Monroe City Council to see some reshuffling

By Leslie Moriarty

Herald Writer

MONROE — A trio of veteran politicians and a trio of newcomers will vie for three open council seats in Monroe in the Nov. 6 general election.

In what has become a heated race, current Mayor Bob Holman is looking to unseat incumbent Jim Hunnicutt for Position 3. The seat is a four-year term and Hunnicutt has held the position for three terms.

In recent years, Hunnicutt has aligned himself with council members Marc Mechling, Tony Balk and Penny Sopris-Kegerreis. The three joined the council after the last election and have vocally opposed the "good old boys," who they claim include long-term council members Ken Berger, Wayne Rodland and Holman.

Holman decided not to run again for mayor but a council seat, saying he didn’t have time to be mayor and run the sporting and gun shop he owns in Monroe.

Holman served six years as mayor and 10 years as a city council member.

The two candidates agree on the need for better traffic control in the city and support a bypass north around the city. Holman wants a traffic mitigation plan that adequately addresses the costs of new roads and doesn’t penalize residents with higher property taxes. Hunnicutt wants to see local, county and state governments talk about a plan for paying for a bypass.

They both believe the city needs to do what it can to maintain businesses downtown. But Holman says the major costs of downtown renovation should be paid by downtown property owners.

The two differ over how the city is being run. Hunnicutt is critical of the mayor’s ability to get department heads to respond to council members and citizen’s concerns.

Meanwhile, Holman said Hunnicutt is too hands-on and spends too much time at City Hall questioning city employees.

He said the departure of Bill Verwolf, currently city administrator, is just an example of how good people are leaving Monroe city government because they are not supported by some of the council members. He fears more department heads will leave.

But Hunnicutt said it’s more like a "David and Goliath" situation where he is backed by average citizens, and Holman’s supporters are the "big business, good old boys."

Council members make $100 a meeting in Monroe, at an average of $4,800 a year.

In Position 1, Penny Sopris-Kegerreis will face Art Larson. Sopris-Kegerreis is an incumbent in the two-year at-large seat but wants the four-year term of Position 1. Wayne Rodland, the incumbent, was defeated in the primary for Position 2.

Sopris-Kegerreis said she will keep the entire city in focus as she makes her decisions, whereas her opponent is mainly concerned with his own neighborhood.

Larson became known at City Hall when he protested a planned gravel pit in the area. He’s also been vocal against truck traffic on Fryelands Boulevard.

Larson said Sopris-Kegerreis’ criticism of him isn’t warranted.

"It would be easy for me to say the same about her — that she will only represent the seniors in the city," he said.

He said he will make decisions based on what’s in the best interest of the entire city and hopes to address growth with caution.

"We need to make sure that our mitigation fees cover the costs of growth," he said. "They can’t be outrageous or we won’t have affordable housing. But we need to have the infrastructure and the schools in place as the new residents are coming in."

Larson supports a bypass road to help with the traffic congestion on U.S. 2. He also wants to see the city work with Valley General Hospital to make it an even better medical facility to serve the entire valley,

Sopris-Kegerreis wants to see more money and attention given to infrastructure that needs updating, such as water lines. She wants sidewalks and better lighting added throughout the newer parts of town.

She supports the bond measure for a community center and agrees with the placement of it near the Galaxy Theaters.

"It completes the picture for what we want out there," she said.

With Sopris-Kegerreis leaving the at-large seat, two newcomers, Bruce Hansen and Verna Korslund, are seeking it.

Hansen says a crucial issue in Monroe is traffic. He wants to see the council take a hard look at the need for roads, schools, sewer and water capability before the city expands its urban growth area. He’d like to see revitalization efforts downtown.

Korslund says growth needs to be at a manageable pace, with infrastructure and schools in place to accommodate the people.

She sees traffic as one of the greatest challenges.

"I will commit to pursue a solution by working with state and county officials," she said.

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436

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