At opposite ends of the Stillaguamish Valley, Arlington and Darrington are connected by Highway 530 and share similar issues related to promoting economic development, delivering services and ensuring quality of life for their residents. Both cities also shared the burden of response and recovery following the March 22, 2014, Oso landslide that claimed the lives of 43 people.
The only contested city race in Darrington for the town of 1,300 is for mayor. Three town council members, Judy O’Conner, Kevin Ashe and Mary Requa are running unopposed.
Along with the mayor’s race in Arlington and its 18,500 residents, three city council positions are on the ballot. The Herald Editorial Board endorsements for Arlington City Council will follow on Tuesday.
Arlington mayor: Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert is running for her second term and is challenged by Craig Christianson.
Christianson, a retired Seattle and Arlington firefighter and owner of a trucking company, grew up in Arlington and has lived there since. Christianson said he ran at the urging of friends and because he was taught to be involved in his community.
Tolbert, who had served as an airport commissioner and director of the Arlington Fly-In before taking office, came to the community in the 1980s and previously served with the Arlington Economic Development Committee and the Chamber of Commerce.
Tolbert took office at a time of financial struggles for Arlington. She, the council and city staff started financial reforms that controlled spending, restored the city’s reserve fund and its bond rating and avoided water and sewer rate increases for the last three years. Tolbert also supported the state Transportation Department’s “practical design” process for a lane expansion of Highway 531 near the airport, which is expected to cut the cost from an earlier $69 million estimate to a projected $47 million.
Arlington, under Tolbert’s leadership, also was able to make its case to its voters that a property tax increase was necessary to restore cuts it made earlier to its budget. The increase passed in April 2014 with 52.6 percent approval.
State audits in March and again in October have found problems with the city’s accounting and records for the city airport. The city has cooperated with the state and is making long-overdue changes and updating expired leases, including one for the Arlington Fly-In. Beyond those findings, the state has found no conflict of interest involving Tolbert nor the appearance of a conflict.
Christianson has concerns about the city’s management of the airport, as he does about staffing for the police department, which he believes is stretched thin. Christianson also said he wants to allow greater public access to city documents and increase public participation in the city’s budgeting process.
Tolbert, in her four years as mayor, has led the city as it turned its finances around. We also note her leadership and advocacy for the Stillaguamish Valley following the Oso landslide. Tolbert, in partnership with her fellow mayor in Darrington, provided a voice for the valley at the state level.
Arlington’s voters should re-elect Tolbert.
Darrington mayor: Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin is running for his second term and is challenged by Todd Ronning.
Rankin, owner of a specialty saw mill, grew up in Darrington and returned there in 2000. He previously served for eight years on the Darrington town council. Ronning grew up in Marysville and has third-generation family in Darrington. He moved there three years ago following service in the Army as a combat medic and mortuary affairs specialist and later worked as an arson investigator.
Ronning says he is running to offer a choice to Darrington residents and wants to bring more job opportunities to town. He’d like to attract aerospace businesses there, as Arlington has done, so that Darrington residents don’t have to make the commute. Ronning also says he would seek a sheriff’s office, staffed full time, as well as a citizen’s patrol. A greater law enforcement presence would help combat drugs and a YMCA in town would help kids.
Rankin also is focused on economic development and can rattle off a number of projects under way or in the planning stages, including a mountain bike trail system on North Mountain, work with the U.S. Forest Service to encourage timber production and fund forest restoration projects and a STEM program partnership with the school district and regional universities.
While credit is rightly shared community-wide for Darrington’s response and resolve following the Oso landslide, Rankin was a effective leader and advocate for his community. Beyond Darrington, he and Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert provided a voice and leadership for the Stillaguamish Valley that helped with the timely reopening of Highway 530 and secured state funding from the Legislature for a number of community projects.
Before and after the slide, Rankin has worked to promote employment and economic opportunity and make Darrington a good place to raise families. Darrington voters should return Rankin to office.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial misstated Craig Christianson’s length of residence in Arlington. He has lived in Arlington his entire life.