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Two more for North Bend council; Pettersen, Garcia picked for expanding roles

Mayor Ken Hearing and the North Bend City Council nominated, approved and swore in Jeanne Pettersen and Chris Garcia as the latest additions to a new seven-member council.

The council’s closed half-hour discussion capped a four-hour special meeting Tuesday, Dec. 8. The council had planned to interview all five finalists, who included Pettersen, Garcia, Ryan Kolodejchuk, Robert Manelski and Fritz Ribary.

But before interviews began, Ribary announced he would be stepping down as a candidate after being selected as a finalist for the executive director position at the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“I didn’t think it was fair to the council, in the event that I am selected, to have them go through the process all over again,” Ribary, a former North Bend mayor, told the Valley Record. The chamber is expected to pick its new director this week, he added.

Down to four choices, the council proceeded to interview each candidate, providing questions ahead of time. The four finalists were grilled on challenges facing North Bend, vital elements of the downtown master plan, their community involvement, and their future vision of the city.

Garcia was thrown a curve ball when Councilman David Cook asked an impromptu question regarding his dedication to the job, given Garcia’s early departure as a council member in 2008.

“No one gave you a hard time, because you had challenges at work and you had to go,” Cook said. “What assurance can you give council this time that you are not going to “Go Palin” on us, so to speak, if work gets challenging?”

Garcia replied that he could only give them his word. He told the council that business commitments had eased compared to a year ago.

“At this point, my attention can be again focused into duties at hand,” Garcia said.

Questioned on his stance on a one-percent tax increase, which the sitting council declined to take this year, Garcia said he would not have opted for the tax this winter. Depending on circumstances and due to the current economic state, Garcia said he would find other ways to obtain savings through budget cuts.

City challenges

Both Garcia and Pettersen agreed that North Bend’s downtown traffic and safety issues needed to be addressed, as did finding revenue sources for the city’s budget.

Touting experience at a regional level from her previous work for a number of school districts, Pettersen said the council would need to improve present revenue sources. She advised seeking outside funding through governmental and private grants and through responsible residential growth.

“By responsible growth, I mean attracting entrepreneurs and unique business, and to revitalize downtown,” she said.

Commenting on her drive and involvement as a representative for the city at the regional level, Hearing said Petterson would be a good addition to the council. That role is something that others have not taken on, the mayor added.

Both new members seek to keep North Bend’s rural character, adjusting for the inevitable growth North Bend will experience.

Defining North Bend’s character as based on the interactions of individuals, Garcia said that citizens want to keep its small-town feel.

While North Bend grows , Petterson would like the city to avoid the pitfalls of other neighboring communities ,who changed their feel by expanding.

“Bellevue went from an attractive city with four-story-high limits, landscape buffers and a nice downtown to high rises out to the sidewalk, horrendous traffic and paid parking,” she said.

She wants people to think of North Bend as a place they’d like to go for the day or weekend, with an historic area and comfortable places to walk and shop.

Summing up her hope for the future, Petterson sees North Bend becoming prosperous, people-oriented and planet-friendly.

Hoping to connect and create cultural relationships between the city and the chamber of commerce, Garcia would like to redefine the city’s local presence.

“It’s important for us to have a regional presence, but I really feel one of the things we’ve gotten away from is the local presence,” Garcia said.

He believes that North Bend has tools it has not utilized, such as the chamber, to drive in the tourist economy that many are looking for.

At times, the city and chamber may not have been pulling in the same direction, Hearing said. He was favorable to Garcia stepping up as the liaison between the two organizations.

Through North Bend’s Downtown Master Plan, Pettersen would like to create a more welcoming center, increasing activity and inspiring new investments. Garcia would like to build the infrastructure and give more accessibility to both locals and visitors.

“Not only do we want people from out-of-town,” Garcia said, “but also people from town, to be able to go downtown.”

Kolodejchuk and Manelski were encouraged to run for open city committee positions and were told to stay involved in different city outlets.

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