LAKE STEVENS — In a city beset by growth and controversy, four fresh faces are challenging incumbents for seats on the Lake Stevens City Council.
This year, state agencies found the city in violation of state regulations regarding in-water work and, allegedly, workplace safety. And a little over a week ago, a city employee was granted a protection order against his boss.
Meanwhile, new commercial centers, retail giants and single family neighborhoods are sprouting across the city. And this summer the city was among the first in the state to use a new law to annex about 1,000 properties, as well as the 1,000 acre lake itself, without a public vote. Whoever is elected will guide a city home to 36,000 people, and counting.
All four incumbents — Kim Daughtry, Gary Petershagen, Steve Ewing and Marcus Tageant — received a majority of their campaign contributions from those with real estate and development ties.
Within the past month, the Washington Realtors political action committee spent $60,000 on campaign mailers for Petershagen, Ewing and Tageant.
The challengers are Michele Hampton, Joyce Copley, Jessica Wadhams and Joseph Jensen. They don’t have near the financial firepower, nor the political experience. Many identify “asking questions” as one of their duties, if elected.
The incumbents cite their experience on the council as an asset.
“First of all, this isn’t an on-the-job training type of thing,” said Tageant, the Position 7 incumbent, during an Oct. 13 candidate forum. “You have to have experience in leadership — my fellow current council members have those things.”
Current City Council President Kim Daughtry has lived in the city for over two decades and has served on the council for more than half of that time.
Despite receiving campaign dollars from those with vested interest in property development in the city, he said, he’s recycling much of his campaign materials from prior elections and plans to return the contributions.
He said contributions have no effect on his decisions, and never have.
“I weigh what’s going on in the city,” he said. “I listen to what the staff is saying and their side of the story, I look at what the rules are, and look at what we’re trying to accomplish. And there have been times, more times than not, that I … voted against (what) developers want.”
He was involved in several major long-term planning decisions, including the downtown and Lake Stevens center subarea plans.
One of his primary goals if re-elected is reducing traffic and increasing pedestrian safety. He currently is chair of the Community Transit Board of Directors.
Something Daughtry said sets him apart from other public servants is his willingness to listen. He said he frequently takes calls from residents, even those with opinions that stray from his own.
“I’ll listen to anybody,” he said. “Everybody has something to say. And everybody has an opinion. Some of it doesn’t make any sense. Some of it does.”
“My opponent — he has been there 12 years,” said Michele Hampton. “I really believe it’s time for fresh eyes, and a fresh perspective. I will be asking the questions. … That is what I believe is really important for anyone who sits on council, is to be constantly learning, constantly be asking questions.”
Hampton said that as a career attorney, she knows how to advocate for the needs of those she represents.
Based on door-belling and speaking at campaign events, Hampton said, residents’ top concerns are the pace of development and the infrastructure in place to support it.
She said before the city begins considering new developments, officials need to “peel away the onion” and look at where their predecessors laid out developable land. Then they should ensure zoning promotes public safety.
This means ensuring neighborhoods have access to green spaces like parks and trails via sidewalks, she said.
Hampton said as an attorney she specialized in contractual negotiations. She said she could dig deep into agreements presented before the council.
“And I think that’s really important, because anytime you can have input in the process, that results in a settlement or a conclusion of the problem, then you have ownership in it,” she said.
Hampton has lived in the community for half a decade and said though she appears very “straight-laced,” she also enjoys putting on a sun hat and getting out on the lake and enjoying the city’s natural amenities.
Joyce Copley, who’s looking to unseat Gary Petershagen for Position 2, said though she’s not served on the council, she has the necessary experience to lead.
She works as a permit technician in planning and community development for the city of Shoreline. There, she said, she’s learned how to set rules and boundaries for developers. Copley said she feels developers, not city officials, are in control of growth in Lake Stevens — and that needs to change.
While campaigning, she said, she learned through conversations “the average taxpayer had no idea” how their tax dollars are spent.
“With the development and all the issues that are surrounding the city of Lake Stevens — they’re really being taken advantage of, and they don’t seem to understand,” she said. “I have the experience and the knowledge to know that these are red flags, huge red flags, that the taxpayers and the residents are going to pay for for years to come.”
She said she wants to prioritize environmental health in development decisions and streamline communication between councilmembers and those they represent.
Copley, a retired Boeing employee, has lived in the community since 2006 and volunteered her time with the food bank. She said she has attended many City Council meetings and has spoken on many issues, like the advantages of a new Costco.
When she doesn’t have her civics hat on, Copley said, she’s spending time with her husband, daughter and grandkids.
Petershagen could not be reached for comment.
He is a lifelong resident of the Lake Stevens area and has served local organizations such as the Marysville Noon Rotary Club and the Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce.
During his tenure on the council, Petershagen has served as the liaison to the planning commission, advocated for tight regulations pertaining to marijuana facilities and was in favor of blocking safe drug injection sites.
According to his campaign website, he is seeking reelection so he can continue to support police, advocate for a regional sports complex and bring jobs into the city.
He is a broker with the Preview Group and owns and operates a local land development company, Alexander Reed.
Jessica Wadhams said after being a stay-at-home mom, she needed something new to do with her time.
That something was local government.
“I started watching council a couple of years ago,” she said, “and pretty quickly was pretty deeply concerned about the trajectory of where our city was going and the outstanding issues that we have, like with sidewalks, general public safety concerns and watching just this huge influx of growth not being managed properly. … And I’ll be honest, it pissed me off.”
She’s looking to unseat incumbent Steve Ewing.
Wadhams said City Council members should be stewards of the people’s voice, and if elected, she would consider her constituents’ questions and concerns in her decision-making.
Wadhams said she gained leadership experience through managerial roles in retail jobs and activism. She’s the co-founder of Lake Stevens Black, Indigenous, People of Color and Allies, a social justice organization.
Though she has no elected experience, she said she’s eager to “soak up new information” and learn the ropes.
Ewing asked to receive questions in writing. “This is peak campaign time so my time is extremely limited,” he wrote.
Ewing has lived in Lake Stevens since 2005 and was appointed to Mayor-elect Brett Gailey’s council seat in 2019.
Since he was appointed, he has advocated for living-wage jobs and affordable housing, he said in a statement.
If re-elected, he said funding the creation of parks and supporting local schools and libraries are among his top priorities.
Marcus Tageant is a longtime Lake Stevens resident seeking a third term on the Cty Council.
“My involvement in community has been a lot,” he said during an Oct. 13 candidate forum. “And I do it because I love my community and I love being a part of the community around the lake.”
Tageant could not be reached for comment.
During his tenure on the council, Tageant has advocated for the creation and upgrades of parks, including North Cove and Cavalero.
If re-elected, he’s promised to continue advocating for public safety and bringing jobs into the city.
Tageant’s opponent, Joseph Jensen, said though he has no elected experience, he’s a fast learner and is up for the challenge.
“You don’t need to be an expert in everything that City Council touches in order to be able to help guide the solutions,” Jensen said. “So, asking questions. We’ll take one example, the un-permitted work. Who is responsible for these types of things? Have we done un-permitted work in other places? What’s the process that the city has in place that is going to prevent us from running into this type of un-permitted work in the future? Those are just right off the top of my head. … I don’t think anybody from the City Council majority has asked those types of questions.”
Jensen has lived in the area since the 1990s and said the “future is full of potential for what Lake Stevens can become.”
He said his priorities, if elected, hinge on the needs of his constituents. But he’s interested in creating safe pedestrian routes, preserving public land for schools, libraries and green space, and re-assessing city policies and procedures to ensure they meet the needs of the fast-growing community.
After completing some schooling at Everett Community College, Jensen worked his way up the ranks of Frontier Communications and now works as a consultant for technology companies.
He said his job revolves around problem-solving skills — something that lends directly to his ability to serve on the council, if elected.
Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.