By Jerry Cornfield Herald Writer
MILL CREEK — The longest serving member of the City Council is facing a stout re-election challenge from one of the city’s small-business owners.
Councilwoman Donna Michelson faces insurance agency owner Jason Wingert in a contest for Position 2 marked by sharp rhetoric on whether city leaders are plowing ahead on a scheme to build a new civic center complex.
Council members talked earlier this year about the idea of constructing a multi-story City Hall with retail space alongside a privately built office complex.
That conversation took place in a council retreat and there’s been no action on it, said Michelson, who is frustrated her challenger is insinuating otherwise.
“It was an intriguing conversation,” she said. “There is no plan to build a new City Hall or city center. It really saddens me that I am spending part of my time debunking such issues.”
But Wingert said he’s heard city manager Ken Armstrong speak about it to business leaders. If it’s not a serious idea as the incumbent claims, then she and the rest of the council should stop the city manager from bringing it up around town, he said.
“I don’t see or hear Donna stopping him. I don’t hear her raising objections to him,” he said. “I believe her to be endorsing that civic center complex.”
Wingert, who is making his first run for office, is Michelson’s first opponent in a dozen years.
Michelson, 64, was appointed to the City Council in 1999 and, in 2001, she captured 73 percent of the vote to earn a full term. She ran unopposed in 2005 and 2009.
She won 57.2 percent of the vote in the August primary followed by Wingert with 32.4 percent.
She’s credited with launching free community events including document shredding, electronic recycling, pet microchipping and hazardous waste collection.
“Serving the community, that’s what I love to do,” she said.
If elected, she wants to spend her next term carrying out the blueprint for economic development in the city’s strategic plan. This includes making progress on the East Gateway Urban Village.
Wingert, 45, a financial adviser and owner of the Wingert Insurance Agency, would be the only Mill Creek business owner on the council.
He said he has no “pet projects” to pursue but does want to find a long-term solution to flooding problems on 35th Avenue SE.
The city must be fiscally responsible and have clean parks, fully funded public safety and a welcoming climate for business, he said.
His focus in the election is making “strategic decisions” that “will make Mill Creek continue to be a wonderful place to live well into the future.”
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: Appointed to City Council in 1999, re-elected in 2001, 2005 and 2009; former board member Citizens for Safe Snohomish County.
Experience: Owner, Wingert Insurance Agency; Mill Creek Business Association member; Little League baseball coach.