LAKE STEVENS — Mayor John Spencer is leaving his post after four years, and two City Council members are challenging each other for the position.
Spencer is retiring after one term as mayor to spend more time with his family.
The candidates plan to focus on public safety, making upgrades to infrastructure and bringing in more businesses to the city. Both are in favor of a Costco Wholesale store opening in Lake Stevens.
Gailey believes he’s the best choice because of his leadership skills and the original ideas he could bring.
Hilt thinks he’s better suited for the position because of the relationships he’s made while on the City Council. He also wants to carry out projects he’s started.
The job is a nonpartisan, part-time position that pays an annual salary of $26,400.
Gailey, 48, works as an officer in the Everett Police Department. He joined the City Council almost two years ago.
Hilt, also 48, is a firefighter and paramedic for South County Fire. He’s been on the City Council for about four years, and has been endorsed by Spencer.
Lake Stevens, now home to 33,000 people, has experienced mushrooming growth from development and annexations. Its population has swollen by nearly 18% since 2010, according to state estimates.
Economic opportunity has been slower to follow, though.
Costco is one of the biggest companies to show interest in moving to the city so far. It has proposed to build a 170,000-square-foot warehouse store at the intersection of Highway 9 and 20th Street SE. Nothing has been approved yet.
Gailey would like to use sales tax revenue from the wholesaler on city projects.
“Without Costco we can’t grow the city like it needs to be with all the people here,” he said.
Parts of the 20th Street SE corridor have been zoned for retail stores and other businesses. Gailey would like to see more shops in that area.
Hilt also hopes Costco brings more jobs and money to the city, and thinks the Issaquah-based company could help solve other issues.
“They have a presence in the region,” he said. “So when we go down to Olympia and are talking about infrastructure needs — Highway 9, the trestle — we now have an ally.”
If elected, Hilt plans to put much of his energy into upgrading major arterials, including Highway 9 and the U.S. 2 trestle.
Because those are state and federal highways, the city can’t change them. He’d like to get together with nearby cities, such as Marysville and Everett, to bring a unified voice to the state and federal levels.
Ultimately he’d like to widen Highway 9 and replace the U.S. 2 trestle.
Gailey has similar ideas.
“We have to make sure we are lobbying in Olympia and keeping it on legislator’s minds,” he said. “It has to stay in the forefront.”
He’d eventually like to see more infrastructure added, possibly by expanding Highway 526 that runs east to west.
He also hopes to put sidewalks in neighborhoods that have none, and to turn the Community Transit park and ride on Market Place into a transit center with retail space and housing.
One of the city’s biggest projects now underway is at North Cove Park, where crews are building a community space.
Gailey is worried the city doesn’t have a business plan for the building. Hilt is looking forward to events there, such as farmers markets. Both hope it helps revitalize downtown.
Annexation has been another important topic in town.
Most of the land around Lake Stevens is part of the city, but there’s still a stretch of shoreline that is unincorporated Snohomish County.
Earlier this year, another 180 acres was incorporated at the southeast corner of the lake. Neighbors tried to stop it.
For years the city has planned to someday include all of the land around the lake. Gailey and Hilt each said they support that idea, but only if those who live in the area want to become part of the city.
Outside of the election, Gailey is involved in a lawsuit with his employer, the Everett Police Department.
He alleges the department violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, a law that protects military service members from employment discrimination. Gailey is in the Army Reserve.
The department has denied the accusations.
Gailey reportedly was passed over for multiple promotions, while officers with less experience than him were chosen. Records show that Gailey received written discipline five times between 2013 and 2018, including for a car crash and for violating the department’s vehicle pursuit policy.
If elected, he won’t let the ongoing legal matter affect his job as mayor, he said.
“It hasn’t hampered my ability to be on the City Council,” he said. “I don’t let that get in the way of what I’m doing in Lake Stevens. What I do at work is what I do at work.”
Gailey had raised $16,528 in cash as of Tuesday, with support coming from Lake Stevens Sewer District Commission President Kevin Kosche and several construction companies, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Hilt reported $14,241 in cash, with firefighter unions among his top donors. He also got help from construction companies.
Ballots are due by 8 p.m. on Nov. 5. There are 23 ballot drop boxes open around the clock until that time, including one near the Lake Stevens boat launch at 1800 Main St.
Ballots also can be mailed without a stamp, but must be postmarked by Election Day.