Our picks for Lakewood, University Place, Gig Harbor councils

The News TribuneOctober 3, 2013 

Things must be going swimmingly in the cities of Lakewood, University Place and Gig Harbor. Twelve city council or mayoral seats are on the Nov. 5 ballot, but only four of the races are being contested.

 • In Lakewood, the second-largest city in Pierce County, the only contested seat is the open Position 5. Pierce College history instructor John Simpson and Bryan Thomas, chairman of the city’s Public Safety Advisory Committee, made it through the primary.

Both are quality candidates. Simpson got our endorsement in the primary because we thought he was the most knowledgeable in the primary field of four and had a military background that would serve him well in Lakewood, neighbor to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Camp Murray.

Simpson once served on the council in a temporary capacity and asks penetrating questions at council meetings. We see no reason to change our endorsement.

 • In neighboring University Place, two contests will be on the ballot. The Position 4 race is a no-brainer. The incumbent, businessman Ken Grassi, has served on the council for 19 years — since the birth of University Place. He has been twice elected mayor by his fellow council members, which reflects his quiet leadership abilities. Voters should give him a fifth term.

His opponent, perennial candidate Carl Mollnow, is not a viable candidate.

The Position 3 race is a tougher call. Incumbent Eric Choiniere has done a good job since 2010, but we think his opponent, Steve Worthington, has the potential to do even better.

Worthington, who served as Fife’s community development director and then as its city manager before retiring in 2011, has a master’s degree in public administration and a wealth of local government experience. He also knows the demands of the private sector, having been a restaurateur before entering government service.

A University Place resident since 1999 with close ties to the community — his wife is a retired UP reading specialist, and his sons graduated from Curtis High School — Worthington would be a superb addition to the City Council.

 • In Gig Harbor, the only contested council race is for incumbent Steve Ekberg’s Position 2 seat.

Challenger Jim Hagman, who owns a computer consulting business, is running for a good reason: He thinks his uptown neighborhood of Gig Harbor will be underrepresented with Derek Young’s departure from the City Council. But we don’t see any reason to throw out Ekberg, perhaps the longest-serving council member in Gig Harbor history (32 years). His institutional memory alone is an argument for re-electing him.

Ekberg, the president and CEO of an insurance brokerage, is focused on the city’s budget and spending taxpayer dollars wisely. He’s also an ardent advocate for parks, sidewalks, and balancing the need for development with preserving the city’s charm. He should get another term.

To read earlier endorsement editorials, go online to www.thenewstribune.com/endorsements.

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