Now they are dueling for the Position 3 seat on the council in what might be the signature contest for Mill Creek voters this year because of their extensive political experience in the community.
Nielsen, 62, is the incumbent and is seeking re-election to a four-year term. She is currently in her second tour on the council having previously served from 1990-98.
Pruitt, 61, is looking to return to office after nearly two decades. She served from 1988-95 then ran successfully for the Snohomish County Charter Review Commission.
Pruitt, a stock investor and writer for the Mill Creek View newspaper, said she wants back on the council because Nielsen is not involving citizens enough in major decisions.
She's most critical of the strategic plan adopted by the council last year. She said the blueprint for future decision-making is "off-track" in its approach for sustaining a vibrant economy and community.
It lacks a strong economic development component and devotes too much attention to raising revenues with new taxes, Pruitt said. It would be a different plan had residents' opinions not been excluded from the final product, she said.
Nielsen, a consultant for small businesses, disagreed with the criticism. She said the plan reflects the community's desires by setting a firm foundation for "keeping the city vitalized" and guiding leaders as they encounter budget, planning and infrastructure issues.
"We're 30 years old," she said of Mill Creek. "We have very high expectations. I want to maintain the city so people will want to live here."
If re-elected, Nielsen said she wants to help Town Center fill its vacancies and see the East Gateway Urban Village land an anchor tenant in order to become another retail hub for residents.
Pruitt said one of her goals, if elected, will be to fill two vacancies in the city Police Department. Nielsen said the police chief did not ask the council to fund them in the 2013 budget.
This is one of four City Council races on the ballot this year. As with the others, two ideas embedded in the strategic plan -- construction of a new City Hall and imposition of a utility tax to help pay the cost -- are touchstones for heated disagreement between the incumbent and challenger.
Mill Creek "absolutely does not" need to build a civic center complex, Pruitt said of a concept first broached by the council during a retreat in the spring. And there is no cause to pursue a utility tax either, she said.
"I know every other city has one. I don't think Mill Creek needs one," she said. "I believe if you're going to have a utility tax, it should go to a vote of the people."
Council members are not taking any steps toward building a City Hall or approving a utility tax, Nielsen said. Pruitt is using the issues to incite worry among residents, she said.
The city manager did put out a conceptual plan earlier this year and "there was a discussion. There is no intent to move forward," Nielsen said.
The strategic plan, which passed on a 4-3 vote, included ways for cities to raise money and a utility tax is on the list. Mill Creek does not have one today.
"I'm neutral on any of these things until I am presented with information" on how they would work and how they would affect the community, Nielsen said.
The election is Nov. 5.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the candidates
The job: At stake is a four-year term on the Mill Creek City Council where members earn $500 a month or $6,000 a year.
Experience: Elected to the City Council in 2009; served previously on the council 1990-98; consultant for small business; bachelor of arts in recreation administration, California State University at Northridge.
Experience: Former City Council member, 1988-95; writer/independent contractor for Mill Creek View; stock investor; retired certified public accountant; bachelor of arts degrees in economics and political science, University of Washington.
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