By Julie Muhlstein Herald Writer
STANWOOD — A current city councilman and a former one are in a race to become the next mayor of this city of more than 6,000 people.
Mayor Dianne White announced in May that she would not seek another four-year term.
Les Anderson, who served on Stanwood’s council from 1993 to 2001, and current Councilman Leonard Kelley hope to step into White’s job. Anderson is employed by Mill Creek’s public works department. Kelley is retired.
Stanwood’s mayor oversees city operations and decides how the council-approved budget is spent.
Both Kelley, 57, and Anderson, 61, worry about empty storefronts in town. Both see attracting business to Stanwood as a top priority. They differ somewhat in their approach to that goal.
Kelley said he would work to raise awareness of Stanwood around the region. “Other people in Snohomish County don’t know that Stanwood is part of the county,” Kelley said. He said he has developed relationships with leaders around the region that would help him be a voice for the city.
Anderson believes Stanwood City Hall puts a damper on business growth in town. “We can make it easier for businesses to come here,” he said. “City Hall has a reputation for being very business unfriendly. I want to change that.”
Anderson sees costly permits for events as one example of how the city discourages commerce. “I’m part of the Twin City Idlers car club. We have put on a car show here in town the last 10 years,” he said. This year, Anderson said, city fees cost the club triple what it paid to stage the event in previous years.
Both said their work backgrounds would lend valuable experience in the mayor’s office.
Anderson, now a supervisor with Mill Creek public works, was a public works supervisor in Stanwood from 2001 to 2008.
“I understand the infrastructure here, the streets, sewer and water systems. I know what it takes to maintain and operate it,” he said. Anderson said Stanwood has kept its utility rates among the lowest in Snohomish County by maintaining its infrastructure in a methodical way, “so we don’t have a catastrophic event that costs a lot of money.”
He also said it’s important for the mayor to understand Stanwood’s geography, with parts of the area at risk of seasonal flooding. “Some people at the city currently don’t understand the rivers. With the Stillaguamish River, we get a flood fairly regularly and people can predict those,” he said.
Before retirement, Kelley worked as a program director for the YMCA and more recently for UPS. He was also a business representative for the Teamsters Union.
“I’ve been active in Stanwood and Snohomish County many years, and have developed a lot of great working relationships with legislators and other leaders. I consider myself a good listener,” Kelley said.
Kelley, who has served about six years on the City Council, said he was involved in getting the 2012 contract with North County Regional Fire Authority to keep emergency services inside the city limits.
Kelley’s recent retirement from UPS would allow for him to serve full time as mayor, which he sees as a must for the position. Anderson, who has also worked for a boat manufacturer and in construction, said if elected he would keep working for Mill Creek, but work fewer hours and spend much of his time in Stanwood. “My plan is to retire from a full-time job,” he said.
In the city’s future are plans for a YMCA in town, the possible increase in coal train traffic if a coal terminal is built to the north, and issues related to the legalization of recreational marijuana. Stanwood has imposed a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana operations. It is not among cities in Snohomish County listed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board as potential sites for recreational pot stores.
Kelley said the City Council has sought to have Stanwood included in any mitigation related to any increased coal train traffic. Anderson is not necessarily opposed to construction of a coal terminal in Whatcom County. He said if a facility is built in Canada, trains would still affect Stanwood but jobs would be lost.
And jobs are top priorities for both candidates.
If elected, Kelley said on day one he would work at “changing the perception that Stanwood is anti-small business.” He suspects that reputation dates to a public outcry, years ago, that ended with Walmart choosing not to build a Stanwood store. He recalled when Stanwood had several smaller retailers, and shoppers “didn’t have to go out of town to buy their jeans.”
Anderson said if elected he plans to call owners of closed businesses in town. “The old Thrifty Foods building has been empty eight or nine years,” Anderson said. And a hardware store closed not long after it opened, he said.
“I want to build the commercial tax base back up in town, so it’s not all on homeowners,” Anderson said.
Both love Stanwood’s small-town atmosphere, and see selling points they would push if elected.
“Stanwood is a great place to live,” said Kelley, who sees the area’s reputation as a haven for the arts as way to lure business.
Anderson points to a farmers market launched in town this year as an example of playing to Stanwood’s strengths. “Stanwood still has that rural farm feel, there are dairy farms at the edge of the city,” he said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
Meet the candidates
The job: At stake is a four-year term as Stanwood’s mayor. The mayor oversees day-to-day operations of the city, determines how the budget approved by the City Council is spent, and presides over council meetings. The annual salary for 2014 is $14,400.
Experience: Current Stanwood City Council member; mayor pro-tem past two years; chairman of Stanwood’s Public Safety Committee and Transportation District. Retired after working for YMCA and UPS. A former business representative for Teamsters Union.
Experience: Served on Stanwood City Council 1993-2001; works as a supervisor for Mill Creek Public Works; former public works supervisor city of Stanwood. In private sector, worked in construction and for a boat manufacturer.