Growth, waste treatment top issues in Snohomish council race

SNOHOMISH — Incumbent City Council member Dean Randall faces a challenge from small business owner Eli Kunzmann for the Position 6 council seat.

The candidates offer voters distinct differences in political and professional experience, age and issues they see as most important.

Randall served on the Snohomish City Council from 1996 through 1999. Retired after more than 25 years with GTE and Verizon Communications, he took a break from the council before running again in 2005.

“This is my 12th year,” the 60-year-old Randall said recently. During his years away from the council, he said, “I was doing a lot of work in Oregon and knew I didn’t have time to devote to it. I do now.”

Kunzmann, 35, brings the perspective of small business owner. He is the owner-operator of Heritage Tree Care, which provides pruning, tree removal and related services to mostly residential customers.

“We’re a small company employing seven men,” said Kunzmann, who is married and has a young son. “I want to use my judgment and experience in business for what the community wants.”

The small size of his company, which operates in Snohomish and King counties, has forced him to be “extremely efficient and targeted,” Kunzmann said.

In the private sector, mistakes may mean not getting paid, he said. “I want to bring some accountability.” In his business, Kunzmann said he has seen bureaucracy in some cities obstruct tree trimming at private homes. “It’s not something I have had to deal with in Snohomish,” he said. “I will try and be a sound vote for common sense.”

On the Snohomish City Council’s web page, Randall is described as “an advocate for managed growth” who “supports economic development on the Bickford Avenue corridor.”

A married father of three who has lived in Snohomish since 1983, Randall has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Washington and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Puget Sound.

Before retiring from Verizon, he worked in the company’s regulatory and government affairs department, and dealt with the state Utilities and Transportation Commission.

Advocating managed growth doesn’t mean Randall pushes all growth. He was part of the unanimous council vote in April to block a development of very small apartments — “apodments” — near Snohomish High School.

Randall is also opposed to another proposed apartment complex, one-bedroom units on First Street in the city’s historic area. “The planning commission has already reviewed it and recommended against doing it,” he said. “We have the historic district tightly controlled on the type of development that can go in. Areas adjacent to it are not quite as regulated.”

Affordable housing is an issue for the whole region, Randall said. “Our city has joined with other cities in a consortium to look at the issue and decide how best to address it. We definitely have a shortage in our city,” he said.

Kunzmann said he would also have voted against apodments had he been on the council. He believes Snohomish has potential to low-income housing to existing properties such as mother-in-law dwellings.

“For our small town, that’s a solution,” he said.

Both candidates cited wastewater treatment as a big concern in Snohomish.

“We are still working with the Department of Ecology on our wastewater treatment plant. It’s a continuing issue,” Randall said. The city has a wastewater treatment facility adjacent to the Snohomish River. “The issue is whether or not to close that and send our sewage to Everett, which is very expensive,” he said.

Randall favors continuing to treat sewage in Snohomish. He said utility ratepayers in Snohomish would bear the brunt of sending sewage to Everett’s system. “Right now, the estimate for that is about a $40 million expenditure,” Randall said. Improvements to the Snohomish system would also be an expense, “but it won’t cost that much,” he said.

Kunzmann agreed that water and sewer bills seem to top Snohomish voters’ lists of complaints. “I’ve knocked on 600 doors, and that’s what I’ve noticed,” he said.

“If I were involved, I would have direct accountability to people paying the bills — line-item disclosure of where the money is going,” Kunzmann said.

Kunzmann sees the city’s historic atmosphere as unique and valuable. “Running a small city is just like running a small business — except the dividend is paid in quality of life,” he said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Meet the candidates

The job: At stake is a four-year term on the Snohomish City Council, Position 6. Council members are paid $5,400 a year.

Eli Kunzmann

Age: 35

Experience: business owner, Heritage Tree Care; certified arborist

Website: www.relyoneli.us

Dean Randall

Age: 60

Experience: Incumbent who previously served on City Council 1996-1999; retired after 25 years with GTE and Verizon Communications

Website: www.ci.snohomish.wa.us/BioRandall.htm

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