Stevens Hospital finances highlight campaign

EDMONDS — Political newcomer Kimberly Cole came out the big winner in the September’s three-way primary election race for the Stevens Hospital board of commissioners, getting nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Now, voters will choose between Cole and incumbent Jack Tawney, who was first appointed to the board in 2002, filling the term of a former board member.

The election comes at a time of change for the taxpayer-supported hospital. It has battled to end a string of financial losses and is regaining its financial footing.

The hospital ended last year with its first profit in four years: $1.25 million. This year, hospital officials hope that the profit will grow to $2.4 million.

The board and Michael Carter, selected as chief executive for the hospital in 2006, are mulling plans for hospital expansion. That would probably mean asking voters for a tax increase to help pay for the improvements.

Yet one of the questions Cole said she is asked most by voters is not about the hospital’s future plans, but what the board members do.

Much like the role that city council members play in overseeing a city, the five-member, publicly elected board oversees the $137.6 million budget of the hospital, its clinics and related businesses.

Cole said she would carefully examine the hospital’s revenues before endorsing a tax increase for improvements and thinks “it would be an uphill battle” to get voters to approved a tax increase for hospital expansion.

But if elected to the board, “whatever we arrive it, we’ll have to be dedicated to it 100 percent,” she said. “The public is going to have to be convinced.”

Cole’s endorsements include the Service Employees International Union local at Stevens Hospital, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon and the Snohomish County Labor Council.

Tawney, the incumbent, said he is running a low-key campaign, preferring to run on his experience as a board member and what he sees as the hospital’s turnaround in its finances and performance.

Tawney said he has not spent any money on the campaign and not sought out endorsements.

“I just made a decision that I would run on the record of the hospital and the positive changes we’ve made and leave it at that,” Tawney said. “I think I have a good history of moving the hospital in the right direction.”

He said he would endorse a tax increase to help with future hospital expansion, noting that the hospital has one of the lowest taxing rates of public hospitals in Washington.

The owner of a $300,000 home pays a total of $34.43 a year to help run the hospital and pay off bonds.

“For us to continue to provide high quality care, there will have to be additional funds brought into the hospital,” he said.

People living in the hospital’s taxing district, including unincorporated south Snohomish County and the cities of in Lynn­wood, Edmonds, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and Woodway can vote in the election.

Sharon Salyer at 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

Stevens Hospital Commissioner

Kimberly Cole

Age: 28

Hometown: Lynnwood

Occupation: Part-time law student at Seattle Pacific University and political manager for the Mike Cooper campaign for Snohomish County Council.

Web site: kimberlycole.org

Jack Tawney

Age: 50

Occupation: Owner of eight athletic clubs in the Northwest, two of which are in Edmonds and Stanwood.

Hometown: Edmonds

About the job: The person elected to this nonpartisan office, one of five members of the public hospital’s governing board, will serve for four years. The pay is $75 a meeting, plus expenses.

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