Police, politics dominate Granite Falls mayoral race

GRANITE FALLS — Law enforcement and a possible change in city government structure are major issues in the mayor’s race, which pits an incumbent city councilman against a political newcomer.

Joshua Golston, 37, was appointed to the council in 2009 and fills its Position 1. He faces Granite Falls resident Edward Lee on the Nov. 5 ballot. They are vying to become mayor of this city that has seen recent troubles with its police department.

Mayor Haroon Saleem, who announced Oct. 2 that he was firing the Granite Falls police chief, let it be known earlier this year he wouldn’t seek re-election. In announcing the firing of Police Chief Dennis Taylor, Saleem offered no cause for terminating the employment agreement.

Lee, 41, said dissatisfaction with police service led to his candidacy.

“I have no political background whatsoever,” Lee said. “I am just a citizen who felt City Hall, the police department and the government of Granite Falls let me down.”

Lee is a manager for Surreal Medical, a medical marijuana operation in Shoreline. “I’m a medical marijuana grower, a manager for grow ops and supply in Shoreline,” Lee said last week. Although Granite Falls has a moratorium on medical marijuana operations, Lee said, “I do grow at my home.”

“Medical marijuana is legal. Officer (Chad) Wells has been in my lab,” Lee said.

Lee said he has been the victim of six burglary attempts in Granite Falls, and has had items stolen outside his home. “I ran for mayor because I felt bad for everybody else in town who had a story just as bad or worse,” he said.

Golston said his top priority if elected mayor would be to “stabilize City Hall and restore the citizens’ confidence in city government.”

Golston works as a territory sales manager for Cummins Filtration, a company that supplies products for commercial trucks and industrial equipment. He said problems with city government, combined with a slow economy, have created a difficult environment for businesses and residents.

Both candidates agree Granite Falls needs to change its government.

Golston, whose council term ends this year, favors a city manager-council format, rather than the current strong-mayor system. “The city has a dedicated staff. The only thing missing is a professional manager,” he said.

Golston wants to see the change approved by a vote of the people. “The mayor receives a monthly pay of $1,000, which I plan on placing in an account to be used to offset the cost of the special election needed to make a change in our city government,” he said.

Lee agrees with that change. “I would like to see a city council-city manager (system) with a ceremonial mayor,” he said. He doesn’t want the council to gain more power. Residents have a right to air grievances, Lee said.

Both candidates weighed in on a proposal for the city to disband its police department and contract with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office for police services. The City Council voted Oct. 16 to consider the money-saving idea, which is how Stanwood, Sultan and Snohomish have chosen to provide law enforcement.

With current budget constraints, Golston said, it would be irresponsible for the council not to consider contracting out police services. “It’s not my first choice, but it’s on the table. We may not have a choice financially,” Golston said.

Lee said he has spoken in support of the city keeping its police force for one more year. “We need to balance the budget and empower law enforcement,” he said. “We need to look at all our options. If we contract with the sheriff’s department, we should have an exit strategy for reinstating a police chief.”

A separate Granite Falls police issue was reported in Sunday’s Herald. A police sergeant in town was demoted to patrol officer in August after city officials discovered he had a fake identification card saying he was the police chief. The officer, Patrick White, is appealing his discipline, which included two weeks without pay.

Golston and his wife, Brandy, have lived in Granite Falls since 2008. They have two children. “I see Granite Falls as a safe and tight-knit community, a place where people want to raise a family,” he said. Golston said he has a bachelor’s degree in general management and years of business experience.

Lee, who has twin 9-year-old boys, said he has worked as an emergency medical technician and in security jobs, and has volunteered at the local food bank.

He said he and his family are funding his campaign, not any medicinal marijuana interests. Lee stressed that his run for mayor is not about pot. “I want to keep this about the issues in Granite Falls,” said Lee, who believes better law enforcement will result in safer parks and streets.

Races for three Granite Falls City Council positions, including Golston’s, are unopposed.

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

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