In Puyallup Mayor John Knutsen’s eight years of service for his city, he’s most proud of the fact he was able to dislodge a City Council that had been representing residents for 18 to 20 years.
It’s one of the several feathers in Knutsen’s cap as closes the book on his time at City Hall. After nearly eight years of combined service on the City Council and as mayor, Knutsen has decided not to run for re-election.
In addition to Knutsen’s position of appointed mayor, all four City Council seats available are contested. Incumbents in Districts 2 and 3 and the at-large seat all have challengers.
Knutsen talked about his decision not to run again — citing missed time with family as the major factor — during an interview last week with The Puyallup Herald.
“I missed my granddaughter’s track and soccer season, and I missed my grandson’s athletic season,” he said. “I want to watch them finish up.”
Other successes Knutsen spoke of during his tenure included the addition of downtown parking, televised council meetings and a reduction in the city’s debt.
“Putting in the parking downtown has revitalized it,” he said. “Televising council meetings was another really big thing. It opened up council meetings to the public. (I) worked hard to decrease the debt. The debt was $107 million, but for a city of our size it should hover around $20 million. We’ve gotten it down to around $42 million.”
But Knutsen’s successes didn’t come without struggles.
“Sometimes council members don’t really understand that this is really about the people who live in the city,” he said. “They are elected to represent the voters. Sometimes they get on council and think they have better ideas than the people who put them on council to represent them.”
Knutsen also voiced his frustration with how long it takes to get things projects completed as a local government. It took him and others nearly six years to update crosswalks and bring more parking to downtown.
While Knutsen is ready to bid his post as mayor farewell, he will miss the people he’s worked with the most during his countless hours spent around Puyallup.
“There’s some really good people that work for the city and there’s some good people that you meet on other councils and organizations,” he said. “I’ll miss working with them.”
Knutsen shared his words of wisdom to anyone looking to run for mayor in the upcoming election.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, there are going to be people who are against you, and you’re going to have to deal with that,” he said. “You have to put what you’re elected to do ahead of your personal feelings. You have to do what you believe is best for the people and the city. You have to be prepared to spend a lot of time. That’s the difference between a mayor and a council member — the amount of time consumed as mayor.”
Knutsen will retire from his duties in the City, but prior to his time as an elected official, he spent more than 25 years as a police officer, so he says retirement isn’t a new concept for him.