ARLINGTON — Both candidates running for Arlington mayor are focused on the city’s growth, and the challenges that can come with it.
Incumbent Barb Tolbert is running against Don Vanney, Jr.
Tolbert was elected mayor in 2011. Vanney is seeking his first public office.
They each hope to boost the downtown area, ease traffic with added infrastructure and continue a program that embeds socials workers with the city’s police department, though they have different ideas.
Vanney, 59, lives in the house he grew up in. He hopes to give back to the community he’s always called home. He’s been planning for a while to run for mayor once he retired, which happened last month. He’d like to see more family activities in the city.
Tolbert, 61, moved to Arlington in the mid-1980s. Around that time she started to volunteer at the annual Arlington Fly-In, and hasn’t missed a year since. She hopes to continue the work she’s done in the past eight years, and to lead the city during a time of major growth.
Both would like to see expansion downtown.
Vanney feels the area needs a better selection of stores, including for groceries. He remembers when folks could visit department stores such as Sears and JCPenney in town and wouldn’t have to go far to get all their shopping done.
If elected, he hopes to reach out to retailers with the help of the Downtown Arlington Business Association.
Tolbert recalls when much of Olympic Avenue was vacant because of the Great Recession.
Now, it’s thriving, she said.
“Our downtown was hit hard by the recession, and it lasted longer here than it did nationally,” she said. “Right now, there is not an empty storefront downtown.”
She’s seen new businesses come in, such as Moe’s on Olympic and Ava Rose Boutique and Gifts, and the sales tax revenue rise in the past three or so years.
She’s also working with students and faculty of Western Washington University to come up with a vision for the future of downtown. The students receive college credit and experience collaborating with a real city.
Miles away from the downtown area is the Cascade Industrial Center that this year was named a Manufacturing Industrial Center by the Puget Sound Regional Council. That designation is expected to help triple the number of jobs over the next couple of decades.
One challenge that could come with the growth is more traffic. Both Vanney and Tolbert hope to work with the state to find solutions.
It’s been more than a year since the embedded social worker program started in Arlington. Last year, the crime rate dropped more than 8%, Tolbert said.
“We’re not crime free, but we’re definitely trending in a better direction,” she said.
Under her watch, the city also has put money aside for more officer training, and to replace outdated and unreliable equipment in the Arlington Police Department. She’s also bolstered the city’s rainy day fund — when she became mayor there was $77, and now there’s about $4.8 million.
Vanney would like to see the embedded social worker program go further.
“I feel right now that Arlington law enforcement and emergency services are doing a very good job with what they have to work with,” he said.
If elected, he hopes to add another social worker and open more places where people can get help, possibly by working with churches and local hospitals.
About a week ago, Vanney and Tolbert were invited to a candidate forum luncheon hosted by the Stillaguamish Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Vanney was unable to make it because of personal reasons, he said. He also said that attendees who were not chamber members were asked to pay $25, and that he would rather meet with people one-on-one by knocking on their doors.
Ballots for the Nov. 5 election were sent out last week.
Meet the candidates
Experience: Arlington mayor since 2012. Previously appointed to the Arlington Airport Commission and the State Department of Aviation Advisory Commission. Also has served as executive director of the Arlington Fly-In. Thirty years of experience in business leadership and financial management.
Don Vanney, Jr.
Experience: More than 30 years of experience in the purchasing field, and writing contracts for and managing large capital projects. Has volunteered with the Special Olympics for more than 45 years.