In the August primary election, voter turnout in Puyallup totaled a little over 20 percent. Low participation in a nonpresidential election cycle is never surprising, but it belies the high level of civic engagement in the East Pierce County city.
This past year saw standing-room only crowds at Puyallup City Council meetings where residents raised concerns over homelessness. The public has also made noise on higher utility rates, what to do with open farmland, public safety and two government lawsuits.
Testimony showed growing frustration over the location of the New Hope Resource Center — a day-use center for indigent people — and a downtown that’s seen an uptick in graffiti, crime and tattoo parlors.
It will take a strong city government to negotiate the problems facing this city of 40,000. Three of the seven nonpartisan City Council seats are up for election in November. Here are our picks for who should fill them:
Jim Kastama, a strategic planning and technology consultant, graduated from Puyallup in 1978; he and his wife live in the house where he was raised. His homegrown appeal, coupled with 16 years in the Legislature and a reputation as a conscientious budget hawk, make him our first choice for District 1 Seat 2.
Kastama led the August primary with nearly half the overall votes; name recognition may give him an advantage over his opponent, John Hopkins, which is unusual because Hopkins is an incumbent who has served capably on the council since 2012.
Hopkins, who manages several properties in the downtown area, is Puyallup’s mayor. (The position rotates among council members.) The native of England and 30-year Puyallup resident claims the City Council is finally rowing together and sees no need to change direction.
Hopkins may have played a part in curbing Puyallup’s infamous infighting, but the controversy swirling around New Hope center, including the city’s plan to impose “high impact business” requirements, would surely follow him into a second term. He’s also overly upbeat about downtown health.
Kastama has history on the homeless issue, too, and has emerged as a strident defender of his neighborhood’s safety. He co-founded a group called Clean Up Puyallup, which has come under fire from homeless advocates. But looking at the big picture, the City Council would be fortunate to have a member with Kastama’s statewide credentials, connections and heft.
Heather Shadko, running for District 2 Position 2, is finishing her first four-year term on the council and deserves a second.
A contract manager for the Port of Tacoma, Shadko has also held administrative positions in health care and education. Add to that a long list of civic involvement such as serving as vice chair of Puyallup’s Planning Commission.
Shadko is an unapologetic environmentalist and farmland defender. A number of private development proposals are pending in the vicinity of Shaw Road and East Pioneer. She is rightly protective of dwindling open space and supported the council’s warehouse tax.
Her contributions to park and library projects complete the picture of a well-rounded city official ready to take aim at the city’s most perplexing problems.
Shadko’s opponent, community college math instructor Cynthia Jacobsen, is a proud fiscal conservative with populist views on property rights and taxation. But when speaking in-depth on issues facing Puyallup, she’s no match for Shadko.
Julie Door is a massage therapist and small business owner seeking a second term. She’s the clear choice for District 3 Position 2.
Her opponent, Jeremy Hamel, declined to be interviewed by our Editorial Board. Hamel, a political neophyte and owner of a deejay/entertainment business, told an editor that when he filed to run last spring, he didn’t realize how demanding a campaign would be.
Door grew up on South Hill and still lives and works there. In her first term on the council, she’s most proud of her part negotiating with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue for the new public safety building. Her vision of a municipal and county building that includes the police department, jail and courthouses is a practical pursuit.
We certainly support her involvement with the Pierce County Opioid Task Force, her liaison role with the Puyallup School District and the 18 acres of the Van Lierop Bulb Farm she helped preserve.
Door characterizes herself as a “pick-up-the-phone-and-talk-to-people” kind of problem-solver, a refreshing and effective approach for this big little city.
Checking their records
The TNT Editorial Board is partnering with CandidateVerification as part of our endorsement process this year. The Bellevue-based nonprofit watchdog coordinates background and resume screenings with the candidates’ consent.
For Puyallup City Council, five of the six candidates signed up for a background check (Jeremy Hamel declined) and no red flags came up.
To see the full database, go online to CandidateVerification.org.