Puyallup has a new presiding officer on its city council.
John Hopkins, the former deputy mayor, was unanimously voted into his new role at the Jan. 5 Puyallup City Council meeting.
While Hopkins says he is one of seven council members with equal voting, his position as mayor gives him and the council an opportunity to continue to improve the city.
“It’s a solid opportunity that as a council, our predecessors have given us a great city,” Hopkins said. “We have a great city core, a rec center, Bradley Lake Park and the River Walk trail. There’s glorious amenities in Puyallup because of their work. In addition, we’re in good financial standing with our debt at a reasonable level. I see my role as mayor as one of seven on the council. I just have a small hammer, large paper scissors and a calendar. I don’t have a magic wand.”
With Puyallup’s great amenities, Hopkins says those opportunities are useless without a vision from the community and council.
It’s a brand new year with a wonderful council. I expect difference in opinion and robust and lively discussions.
Mayor John Hopkins
In an interview last week in his office at Puyallup City Hall, Hopkins outlined what he hopes the council can make plans to accomplish at its upcoming retreat in Puyallup.
Among Hopkins’ priorities he hopes the council can get started on are four capital projects including parks and developing a plan for the new Van Lierop park. They also must decide how to handle nearly $1 million in repairs the rec center needs, among other projects.
“We’ll also work on a parks bond measure,” he said. “But first, we will work on a survey for the bond measure. We want to structure the bond around something that might succeed, and appeal to everyone.”
Secondly, Hopkins listed another one of his priorities as developing a public safety building which would include the police station, court and jail.
“Whether all three of those become part of a bond, I’m not sure,” he added.
Hopkins sees the town’s infrastructure as one of the council’s priorities. While there is yet to be a sustainable program established for fixing neighborhood streets, according to Hopkins, the city does have an ability to fix potholes and is working on chip sealing, a pavement surface treatment that combines one or more layer(s) of asphalt with one or more layer(s) of fine aggregate.
“Ideally, we would wait for years 2018, 2019 and 2020 before we see an increase in freeing up cash,” he said of a timeline. “Around that time we will have our bond payments paid off and (be) able to direct that money to neighborhood streets.”
Hopkins also says he is hoping to work toward redeveloping the old Cornforth site in downtown, and rebuild the property as low impact to development.
“We want to do this without losing downtown parking,” he said. “It’s a stepping stone towards increasing the visibility of Meeker Mansion. I’d like to put a different building where the dry cleaners are, like a museum with a maximum of 5,000 square feet. It would house Meeker’s wagon, and it could have a visitors center. It would really open up the view to the mansion, with the goal to see it from Third Street.”
Lastly, Hopkins hopes to focus on small ideas that the council can easily accomplish.
“There’s so many small ideas. Like becoming an age-friendly city and establishing curb ramps, and the time it takes to cross the road for seniors or for moms with strollers,” he said. “Or reaching out to the Tribe more, or Heather Shadko’s idea of becoming a bee city, or even just promoting us as a Green City. We can promote ourselves as leaders of that.”
“It’s more of the concept that we want the small wins and small ideas that we can get accomplish,” he added.
Hopkins also plans to focus on policy aspects, including homelessness.
“It’s extremely complicated and has a polarizing aspect and a human aspect with the needs of these people...” he said of the homeless.
More importantly than accomplishing his goals as mayor, Hopkins is most looking forward to working with a new council.
“It’s a brand new year with a wonderful council,” he said. “I expect difference in opinion and robust and lively discussions. I’m hoping people will understand the mayor is the presiding officer, and has more of a ceremonial position. Everyone is competent and excited. It’s going to be good. I hope the way we act is picked up by the public. The citizens did not like our reputation as the bickering council. Our council is now calm, quiet, civil and business-like. It’s what those newly elected and those who were re-elected ran on.”