The list of challenges Gig Harbor will continue to face over the next four years includes many familiar ones: traffic backups at major thoroughfares, sprawling growth in the northern part of the city and potential business and residential development along the city’s historic waterfront.
That makes it important that the city have a confident, competent and seasoned mayor going forward.
Gig Harbor’s mayoral race pits one-term incumbent Jill Guernsey against political newcomer and 30-year resident and business owner Kit Kuhn.
The Peninsula Gateway Editorial Board endorses Guernsey as the better candidate.
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Kuhn, 56, who retired three years ago after operating a jewelry store in downtown, has experience as a board member of the Chamber of Commerce and is the co-founder and president of Peninsula Hands On Art, a Peninsula School District program started 13 years ago that trained 200 docents to provide art education in schools suffering art education budget cutbacks.
While Kuhn’s experience giving back to the community should not be minimized, it would be a huge leap from owning a small business to running a fast-growing city with an annual budget of more than $70 million. We also find it audacious for Kuhn to call for the hiring of a new city administrator — with taxpayers picking up the tab for the search — when he has no official public service experience under his belt.
Yes, Kuhn, is well-read on the issues Gig Harbor faces, but implausible ideas for infrastructure solutions (including building underground crosswalks in the Gig Harbor North area) and combing through the city budget line by line to inspect for waste will put the city back years.
And no amount of enthusiasm and vigor is going to overcome the immediate problem-solving and negotiation skills it will take to keep the city running at a high level — the kind of skills that Guernsey possesses.
Under Guernsey’s leadership, the city has accomplished several visible construction projects that have enhanced the overall quality of life. She’s also played a lead role in two municipal bond rating upgrades, which means savings for taxpayers and ratepayers.
Although the city ordinance which paved the way for development growth was initiated years before Guernsey even came into office, the former school board member and city councilwoman has done a solid job to find solutions to traffic woes.
For years, she has worked with officials from other cities and counties to identify traffic hotspots off state Route 16 — all the way from the Narrows Bridge to the Bremerton Airport. They’ve requested money from state legislators and Washington State Department of Transportation officials for a traffic study, the results of which will be released early next year.
She also led the charge to add a double-right option at the eastbound off-ramp from state Route 16 to Olympic Drive to eliminate vehicle backup, a project the city paid for.
And never one to complain, she did all this while caring for her ailing husband, who passed away earlier this year from cancer.
While emotions surrounding rampant development in Gig Harbor run high, Guernesy has steadfastly defended everyone’s right to have their project fully and fairly considered. That’s why she’s voted for controversial projects like the Cheney Foundation’s One Harbor Point development.
The completion of the Welcome Plaza has been well received in the community, and the new Fred Meyer complex set to open soon has brought more entertainment options so that people and tax revenue will stay on this side of the bridge.
While some cling to the unrealistic expectation that the public be involved in every decision every step of the way, Guernsey has shown strength during a challenging period and made decisions that benefit the city and its residents.