By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
MUKILTEO — Neither Terry Preshaw nor Ted Wheeler, the candidates for an open seat on the Mukilteo City Council, are shy about citing their qualifications or stating their opinions about city issues — or each other.
Preshaw said Wheeler showed a lack of willingness to ask hard questions when he stated at a candidates’ forum that he has faith that money will be available to purchase land in Japanese Gulch.
“That’s what I call magical thinking,” she said.
Wheeler, on the other hand, said the same of Preshaw’s contention that the city can get the state to scale down its plans for a large new ferry terminal on the waterfront.
“I don’t think she’s done her homework,” he said.
The two are running for the seat being vacated by Councilman Kevin Stoltz, who opted not to run for re-election after serving two terms.
Wheeler, 59, ran for City Council two years ago and lost to current Councilman Steve Schmalz.
Wheeler said he’s running again “because I’m looking at retiring in Mukilteo. The city is a well-oiled machine right now and it needs to stay that way.”
He said his business experience will help him on the council.
“I don’t get concerned about issues, what I do is I find solutions for them,” he said.
Preshaw, also 59, was until recently a longtime Everett resident. She became active in Mukilteo because her kids attended schools in the city and she started the Mukilteo Orchestra in the 1990s in the old Rosehill Community Center, she said.
When city officials began talking about tearing down the old Rosehill building, she helped start the group Friends of the Community Center.
While the old building ultimately was razed and a new community center was built, the group did help influence Mukilteo officials to build a new city hall elsewhere, preserving the downtown property for community center use.
She moved to Mukilteo in 2009. She ran for council in 2011 and lost by 19 votes to Emily Vanderwielen.
“I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into making Mukilteo a better place,” she said. She said her legal experience and college degrees will give her an edge on the council.
“I’m very familiar with how a budget works and what you need to do to keep things in balance,” she said.
The state still is $32 million short of being able to build its $140 million ferry terminal on the former Air Force tank farm on the city’s north-facing waterfront.
Preshaw said the state could still rebuild the current dock in its place, making the tank farm property available for recreation and mixed use.
“I am adamantly against turning our waterfront into a parking lot for the rest of the region,” she said.
Wheeler said the state has already taken input from the city and the public on the issue.
“The city is not the one that’s making this decision,” he said “It’s not our land. We can’t just tell the state not to put it there.”
He said the ferry traffic needs to be moved to improve safety at the intersection in front of the current dock.
“I’ve seen so many near misses, and people trying to run across, it’s crazy, it’s unsafe, period,” he said.
Regarding Japanese Gulch, Wheeler said he believes the appraisals on the 98-acre parcel will come back lower than expected and the city will find a way to bridge whatever the gap may be.
Mukilteo currently has $4.3 million in hand to purchase the property for recreation. The value of the land has been estimated as high as $6.5 million.
More than 58 percent of voters supported a bond issue in 2012 to buy the property but 60 percent was required to pass.
“A majority of the people in Mukilteo want to see that purchased,” he said.
Preshaw said she would apply for more grants and look at budget cuts to buy the property, but would not consider a tax increase.
“Even though I love the gulch, and am committed to doing what I can to save it, I will not put our city’s economic health at risk,” she said.
Preshaw criticized recent 1 percent annual city property tax hikes and this year’s new 1 percent fee on water and sewer utilities that may be passed on to consumers.
“I call this stealth taxing,” she said. “Tax-and-spend has to end.”
Preshaw said she would cut the city administrator position and says hiring an in-house city attorney would save money the city currently pays to an outside firm.
“I’ve looked over the figures and I think we’re overpaying,” she said.
Wheeler said the city’s strategy in the recession was to combine small tax increases, gradual spending down of the city’s strong reserve fund and modest budget cuts to preserve city jobs and services. The financial outlook is improving, he said.
“The state auditor told me Mukilteo had some of the best books in the state,” Wheeler said. “You can’t keep a AAA bond rating if you don’t have that.”
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet the candidates
What’s the job? At stake is a 4-year position on the Mukilteo City Council. The seven-member council sets policy for the city. Members are paid a flat stipend of $500 per month with no benefits.
Occupation: Attorney, co-owner of business immigration law firm Preshaw &Zisman, Everett and Vancouver, B.C.
Experience: Numerous volunteer activities, including board member for the Mukilteo Community Orchestra; past president of the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival Association; also helped found Friends of the Community Center and is involved with Tails and Trails Mukilteo Dog Park.
Occupation: Owner, T&E International (construction) and HCI Steel Buildings of Arlington and Tez Rentals of Mukilteo
Experience: Two years on the Mukilteo Long Range Financial Planning Committee; current chairman of the city Parks and Arts Commission