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MacNichols takes long- awaited oath of office

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SNOQUALMIE - Jeff MacNichols has waited a long time for this week.

At the Jan. 12 meeting of the Snoqualmie City Council, he was one of two new Snoqualmie City Councilman sworn in. MacNichols and Nate Short both beat their incumbent opponents last November by just a few percentage points.

For MacNichols it was the fulfillment of a long desire to get involved in politics, a world of which he has always wanted to be a part.

"I have always been interested in politics," he said. "Even as a casual observer."

MacNichols was born in Oregon and raised in Redmond, Wash. Growing up, he was privy to many political discussions between his mother and father, who talked openly about their differing opinions. MacNichols became more intrigued by politics after a trip he took to Olympia with his elementary school class and was even a young supporter of Washington Governor John Spellman.

Although MacNichols was a political science major when he went to the University of Washington (UW), he thought he wanted to get into business, emulating his father who owned a chain of natural food stores. After talking with friends who were attorneys, however, MacNichols decided he wanted to study law and entered the Seattle University School of Law after graduating from the UW.

MacNichols interned for a firm he eventually joined and became a partner in after graduating in 1997. One of MacNichols' clients was a Snoqualmie resident who loved to talk about the history of the town, which MacNichols liked more and more every time he came out to visit the client.

"He always talked about the Ridge [Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood]," he said. "He would always complain about how the houses were too close together."

With a child on the way, MacNichols and his wife wanted to move out of Seattle to the Eastside. The more they visited Snoqualmie, the more they came to love the area and moved to a house in the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood in 2002. Soon after that, MacNichols joined the neighborhood's homeowners association.

While working at the firm, MacNichols often ran into Greg Fullington, who worked as an attorney in the office of the King County Prosecuting Attorney. Although MacNichols often argued cases against Fullington, he found they got along well and they formed a friendship. After Fullington was elected to the Snoqualmie City Council in 2001, he lobbied MacNichols to get involved as well. MacNichols saw a chance to get into local politics and ran against incumbent Dick Kirby, whom he defeated last November.

During his campaign, MacNichols found he needed to prove he had a vested interest in the city. Since he was a newcomer and didn't come up through the usual commissions and committees that breed council members and mayors, MacNichols may have been perceived as a being a little green to politics. His limited history in the city doesn't bother him though since he is representing a large demographic of new Snoqualmie residents.

"A majority of this town has been here three years or less," he said. "I am part of that majority."

The issues before Snoqualmie this year are as daunting as they have ever been. The most immediate decision looming is Snoqualmie Ridge Phase II (SRII). The master plan for the community, which will add as many as 5,000 new residents to Snoqualmie, needs to be approved by the City Council before developer Quadrant Corp. can break ground. The city was originally set to approve the plan last summer, but that date got pushed back to this week. That deadline, however, will be extended again due to delays and the extent of the proceedings.

MacNichols can't comment on the SRII proceedings, which have included discussion on how to close a $23-million gap in what the city wants and what Quadrant is willing to pay for, but he did explain his approach to making Snoqualmie a livable and economically sustainable town. He knows people live in Snoqualmie because it is a beautiful place with natural amenities. Making sure families can enjoy the parks and rural life that make up their neighborhoods is a responsibility of the City Council, MacNichols said.

"This is a small town and we want to keep it a small town," MacNichols said.

The SRII proceedings have also highlighted the need for more revenue to keep amenities like parks in good condition. With anti-tax initiatives cutting back the amount of money the city is taking in, MacNichols said the need to focus on what can stimulate business and tourism in Snoqualmie will be imperative. He wants to form a committee to direct where revenue from the city's hotel/motel tax goes and would also like to form a business commission. With the Salish Lodge expansion proceeding and the Kimball Creek development approved, MacNichols is optimistic about the city's ability to gather revenue in the future, but only if there is initiative on the city's part to encourage it.

"The city does not have a person or committee to deal with that [business and tourism]," he said.

In addition to development and business in Snoqualmie, MacNichols has other big decisions ahead of him. The first of which might be who his colleagues are. Councilman Jay Rodne may be considered as a replacement for state Rep. Cheryl Pflug, who left her position to fill a state senate seat left vacant by gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi. If Rodne leaves, which could happen as soon as this month, MacNichols and other council members would choose his replacement. During 2004 the City Council will also add two additional members, a process MacNichols will be a part of as well. After hearing discussions on the pending Snoqualmie Ridge resident makeup of the council during the election, MacNichols said council members should come from all parts of the city.

"We need to make sure the city is well represented," he said.

MacNichols said that the most important part of the job will be doing what is right for the entire city. There will be a steep learning curve in the months ahead while he learns how the city of Snoqualmie functions, but MacNichols believes he is now part of the solution of building a great city.

"I will take the job as it comes," MacNichols said. "One day at a time"

* You can contact Jeff MacNichols at (425) 396-4597 or by e-mail at macnichols@qwest.net.

Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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