Gateway: News

Candidate Q&A: Gig Harbor mayoral race

This is the sixth installment of an ongoing series featuring Gig Harbor candidates running for Peninsula School Board, Gig Harbor City Council and mayor of Gig Harbor in the Nov. 7 general election.

All candidates were invited to participate in this question-and-answer series. All were asked the same four questions and to provide a biography.

Jill Guernsey – Gig Harbor mayoral candidate (incumbent)

I moved here in 1978, and have lived in same house for over 32 years. Two sons went through Gig Harbor schools, went off to college and moved away. I just became a grandmother of a beautiful baby girl who lives far away, in France.

My elected experience includes: Mayor, city of Gig Harbor, 2014 to present; Council member, city of Gig Harbor, 2013; and Board of Directors, Peninsula School District, 2000 to 2010.

My other professional experience includes working as an attorney for the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office from 1990 to 2016.

I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Irvine, in 1974 and my law degree from and Loyola University School of Law in 1979.

My community service experience includes Gig Harbor Rotary; City of Gig Harbor Planning Commission; Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance Board of Directors; Gig Harbor Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Executive Board; Pierce County Regional Council; Washington State Bar Association, Environmental & Land Use Section Executive Board; First Place for Children Board of Directors and American Inns of Court Board of Trustees.

Q: What qualifies you to run for the position of Gig Harbor mayor?

A: As mayor for almost four years, I know the job responsibilities and I have built the relationships necessary to get things accomplished. While we all care about our city and the Gig Harbor community, being in charge of an annual budget of more than $70 million takes experience and leadership.

Q: What do you see as some of the biggest issues facing the city?

A: Clearly traffic and growth are the big issues.

Q: As the city grapples with how to handle population growth, what issue most concerns you?

A: Traffic. We must continue improving the areas where traffic is most congested, not just with more pavement, but also with better public transit and better abilities to travel other than by car.

Q: If you are elected, what are some of the goals you plan to work on?

A: In addition to traffic issues, I will continue to work on issues which bring people into town without adding to the traffic (i.e., Gig Harbor as a boating destination), educating people about our population growth (I just read that the statewide population increase was 82,000 last year) and improving access to the business of city government (open government issues). Increasing opportunities for our youth and young professionals in our community is also important; I would like Gig Harbor to be viewed not just as a great place to retire or to raise a family, but also as a place for young adults to live and work.

Kit Kuhn – Gig Harbor mayoral candidate

I came to Gig Harbor 30 years ago. I married a local girl and we raised two great kids. I owned and operated a successful jewelry store in downtown Gig Harbor for over 28 years where I served three generations of customers and developed a deep love for my community. We feel very fortunate to call Gig Harbor our home.

Due to the success of my business I was able to retire at the age of 53. Operating a downtown business taught me many important lessons that will help me be a good mayor. For example, I learned the value of honesty, how to listen to my customers, manage a budget, avoid wasting money, hire good people, plan for the future and invest carefully. By applying these lessons I was able to accomplish what most people only hope for: retirement at an early age. Applying these skills as mayor will help me address the unsolved problems plaguing our city.

Q: What qualifies you to run for the position of Gig Harbor mayor?

A: I have served my community as a board member of the Chamber of Commerce, a Gig Harbor Arts Commissioner and as the president of the Downtown Retail & Restaurant Association. I was the co-founder and president of Peninsula Hands On Art, a Peninsula School Board program that trained 200 docents to provide art education in schools suffering art education budget cutbacks. We started with one elementary school and now, 13 years later, we serve all seven and have reached over 3,800 students.

I am a successful, experienced businessman and community leader. I know how to listen to my customers, manage a budget, avoid wasting money, hire good people, plan for the future and invest carefully.

Q: What do you see as some of the biggest issues facing the city?

A: Responsible growth. We cannot allow development to outstrip our infrastructure. Example: Traffic is a big problem because the current administration did not develop our road infrastructure concurrently with our density. The city has already exceeded the land-use density targets for 2030 by 78 percent. Yet the road infrastructure to accommodate that growth has not yet been constructed.

Other examples: overcrowded schools, emergency services shortages, overwhelmed city staff. Additionally, anyone that has attended a City Council meeting over the past few years will probably tell you how futile our public process has become. In spite of standing-room-only crowds expressing their sincere desire to curb the kind of development that is destroying the livability of our neighborhoods, current leadership is dismissive and unresponsive. Under my leadership this will change.

Q: As the city grapples with how to handle population growth, what issue most concerns you?

A: Traffic, roads, schools, emergency services, retaining the character and quality of life in our community. I don’t believe it is responsible to say “growth is coming there is nothing you can do about it,” as our current mayor has publicly stated. We can grow responsibly. We can manage our growth to assure it does not lower our quality of life. We can grow our infrastructure concurrently with our population and maintain the city’s beauty and character. Why is the mayor promoting more large multi-family apartment developments which will pour more traffic onto streets that cannot handle the existing traffic? We need to slow down, pause on projects that increase density while we catch up on our infrastructure. Under my leadership we will grow, but we will grow responsibly.

Q: If you are elected, what are some of the goals you plan to work on?

A: My first goal will be to hire an experienced, effective and competent city administrator, a seasoned professional who will help me implement the vision for our community.

We must retain our historic character and small town charm while also being a vibrant place to live. We must grow concurrent with our infrastructure.

I will revisit development agreements and work to eliminate City Council’s authority to supersede zoning and other development regulations with development agreements that favor developers over citizens.

I will initiate an immediate change in the way we study traffic impacts since there is a demonstrated failure in the way our city assesses traffic data. I would then go about making changes that provide short- and long-term solutions.

I will establish a communication plan that provides a forum for open, accurate information to and from our citizenry. I will listen to and respect our citizens.

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

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