned a small business, who can relate to that,” said Daniels, who chairs the city’s planning advisory board.
He said his past relationship with the chamber of commerce could benefit the city as it works to attract new businesses. He said Lakewood should provide information and other resources so their startup is trouble-free.
Johnson, a social worker, is the youngest candidate and only woman in the race. She wants to expand the community pride seen in some neighborhoods and motivate the younger generation to get more involved in their government.
“I think that in itself will create policy that is more timeless,” she said.
She’s concerned Lakewood residents have to find jobs outside the city, and she says the city needs to do better at nurturing entrepreneurs and use its proximity to the military and aerospace industries.
Simpson, a history teacher and photojournalist, was temporarily appointed to the council in 2003 when Richardson was called to military service. Simpson said that experience, combined with his background in education and the military, make him the best candidate.
He said the city must show more flexibility on regulations, such as the sign code, to help businesses prosper. He also said officials need to be more aggressive marketing Lakewood to prospective employers.
“The worst they can say is, ‘no,’” he said.
Thomas, 56, brings name recognition to the race; he is the son of Claudia Thomas, a respected longtime Lakewood council member and former mayor.
After a long career in the airline industry, Thomas said his budget experience and work with different cultures through extensive travels would be a plus for the council. He also chairs the city’s public safety advisory board.
He said economic progress has been slow, and while casinos and payday loan businesses are made welcome and generate revenue for the city, “I don’t think it reflects what we want.”
Echoing safety and traffic concerns raised by residents, the four candidates all say they support the city’s legal effort to stop the state from rerouting Amtrak passenger trains through Lakewood. The lawsuit is pending in Pierce County Superior Court.
The candidates differ, however, when asked about the council’s ongoing deliberations to ask voters to pay more to maintain city streets. The council is looking at going to voters next year after it gets results from a survey.
Simpson is the only candidate to oppose such a proposal. He says voters can’t afford it and the city needs to find another way to pay for roads, preferably from the increased tax revenue that new businesses bring.
Johnson said she would support asking voters for a car tab fee of up to $15. State law allows cities to approve up to a $20 car tab fee without having to go to voters.
Thomas also favors a voter-approved fee but said he would cap it at $40
Daniels was the only candidate to favor a property tax levy, which he said would provide more stable funding than a car tab fee and reduce the need to return to voters for more money in the future.
Fundraising in the race has been rather lethargic, with no candidates raising more than $2,100 so far, according to the online database of the Public Disclosure Commission, the state’s campaign finance watchdog.
LAKEWOOD COUNCIL CANDIDATES
Resident of Lakewood: 26 years.
Occupation: Regional sales manager, Mallory Safety and Supply, which sells safety products for firefighters and other occupations; former small-business owner.
Education: High school graduate.
Civic involvement: Chairman, Lakewood Planning Advisory Board, 2009-present; board member, Lakewood United.
Family: Married for 19 years; six children.
Resident of Lakewood: 12 years.
Occupation: Program assistant at Kids for Hope NW, which works with schools and community organizations to help at-risk youth succeed.
Education: Scheduled to earn associate’s degree from Pierce College in spring of 2014.
Civic involvement: Board member, Lakewood’s Promise, 2005-2009; volunteer coordinator, Ethnic Festival, 2005-2012; board member, Greater Pierce County Community Network, 2003-2006.
Lakewood resident: 23 years.
Occupation: History instructor, Pierce College; photojournalist, The Ranger newspaper.
Education: Master’s degree, history, Pacific Lutheran University, 1992; bachelor’s degree, history, Central Michigan University, 1974.
Civic involvement: Appointed to Lakewood City Council in 2003; board member, Lakewood Redevelopment Advisory Board, 1998-2003; board member, Law Enforcement Support Agency (now South Sound 911), 2003-2006; member, Pierce College Cabinet, 2006-present.
Family: Married for 11 years; three children. He has three adult children from a previous marriage.
Lakewood resident: 47 years.
Occupation: Currently unemployed because he’s focusing on earning his master’s degree from Ashford University this fall; former human resources manager, AirTran Airways.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, human resource and organizational management, Ashford University, Clinton, Iowa, 2012.
Civic involvement: Chairman, Lakewood Public Safety Advisory Committee, 2010-present; member, Communities in Schools, a community-based organization helping kids graduate on time.
Family: Married for 16 years; three children.Christian Hill: 253-274-7390