Marine's opponent, city Councilmember Jennifer Gregerson, is a 10-year veteran of city government, highly qualified to move up the political ladder. She's whip-smart, with a working knowledge of the mechanics of urban politics, an innovative track record and a visceral understanding of what makes Mukilteo special. Notwithstanding her leadership appeal, however, Gregerson doesn't present a convincing argument to unseat the incumbent.
The magnitude of small differences separates Marine and Gregerson. The two align on a future ferry location, on curtailing commercial air service at Paine Field (how can two smarties be so parochial?) and on the need to safeguard Japanese Gulch from commercial development.
The biggest disagreement, as The Herald's Bill Sheets reported last week, is the job itself. It's a salient point, that a city of 20,000 doesn't need both a full-time mayor with a $70,800 base salary and a city manager at $117,000.
"We spend $250,000 on the mayor's and city administrator's salary and benefits," Gregerson said.
Overhead could be reduced by bumping the mayor to part-time, something Marine would grudgingly accept over eliminating the city manager. The goal, as with any city Mukilteo's size, is to maximize efficiencies and avoid passing along superfluous costs to taxpayers. A 1 percent hike in property-tax levies every year for the past seven years is reason enough to scrub the budget of administrative excess.
Marine said his proposed budget will not include a tax increase, and it's a pledge he'd be wise to keep.
Gregerson would bring a more collaborative leadership style to the mayor's office, and that may be enough for many Mukilteo voters. Marine, if he is re-elected, is encouraged to work on healing some of the resentments within the City Council, divisions that focus on otherwise picayune issues related to mayoral decision-making.
One area where Marine and Gregerson will prove their mettle is Japanese Gulch, with failure not an option. (Japanese immigrants lived in the area, working for Mukilteo's Crown Lumber until it closed in 1930.) There may be leeway with a bankrupt owner to purchase the 98 acres, and city leaders need to be creative identifying the $1 million or more remaining to make it so.
Marine and Gregerson each bring the skills and focus necessary to lead Mukilteo, with an advantage to Marine based on his experience and vision.
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