Gateway: News

Election winners ready to deliver promised changes

Gig Harbor Mayor-elect Kit Kuhn celebrates his win with wife Kathy and daughter Zoey during a celebration at the Gig Harbor Marina and Boatyard on Election Night.
Gig Harbor Mayor-elect Kit Kuhn celebrates his win with wife Kathy and daughter Zoey during a celebration at the Gig Harbor Marina and Boatyard on Election Night. Courtesy

Election Day 2017 turned out some successful wins for Gig Harbor residents looking to bring fresh faces to the city council and mayoral office.

The office of mayor and four Gig Harbor City Council positions were elected into office and will be sworn in at the beginning of the year. The winners include (results current as of Monday evening):

▪ Kit Kuhn, who defeated incumbent Jill Guernsey in the race for mayor with 71.6 percent of the votes, or 2,366 votes.

▪ Jeni Woock, who defeated Rick Offner for City Council Position 1 with 56.33 percent of the votes, or 1,802 votes.

▪ Bob Himes, who defeated Scott Gray for City Council Position 2 with 85.57 percent of the votes, or 2,592 votes.

▪ Jim Franich, who defeated Peter Norman for City Council Position 3 with 60.44 percent of the votes, or 1,899 votes.

▪ Spencer Abersold, who defeated Randy Mueller for City Council Position 7 with 57.8 percent of the votes, or 1,756 votes.

Four of the five candidates affiliated with the 4 Gig Harbor slate group won their prospective races, with only Offner coming up short.

“It’s no accident four incumbents for City Council chose not to run,” Himes said. “(The residents) are done with the overgrowth and trees being cut down.”

In an email to The Peninsula Gateway, Kuhn said he was excited to see a large group of residents use their votes to voice their opinions about the current political climate in the city.

“We had one of the highest voter turnouts in all of Pierce County at over 48 percent,” Kuhn said. “I feel the citizens spoke loud and clear with over 71 percent voting for a change in leadership. We depend on them and have a responsibility to them as well. Gig Harbor is a unique gem. It has a culture and charm that we all love and hold dear in our hearts. I am honored to be a part of it, and humbled by this amazing opportunity to serve.”

Woock, who ran for a seat on the Council two years ago but lost by 13 votes to incumbent Michael Perrow, was excited to have her chance to make what she considers important changes in how the city works with local residents.

Jeni Woock

“I lived here for 18 years and I love Gig Harbor,” Woock said. “We were elected to slow down growth, to end development agreements, and we need a better plan for the community.”

Woock said she would like better communication with residents and city officials, which is why she would like to start monthly meetings between Council members and interested residents who wish to discuss current issues.

“We could hold these at different coffee shops in town,” Woock said.

Woock, Franich and Himes all discussed upcoming development projects as a point of interest among residents, specifically finding a way to hold back on growth and work on creating “more responsible” plans for future growth.

“Responsible growth means it adheres to standing zoning and building codes,” Himes said. “If we don’t like the codes we need to change them, not deviate from them.”

Himes said his big win over his opponent showed the residents of Gig Harbor are ready for a more transparent government. In his first few months in office, Himes said he will push for structural changes such as more preparation time for Council before official meetings so officials could make more informed decisions on important changes and issues.

“I want to make it more transparent,” Himes said.

Franich said he was impressed with his city for the large turnout of voters during an off-year election. He said he has been proud to be a part of a community that is highly involved in the local political process.

“I was excited to see that a vast majority of residents want to preserve the town,” Franich said. “It’s evident with the election. In the last year there have been some critical issues where the Council didn’t listen to residents.”

Franich echoed his running mates saying that he wants to make large changes to the current city codes regarding development agreements. One of his first steps as a Councilman will be to reassess the Ancich Waterfront Park proposal.

The project needs to be scaled back and I want to see where we can find cost savings.

Jim Franich, who defeated Peter Norman for City Council Position 3

“It’s a large structure in the middle of a residential area,” Franich said. “It’s $3 million over budget. The project needs to be scaled back and I want to see where we can find cost savings.”

Abersold said he doesn’t have any concrete changes he’d like to make quickly but instead wants to take some time after January to assess the needs of the community and listen to his constituents.

“I have been playing with the word ‘unity’ since the election,” Abersold said. “I feel there is a sense of unity right now in the community. (The election) was honoring and humbling. But I didn’t run for any personal reasons or changes but instead to be a part of the community and to help it. I don’t have a big ego — I want to listen to the residents.”

All the newly elected officials will be sworn into office in January, but many are making their voices and opinions heard at upcoming City Council meetings and in the community. Himes said he feels the residents of Gig Harbor have made it clear that they believe in the message his, and his fellow elected officials, have given in regards to Gig Harbor’s future.

“We made some good promises,” Himes said. “Now we have to deliver.”

Elsewhere, in the race for a seat on the Peninsula School District’s board of commissioners, incumbent David Olson (7,434 votes) held a 377-vote lead on challenger Noelle Balliett (7,057) after Monday evening’s release of ballots counted.

“I give (Noelle) a lot of credit for running a strong campaign,” said Olson, who won his first race for a seat on the board four years ago with a 15-percent cushion. “Voters appreciated her hard work. We both ran hard campaigns. I was thankful that I was able to win.”

Olson’s campaign centered around getting the community ready to face a capital measure to repair and possibly build a new school in the district.

“The first thing I want to do is get (Superintendent) Rob (Manahan’s) contract renewed and then get to work on getting a capital measure to voters,” Olson said.

That could come as soon as April if everything falls into place, he added.

▪ In the race for PenMet Parks commissioner, incumbent Amanda Babich (58 percent) topped Kirsten Gregory (41). Despite concerns over her educational credentials, Babich earned 4,966 of the total 8,488 votes.

▪ Voters also approved a six-year levy lid lift for the PenMet Parks District, with 5,404 (54 percent) approving the measure.

“The voters have signified their happiness and trust with PenMet Parks and enthusiasm to see us develop new facilities and recreational activities on the Gig Harbor Peninsula,” board president Todd Iverson said in an email. “The high-use and overbooked fields demonstrate a need to provide a modern indoor recreation facility and more lit, turfed fields in this community and I look forward to seeing how PenMet can provide those needs to our constituents.”

▪ Voters also overwhelmingly approved the Fire Protection District No. 5’s Prop. 1, a six-year levy lid lift for the Gig Harbor area. More than 62 percent (8,023 votes) approved of the measure.

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie

Editor Tyler Hemstreet contributed to this article.