Sultan mayoral and City Council election ‘pivotal’

SULTAN — This is a gut-check election for voters as they consider the future direction they desire for the city.

The Sultan mayor and two City Council members are seeking re-election to maintain an approach they say has led to balanced budgets and less crime and made Sultan attractive for new businesses.

But an alliance of challengers is trying to wrest control of City Hall by unseating the incumbents, who they say fail to spend tax dollars wisely or heed concerns of residents. Among the challengers are a former councilwoman and two men who tried to dissolve the city and are now suing it.

Mayor Carolyn Eslick, who is seeking a third term, faces the challenge of Ray George, a first-time candidate but longtime civic watchdog.

Councilman Joe Neigel is running against Al Wirta and Councilman Jeffrey Beeler is opposed by Kay George, the former council member who is married to Ray George.

Newcomer Russell Wiita is battling the alliance’s fourth member, Bart Dalmasso, to fill the open seat created by Sarah Davenport Smith’s decision not to run again.

“This is a pivotal election for our community,” Neigel said. “This group believes in cannibalizing an already lean city staff in the name of small government, without consideration of the unintended consequences of their actions.”

Not so, Dalmasso said.

“If the Georges and Al and I get elected we can make it better for the people who live here,” Dalmasso said. “We don’t agree on everything. We agree the costs of our local government are too high.”

Mayor’s race

Eslick, 65, served six years as a council member before getting elected mayor in 2007. She is the founder and director of GROW Washington, a nonprofit business development center. Last year she made an unsuccessful run for Snohomish County executive.

“There is unfinished business in our community,” she said in explaining her decision to seek re-election. “Crime rates are down and parks are safer, but now it is time to work on economic development and public health.”

George, 64, is a professional engineer who ran a small manufacturing company. He created the VoteSmartSultan website for the four political allies.

He said he hadn’t planned on running but didn’t think the mayor “should walk into a third term unchallenged.”

Among his biggest disagreements with the mayor is on the city’s decision to construct a new bridge over the Sultan River to improve access for bicyclists and pedestrians.

George contended the city should not have paid for engineering and design until it secured the funds for construction.

“It would be a wonderful asset to have but there’s no money to build it,” he said. “This was a big issue that was handled very poorly.”

Eslick countered that while it wasn’t one of her priorities before it’s become a necessity for the city because it will provide better emergency access across the river, a safer path for pedestrians and enable expansion of water and sewer services to residents.

Position 4

Dalmasso, 75, is making his fourth bid for a council seat including competing as a write-in two years ago. Wiita, 21, is making his first bid for elected office.

Dalmasso, a real estate appraiser, said he wants to rein in spending, promote commercial development and reconsider privatizing garbage collection services. The City Council rejected the idea several years ago.

He led a failed effort in 2010 to disincorporate Sultan when a group he formed, Independent Citizens Acting Now, did not get enough signatures to get on the ballot.

And he and Wirta are currently suing the city of Sultan. They claim the city is improperly using money from different city enterprise funds to pay employee salaries.

Wiita, a former student representative on the council, worked this year as a policy intern for several lawmakers, including Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, House Minority Leader.

He’s hoping voters appreciate his youth and “new way” of approaching problems facing the city.

“The whole attitude that my opponent and his team bring is aggressive and it is negative and I don’t think it is what people want from their city government,” he said.

He said he will be fiscally responsible but doesn’t support privatizing garbage collection. New businesses must fit the character of the town and not transform it, he said. And the city should consider hiring its own prosecutor to handle cases of repeat offenders of minor crimes.

Position 5

Neigel, 39, who joined the City Council in 2010, is seeking his second full four-year term. He is a substance abuse prevention specialist working with Monroe public schools.

He said he wants the city government to “live within its means” and is proud Sultan’s reduced debt resulted in a high credit rating.

Improving community safety and preserving the city’s infrastructure are two other issues he said he wants to focus on. Neigel opposes contracting out garbage collection and recycling services.

“I seriously considered the merits when the idea was brought before the council,” he said. “In the end, the consequences of privatizing far outweighed the benefits.”

Wirta, 69, is making his first bid for office, owns a high end architectural metal fabricating shop that’s operated in Sultan for 32 years.

He said he decided to run to bring more fiscal responsibility to the council decisions.

And he said the lawsuit he and Dalmasso brought against Sultan will not impede his ability to serve and predicted it could be resolved swiftly if he gets elected.

Wirta backs privatizing garbage collection which he said would cut city expenses and save residents money. He’s also interested in hiring a prosecutor for the city.

“They are not treating out citizens correctly,” he said of the present mayor and council members. “I’ll make an effort to make what I think are positive changes.”

Position 7

Beeler, 46, was appointed in 2009, won a full four-year term in 2011 and is seeking a second. He’s owned a window cleaning business for 27 years.

He’s running on his record as a fiscal watchdog who has worked to make the regulatory process less onerous and, where possible, less expensive.

He’s proud of several city accomplishments in his tenure such as helping rebuild the Boys &Girls Club facility, upgrading the sewer plant and completing the south leg of Sultan Basin Road to improve access to the business park and the Skywall Drive area.

And as a member of the U.S. Highway 2 Safety Coalition, he said he’s worked to secure money for safety improvements.

Beeler did oppose privatizing garbage collection while his opponent, Kay George, likes the idea.

George, 56, was elected to the City Council in 2011 to complete an unexpired term then lost her bid for a full term in 2013 by four votes. She is the owner and designated broker of INOV8 Real Estate in Sultan.

A focal point of her campaign is taking stronger action against criminal offenders who repeatedly commit misdemeanors. She said the city needs its own prosecutor to handle those cases which the Snohomish County Prosecutor’s Office doesn’t pursue aggressively enough.

Like her husband, she said she’d been unhappy with many of the council decisions and decided to run because she didn’t think the incumbent should go unchallenged.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

Mayor

Carolyn Eslick

Age: 65

Experience: Two terms as mayor. Six years as councilmember. Owner of Dutch Cup Restaurant. Founder and director of GROW Washington, a nonprofit support center for small businesses.

Website: www.reelectcarolyneslick.com

Ray George

Age: 64

Experience: Former chairman of Sultan Planning Commission. Professional engineer. Officer of small manufacturing company.

Website: votesmartsultan.vpweb.com

Position 4

Russell Wiita

Age: 21

Experience: Policy intern in 2015 Washington Legislature. Volunteers of America. Former student representative on City Council.

Website: www.russellforsultan.com

Bart Dalmasso

Age: 75

Experience: Licensed real estate broker, 45 years. Member of Toastmasters, Knights of Columbus.

Website: votesmartsultan.vpweb.com

Position 5

Al Wirta

Age: 69

Experience: Owner, Wirta Architectural Fabrications LLC in Sultan.

Website: votesmartsultan.vpweb.com

Joe Neigel

Age: 39

Experience: Member of City Council 2010-present. Substance Abuse Prevention specialist, Monroe Public Schools.

Email: jneigel76@aol.com

Position 7

Jeffrey Beeler

Age: 46

Experience: Member of City Council 2009-present. Owner of window-cleaning business, 27 years.

Email: Jeffrey.beeler.2016@gmail.com

Kay George

Age: 56

Experience: Member of City Council 2011-13. Owner and designated broker of INOV8 Real Estate. Former secretary Sultan Sportsmen’s Club. Former president Sky Valley Historical Society.

Website: votesmartsultan.vpweb.com

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