SULTAN — With 600 new homes on the way to town, two candidates running for mayor have ideas on how to ease the transition and bring residents together as Sultan expands.
City council member and county legislative aide Russell Wiita is challenging incumbent John Seehuus for the position.
They have more in common than double vowels in their last names. Both candidates stressed the importance of strategic planning to address Sultan’s growing pains.
“I know a city has to grow or die and we’re mandated to take a certain amount of development, but I think we need to gently tap the brakes and think a little more,” Seehuus said. “I’m really concerned about traffic.”
He said he wants to make sure the city’s infrastructure can handle projected growth. He wants to prioritize safety on U.S. 2 and look at expanding its capacity.
To do that, Seehuus said he wants to take a more aggressive approach to lobbying in Olympia.
“Everything seems to be King County-centric,” he said. “We need help out here on our highway. We need capacity improvements.”
Wiita, who grew up in Sultan, said the city needs to prioritize strategic planning beyond the already-existing comprehensive plan.
“For a long time, I think we’ve had an idea of Sultan as a small town and doing things in a small town way,” he said. “But we’re changing, we’re growing. We really need to be thinking and prioritizing things on a bigger scale.”
He wants to analyze what the city is already doing and what its needs are. Then, he said he wants to ask the community about what it envisions for Sultan.
“I want to sit down and ask, ‘What do we want these communities to look like?’” he said.
As a city council member, Wiita said traffic is the number one concern residents bring up.
While waiting on a U.S. 2 expansion, Wiita said he wants to pursue an east-west connection through downtown so locals can avoid the highway.
In his time on the City Council, Wiita said he’s prioritized a balanced budget and helped bring in a city prosecutor to prioritize local misdemeanors.
If elected, Wiita said he wants to look into hiring an embedded social worker, perhaps by sharing one with surrounding cities. He also hopes to build a stronger relationship between city officials and Sultan residents.
“People don’t feel like city hall is listening or that they really understand how decisions are being made or why they’re being made,” he said.
In his position as a city councilmember and working for county councilmember Nate Nehring, Wiita said he’s already developed many of the county-wide relationships he would need as mayor.
“I can start day one with important relationships and experience working on regional issues,” he said.
Seehuus said he’s running for mayor to continue the work he’s started.
During his term, Seehuus said he’s made progress cleaning up the city with sidewalk and road striping projects, as well as the construction of a pedestrian bridge across the confluence of the Sultan and Skykomish rivers.
Seehuus was appointed in late 2017 after former Mayor Carolyn Eslick was selected to fill a vacancy in the state House of Representatives. He spent eight years on City Council, including three years as mayor pro tem.
The mayor’s position is part-time in Sultan.
Since he’s retired, Seehuus said he’s able to make it a full-time job. He has been a resident of Sultan for 30 years.
If re-elected, Seehuus said public safety will be a top priority. During his term, he said he has lowered the city’s homeless population through a “velvet glove approach” by making use of the county’s embedded social worker program and aggressively patrolling parks.
“Our population is tired of it and we don’t want to tolerate it,” he said.
Seehuus touts nearly 40 years of operations management experience, which included a stint working for the Sultan School District, and a decade-long record of public service.
“Experience matters in this election. The mayor is a manager, like the CEO of a corporation.”
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Russell Gene Wiita
Experience: Sultan City Councilmember, Legislative aide to Snohomish County Councilman Nate Nehring
Name: John M. Seehuus
Experience: 38 years of operations management experience, including eight years as the director of operations for the Sultan School District. Three years on Sultan Planning Commission before joining the City Council. A founding member and vice chair of the U.S. 2 Traffic Safety Coalition, which began 23 years ago. Vice President of the Sultan Education Foundation; 21 years on the executive board of the #Finish522 coalition.
Website: Currently experiencing difficulties, will have it up soon.