Eight vie for four Lake Stevens council slots

LAKE STEVENS – As the lake sits in the middle of the city here, there’s an issue sitting in the middle of the elections for city office.

It’s protection of the city’s waterways, balanced against a desire for economic development.

The candidates for City Council here generally agree the city needs more parks, more sidewalks, more activities for youth, to continue annexation and to manage growth. What many don’t agree on is how large the no-build zones around the lake, streams and wetlands should be.

Last spring, the City Council approved an expansion of the no-build zones, but some council members and environmental groups say they didn’t go far enough. Others say making the no-build areas too large could hamper redevelopment of downtown Lake Stevens. The council and staff are hammering out a new plan, and with it not expected to be approved until next year, the races for City Council could have a big influence on the outcome.

Position 3: John Spencer vs. Kerry Watkins

Spencer, 60, and Watkins, 45, survived a three-way primary, with Councilman Steve Brooks the odd man out.

Watkins initially ran on a platform of criticism of the city over waterway protection and the city’s plan to build a $25 million civic campus on Grade Road.

He’s since softened those stances.

Regarding the waterways, he still believes the “buffers,” as they’re called, should be larger, but with the caveat that they be sensitive to residents who might want to remodel their homes. “I’ve been talking to a number of residents that would be very much affected by those buffers,” he said.

Spencer said the protection areas should be tailored to particular situations.

“We have to have the ability to put buffers in place that are sensitive to the context they’re going to be placed in,” he said.

Spencer, who lives on the lake near Frontier Village, was involved in the 1984 effort to reduce pollution in the lake. He worked on the recent successful campaigns to add Frontier Village and Soper Hill to the city. That experience, along with his work as a utility consultant for CH2MHill, gives him an edge, he said.

“I feel very strongly that I have a lot more experience dealing with difficult and complex issues,” he said. I think I have a lot of creativity in terms of how we can get to our goals.”

The city also needs to do more for its transportation network, he said, by pursuing funding for streets and possibly roundabouts.

Watkins said the city’s campus project is so far along now that aborting it would amount to a waste of the time and money that’s gone into planning so far. “We have to do this right,” he said.

Watkins said the city should consider building a jail into the new complex, so it could charge other cities for housing prisoners rather than paying them to hold prisoners for Lake Stevens.

Watkins, an aircraft mechanic at Boeing and captain in the National Guard, said he has an edge in the race because “I believe I’m more in touch with what working class people in Lake Stevens have to go through every day.”

Position 4: Mark Somers vs. Karen Alessi

Mark Somers decided to run for City Council, he said, because “I saw a need on the council in this position for someone who is more engaged in the issues.”

And yes, he’s in favor of larger waterway protection areas than those favored by Alessi.

Alessi said her job on the City Council is not to talk, but to listen.

“I think my job is to think and make decisions,” said Alessi, finishing her first term on the council.

Alessi, 68, formerly served on the city’s Arts Commission and still serves as council liaison to that advisory board. As a member of the Lake Stevens Chamber of Commerce, she served as co-chairwoman for the group that helped create the downtown redevelopment plans. The plans call for moving city buildings to Grade Road and leaving the downtown area open for more tourist-related development.

It’s these plans, some say, that could be jeopardized by larger no-build buffers.

“I think critical areas ought to be very well taken care of, and as far as I know, they are,” she said. “I’ve talked to lots of people who have lots of expertise in this area.”

Larger protection areas, countered Somers, “don’t exclude any kind of downtown redevelopment.”

Somers, 54, manages the cable access channel for the city of Everett. He also stresses what he says is a need for the city to balance development with public buildings and amenities.

“Where are the parks to go with the new development?” he said.

Somers said he would bring “enthusiasm and energy” to the council.

Alessi says her edge is experience. A retired relocation official for Hewlett Packard, she helped recruit the company to town in the 1980s, helped start the Aquafest festival and worked to help build the city’s current library.

Position 5: Lynn Walty vs. Suzanne Quigley

A little more than a year ago, Lynn Walty was the mayor of Lake Stevens.

Then he resigned. Now he’s running for City Council.

Why?

For one, his wife has recovered from cancer, he said. She gave him her blessing to run.

Secondly, he doesn’t like the direction the city has gone since he left. In particular, he said, Councilwoman Suzanne Quigley — who was appointed to the council early this year to replace Vern Little, who replaced Walty — has been the council’s leading proponent of larger environmental protection areas.

“I believe the staff needs to be working on something else,” Walty said. The city should go ahead with its current rules, he said, and adjust them later if necessary.

Quigley, 46, said the current set of rules “would put our city at the bottom of the barrel in stewardship of the environment in all of Snohomish County.”

Quigley said protecting the lake is important to the city’s economy because it’s what brings people there, and that it can be compatible with downtown redevelopment.

“I’m very convinced of that, and I look forward to it,” she said of adapting plans to environmental protection.

Quigley said the important issues in the city are “everything related to growth,” stressing that the city needs to provide roads, parks and greenbelts along with development.

As executive director for a school for deaf children in Seattle, Quigley said she has the skills to accomplish those goals.

Walty, 66, served on the City Council for seven years and as mayor for nearly seven. He said it’s important the city continue with annexation to unite the lake and control growth.

For residents who are reluctant, he said. “I believe it’s information they need in order to change their minds.”

Walty, a retired manufacturing engineer for Boeing, said he has the “people skills and leadership” to bring people together.

“I’ve always been a believer in teamwork,” he said.

Position 6: Michael Friend vs. Kathy Holder

Michael Friend has the same issue as some of the other challengers in the races for City Council this year: The council member he’s running against disagrees with him on no-build buffer zones.

“We spent a considerable amount of money to hire a professional engineering company to come in assess the plans,” he said, noting that the city based its current rules on the review.

“Is overhaul really going to make that much difference? I don’t think so.”

The city should be focusing on other issues he says are more important, such as annexations and attracting a University of Washington campus.

Friend also doesn’t think Holder, who was appointed to the council last February, has accomplished enough.

“I felt we needed someone in there to get things done,” he said.

Holder, a member of the city’s parks board who works part-time as an educational assistant for the Lake Stevens School District, was appointed over four other applicants.

Holder said the review of the environmental buffer zones was essential because the council didn’t get enough information and because it’s being challenged legally. Futurewise, an environmental group, filed an appeal over the city’s rules with the state Growth Management Hearings Board.

“We can’t just say, ‘let’s pass it because we’ve got something already done,’” Holder said. “We’re showing good faith.”

Holder, a former member of the city’s Parks Board, said the city is working the University of Washington issue hard and that the annexation process had already slowed down before she was appointed.

“We’ve been very productive since I’ve been on,” she said.

Friend, 52, also said City Council members need to spend more time talking with residents.

“We need to reach out to the citizens and say, ‘what do you want?’” he said.

Another overlooked aspect of city government, Friend said, is social services. The city should do more to help service groups such as the Lake Stevens Family Center and Sherwood Services, he said.

“Our city is very much divided with respect to income,” he said.

Friend said his analytical skills as a system analyst for Paccar are needed by the city.

Holder, a former Army sergeant, said her management and leadership skills give her an edge.

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or sheets@heraldnet.com.

Lake Stevens City Council

Position 3

John Spencer

Age: 60

Occupation: Utility consultant for CH2MHill, Bellevue

Kerry Watkins

Age: 45

Occupation: Aircraft mechanic, Boeing

Position 4

Mark Somers

Age: 54

Occupation: Manager for city of Everett public access station

Karen Alessi

Age: 68

Occupation: Retired executive for Hewlett-Packard

Position 5

Lynn Walty

Age: 66

Occupation: Retired manufacturing engineer, Boeing

Suzanne Quigley

Age: 46

Occupation: Executive director of Listen and Talk School, Seattle

Position 6

Michael Friend

Age: 52

Occupation: Systems analyst, Paccar, Renton

Kathy Holder

Age: 39

Occupation: Part-time educational assistant, Lake Stevens School District

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