Newcomers abound in Puyallup City Council races

kari.plog@thenewstribune.comOctober 19, 2013 

The Nov. 5 general election will bring new faces and eventually a new mayor to the Puyallup City Council.

Four newcomers, an incumbent and a returning candidate are vying for three seats on the seven-member council.

No matter the outcome, leadership in Pierce County’s third-largest city will lack long-term council experience. Only one sitting council member — John Knutsen, who was first elected in 2008 — will have served the city for a full term.

Adding instability to the landscape, interim City Manager Bill McDonald’s contract expires in December, and it is up in the air whether the City Council will replace him.

Candidates say the elected leadership shake-up will offer new perspectives and an opportunity for more civility among council members.

DISTRICT 1 POSITION 2

Incumbent John Hopkins is seeking re-election to serve his first full term on the council representing the downtown area.

In 2011, he was elected to replace Nicole Martineau, who sought the at-large seat and lost to current council member Steve Vermillion.

Hopkins’ challenger, 37-year-old hot rod restoration shop co-owner Corry Glucoft, said she hopes to change what she views as a one-sided council.

Despite his short term, Hopkins said he can bring experience to a relatively inexperienced council.

The 65-year-old business owner — he owns a property management company — who has been a teacher and electrician said he felt dissatisfied with Puyallup’s debt, pending litigation and inefficient department management when he first ran for office. Now he wants to see improvements through to the end.

“I believe we’ve been part of a dramatic turnaround over the last two years,” Hopkins said.

He also said integrating the city’s efficient dispatch system with the newer dispatchers through South Sound 911 is important, as is coming up with a thoughtful solution for parking problems at and around the Sounder station downtown.

In the long term, he said, devising a replacement plan for aging water lines and roads is vital.

“What we haven’t done is come up with a realistic plan for utility rebuilding and road rebuilding,” Hopkins said. “That’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

Glucoft also said the city is seriously behind on infrastructure. Routine maintenance, such as resurfacing roads, has been neglected far too long, she said.

Glucoft said she knows the needs of residents as a small-business owner who has lived in Puyallup for 11 years.

She said city leaders should prioritize the upkeep of roads just as a homeowner cares for the long-term needs of a house.

“I want to run the city like a home, like a family,” she said.

Glucoft wants to immediately review city projects that are funded but have yet to be finished or started.

Within City Hall, she wants to introduce “levelheaded thinking” to the council and eliminate personal attacks that cause a lack of trust among residents and city staff.

“I’m here to work for the people, not against them,” Glucoft said.

DISTRICT 2 POSITION 2

Puyallup Mayor Rick Hansen is term-limited out of office, and two members of the Planning Commission hope to replace him in the district that covers suburban and some rural areas in the central part of the city.

The mayor is appointed by the council and is not connected to Hansen’s District 2 seat.

Chairman Steve Hastings and fellow commissioner Heather Shadko both prioritize solutions for parking problems around the Sounder train station downtown, but offer different options for improving access.

Sound Transit has already secured nearly $53 million for long-term station improvements in Puyallup after voters approved a ballot measure for expansion in 2008. Officials are negotiating how to use the money.

Hastings said a parking garage, one option that Sound Transit officials have suggested, is not the answer. That would guarantee permanent traffic problems in the city, he said.

“Many people riding the train don’t live in Puyallup,” said Hastings, a 50-year-old technology architect who designs computing systems for the medical industry. “This is an opportunity to do something good about traffic.”

As a longtime Sounder commuter, Hastings said partnering with Pierce Transit and developing a satellite parking system with bus shuttles is the best solution.

“The key challenge is convincing Sound Transit that it’s what our community wants and what our community needs,” he said.

Hastings also said reducing debt should remain the city’s top priority, as well as fixing damaged sidewalks and solving flooding problems.

Shadko, who works with vendors and manages contracts at the Port of Tacoma, said road maintenance in Puyallup should be addressed immediately.

She said the city runs the risk of spending more on street replacements than upkeep.

“We haven’t chip-sealed our roads in the last three years,” Shadko said. “That extends the life of a road by seven years.”

As for Sounder station improvements, Shadko said Puyallup is improving access not only for residents, but for commuters outside the city. She supports building a mixed-use parking structure, with shopping on the ground level and parking above.

“We already have two- and three-story buildings in the area of the Sounder lot, so why not a parking garage?” she said.

Shadko, 50, said if commuters had more time downtown rather than hurrying to a bus to get to their cars, they’d spend more money at local businesses.

DISTRICT 3 POSITION 2

Another Planning Commission member is running against a lifelong Puyallup resident to fill the seat vacated by Kent Boyle, who decided not to run for re-election and then resigned from the council in September.

Chris McNutt is vice chairman of the Planning Commission. He previously ran for City Council in 2011, losing in the primary. He said his problem-solving skills make him qualified to lead the city.

Opponent Julie Door, who was a driving force behind state legislation that gives local governments more control over halfway houses, said she can bring a new perspective to the council.

McNutt, a 38-year-old corporate sales representative for a technology company, said his daily work has helped him learn to manage budgets and projects while also coordinating personnel and resources.

He said problems with debt, utilities and infrastructure are all important priorities for Puyallup.

“They all require a strong measure of responsibility,” he said.

Another important issue is the effect of the local homeless population on neighborhoods, families and businesses, McNutt said.

He said he’ll work to find the best solution to all problems in the city, even if it means working with people he doesn’t normally agree with.

“I am willing to make some of the tougher decisions,” he said. “I don’t disagree with opinions, I integrate them.”

Door, 47, was born and raised in Puyallup. She’s a massage therapist and co-owner of a chiropractic clinic, and has served on Wildwood Park Elementary’s PTA.

She said District 3 — located on the southern edge of the city up the hill — has young, working families not often heard by representatives; she said she’d serve as their voice.

“I want this to be a community where my children would want to live,” she said.

Road problems are neglected, Door said, specifically traffic on Shaw Road.

She doesn’t support the proposed rezone of former daffodil farmland near Shaw Road because warehouse development would only mean more traffic congestion, she said.

McNutt said weighing in on specific land uses and future projects should not be part of the rezone discussion; it is merely about whether the changes in zoning meet specific criteria or not.

Door hopes to bring cooperation to the council while building key relationships with agencies such as Pierce County and South Sound 911.

She said her work with state representatives in Olympia on the issue of halfway houses has proven her ability to work with people from different sides and find solutions.

“I have the community relationships, especially in District 3,” she said. “I feel like I can work with anybody.”

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682
kari.plog@thenewstribune.com
@KariPlog

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