SNOHOMISH — Contests for two seats on the City Council in next week’s primary are quite different in their match-ups.
Councilman Steve Dana faces two challengers with recognized names in his bid for re-election: Karen Guzak, a former councilmember who narrowly lost the race for mayor in 2017, and Tabitha Baty, president of Snohomish for Equity, a community group that’s given voice to social justice concerns in the city.
Meanwhile, first-time candidates Kara Zimmerman, David Flynn and Becky Perkins are vying for the council seat now held by Linda Redmon who passed on re-election to run for mayor.
Economic stability, upgrading the downtown core, transportation, and embracing the city’s cultural diversity are touch points for candidates in both council races.
Dana, Guzak, Zimmerman and Flynn support passage of Proposition 1 to renew the 0.2% sales tax used to fund street overlays and road projects identified in the citywide Transportation Benefit District. Voters approved the tax in 2011 and it would be in place another decade if the ballot measure on the Aug. 3 primary passes. Baty did not have a position but said if it is passed the public must be kept aware of how it is used.
Here is a snapshot of the two races.
Dana, 71, is in his second stint on the council. He served two terms, from 1989 to 1997, stepped aside, and then returned with a victory in 2017. He owned and operated The Hub Drive-in until 2010 then worked a decade as a realtor.
A political conservative, he said his priority “has always been enhancing the city’s economic vitality.” He said he’s focused on laying a supportive foundation for the private sector, from extending sewer service to the city’s eastern flank to completing a rezone of the midtown area.
Dana said the city weathered the pandemic without losses to its operating revenues due in part to decisions made in his tenure.
“We’re positioned very conservatively. We’ve taken serious steps to make sure we ‘re not exposed to economic risk that would imperil our future,” he said.
Guzak, 82, is seeking to return after serving on the council from 2007-17. She was midway through her third term when voters decided to change the city’s form of government from one led by the council to one led by a separately elected mayor. In November 2017, she ran for mayor, losing by 80 votes to John Kartak.
“I’ve got the energy and the experience and I want to serve again,” said Guzak, an owner of two Snohomish businesses. She said she will bring a “more progressive perspective and be an agent for moving forward in ways that are beneficial to all in the city.”
She supports proceeding with a plan for upgrading the aesthetics and safety of the Second Street corridor. She also wants to study potential uses of the county-owned public works site on Avenue D, a parcel which could one day have affordable housing on it.
Guzak initially filed for a different seat. But when the office-holder, Felix Neals, decided to run, she switched to this race — hours after Baty, with whom she shares a similar philosophy on social matters, had filed. Guzak said if elected, she’ll serve one term.
Baty, 47, was born in Everett and raised in Snohomish. This is her first run for office. She filed on the last day when she saw Dana still had no opponent.
Baty, a mother of two bi-racial children, joined Snohomish for Equity in 2019 and taken on an increasingly visible role as it has become more active in the community. She took the helm as president a year ago.
She said she is campaigning to bring a new perspective to the council, improve the accountability of the elected leaders, and increase engagement with the public. Engagement, she said, “is what we need now to come together as a community.”
There’s disagreement among the trio on the need for the council to do more to deal with continuing unease generated from the events of May 30, 2020 when armed residents of Snohomish and neighboring cities occupied First Street’s historic downtown with military-style rifles to “protect” shops from alleged looting threats that never materialized.
“We have to address the deep chasm that’s been created in our community,” Baty said. ““I’m worried about the city.”
She said the situation since last year has “really ebbed and flowed” but there’s been “dramatic steps backward” in recent months. She’s concerned Dana, along with the mayor and Councilman Larry Countryman want to squelch voices of those in the community whose lived experiences they don’t believe.
Guzak said Dana has made posts on Facebook that seem to deny that concerns on race which became evident last year need to be tackled.
The incumbent thinks the challengers are trying to create an election issue.
“There is no controversy in town,” Dana said. “There has been an effort made to characterize Snohomish as a town with racial issues. I would say that is categorically not true.”
Zimmerman, 41, a realtor, said she decided to run for one reason: “I truly love the community and you want to protect and serve the things that you love. I want to make sure we are at our best and have good leaders making good decisions.”
She said she wants to increase the stock of affordable housing, possibly by building condos and smaller homes rather than apartments. She also wants to continue existing economic development initiatives and backs proposed improvements on First Street.
Zimmerman, a resident for 10 years, said the events of last May “were not flattering” for the city and she wants to see the city take real steps toward greater inclusivity. And while the city must continue working to attract tourists, it also needs to protect the community’s farmlands, and the area’s natural environment.
Flynn, 53, a flooring contractor and city resident for more than 25 years, said he entered the race at the urging of “some prominent community members.”
“I am excited to serve my community and bring my experience to maintaining our cities’ strong economic vitality by supporting small businesses and a sustainable economy,” he said. “I love Snohomish and its residents and I want nothing more than to see our town thrive.”
In addition to the economy, Flynn said he wants to tackle the city’s affordable housing needs in ways that maintain the town’s character. Flynn, whose wife is a potter, said he also wants to continue to “introduce art, design and culture into our community.”
Some of the city’s and region’s elected officials are weighing in on this race.
Zimmerman is backed by Democratic state Reps. April Berg of Mill Creek and Emily Wicks of Marysville. Flynn is endorsed by Snohomish Councilmembers Tom Merrill, Judith Kuleta and Donna Ray, along with Snohomish County Councilman Jared Mead of Mill Creek.
Perkins, the third candidate on the ballot, did not return phone calls or emails requesting an interview.
Ballots returned by mail do not require postage but must be postmarked no later than Aug. 3 to be counted. Ballots also can be deposited in designated drop boxes up until 8 p.m. on Election Day.
Jerry Cornfield: email@example.com; @dospueblos
Experience: Realtor; homeowner association manager.
Facebook: Zimmerman for Council
Experience: Flooring contractor, part-owner of Fin., Contract Finishes, a flooring firm; volunteer, Historic Downtown Snohomish.
Facebook: Flynn 4 Snohomish
Experience: Everett Quilt Guild, president; office management and customer service experience.
Note: Perkins did not respond to interview requests.
Experience: City Council, 2017-present, 1989-97 in which he served as mayor 1991-95; owned The Hub Drive-in 1985-2010; real estate agent.
Facebook: Steve Dana
Experience: City Council, 2007-17 in which she served as mayor 2010-17; owner of Angel Arms Works and Yoga Circle Studio, 1983-present, chair, city Design Review Board.
Facebook: Karen Guzak for Council
Experience: Snohomish for Equity, president and former treasurer, contract program manager and customer services management, 23 years.
Facebook: Baty for Snohomish Council