Snoqualmie City Council race is on Aug. 1 primary ballot: Meet the three city candidates

  • Thu Jul 6th, 2017 7:30am
  • News

The primary election is less than a month away, Aug. 1, and Snoqualmie voters will have to choose from five candidates running for Mayor of the city, and three for City Council Position 2. To help voters with their decisions, the Record has asked each candidate to contribute to a question-and-answer session in this week’s issue.

Also, mark your calendars for the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce candidate forum, 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 11 at the Club at Snoqualmie Ridge. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. for an informal meet-and-greet with the candidates.

All candidates on the primary ballot were asked the same questions and given the same opportunity to respond.

City Council candidates were asked:

1. What made you run?

2. Growth has become a galvanizing issue in the Snoqualmie Valley, but government is limited in how it can direct private development. What role can and should a City Council member play in fostering, directing, or restricting, that growth?

3. How would you balance the demands of an increased population with the quality of life we enjoy?

4. What other areas do you see as important or emerging issues for Snoqualmie?

5. What is something the city is doing right?

Candidates answers are listed in alphabetical order, by last name.

Katherine Ross

Ross has lived in Snoqualmie for 13 years. She is currently serving on the Snoqualmie City Council, and has served as president and vice-president of the Encompass Board of Directors. She holds an MBA from Seattle University.

What made you run?

As a community volunteer for over 18 years, when a council position became available, I applied for the position. I was honored to be unanimously appointed from a pool of nine candidates. As your councilmember, my goal is to continue supporting our community and its citizens.

How can the council direct growth?

As long as businesses and homeowners comply with local development regulations, zoning and requirements, they have a right to develop their private property. The council does have some control over certain types of uses (e.g., drive-through retail), and future annexations and developments. As the council considers future projects, I will ensure a balanced approach between growth and preserving the heritage, culture and majestic beauty of Snoqualmie. I am committed to working to achieve the best outcome for our community that strives to maintain our quality of life.

How to balance growth with quality of life?

Snoqualmie has preserved its unique character and beauty while balancing growth through a Mixed-Use Plan. The plan has protected forest and wetlands, and created parks and trails for our citizens.

With over 2 million visitors annually, more tourism dollars can create an environment for local businesses to thrive. Economic development is key to diversifying city revenues and becoming less reliant upon homeowners’ property taxes. I will work to strengthen economic development while ensuring a balanced approach between growth and preserving Snoqualmie’s majestic beauty.

What other issues are emerging in Snoqualmie?

The I-90/S.R. 18 interchange transportation project will begin this fall, with scheduled completion by 2022; about 10 years earlier than previously scheduled. Safety on I-90 (exit 25) is a major problem and will continue to be an issue until the interchange is fixed. I will work to expedite temporary fixes that will improve public safety for our citizens and visitors.

Affordable workforce housing would provide homes for those employed by our local businesses and industry. Currently, 2,800 employees commute each work day to Snoqualmie. Providing more affordable housing will allow commuters to live where they work and join our community full time.

What is the city doing right?

Snoqualmie’s population has grown 150 percent since my family moved here in 2004. Mayor Larson and the council have managed this growth, while remaining a premier destination and place to live. As a result, the city has earned several awards, including fifth in the nation of “Best Places to Live” and “Top 10 Safest Cities in Washington.”

Lesley Sheppard

Sheppard is a mother of four whose career roles have included financial analyst, health and safety director of a preschool, and a director of an international children’s charity.

What made you run?

I am committed to responsible, respectful and better-planned growth. I want residents to have more say in the future of this amazing place. I’m excited about being in the primary. It’s more work, but I have a wonderful coalition of friends and neighbors to help.

How can the council direct growth?

The city holds a lot of power when it comes to growth. The City Council can vote to annex and develop land within our Urban Growth Area. Residents currently do not have much power to influence growth. While it’s true private property owners can sell any time, non-annexed development will be very low density. You can’t build a high-density project without tying into the city’s water and sewer. The voters should decide if they want annexation and the accompanying growth. City Council should be governed by the will of its residents, not the other way around.

How to balance growth with quality of life?

Snoqualmie must do a better job balancing growth. The city cannot simply build its way out of debt. Why are we building more retail space when retail vacancy is already high? Why is the city cutting down the tree buffers and setbacks that preserve the city’s rural character? Plus, new developments should always incorporate adequate developers’ fees to cover the expansion of government services, utilities, fire, police, schools, parks and road improvements that naturally accompany growth.

What other issues are emerging in Snoqualmie?

I am worried about the budget deficit Mayor Larson projected Snoqualmie would have by full build-out in 2018. How are we going to keep pace with services required for a growing population if we are in debt? Government should start with a balanced budget before going on a building spree.

I am also committed to making our government more transparent. I want residents to have the power of initiative and referendum. Major developments should be put to a vote by the people.

I also look forward to providing more venues for our city’s large and growing teenage population.

What is the city doing right?

I commend the city for many of its planning decisions in the early phases of Ridge development. The city had great foresight in building the hospital and the YMCA, two projects that had significant opposition but that proved invaluable to our community today.

A.J. Tong

Tong moved to Snoqualmie after retiring from the military in 2011. He attended the Snoqualmie Citizens Academy in 2016, which motivated him to serve on the City Council.

What made you run?

I have always felt the need to give back to my country and community. At age 17, I enlisted in the U.S. Army. It is a sense of duty I have always carried to volunteer and give back.

After considering numerous outlets to help the city, along with successfully completing the Citizens Academy, I have determined City Council to be the best fit.

I know that when I apply the leadership and knowledge that I obtained over my 17 years in the Army, both as the enlisted level and at the officer level to the position, I will be able to leave a positive impact and make a difference at the end of my term of service.

How can the council direct growth?

The highest priorities and issues of the city are:

1. Effective communication between the Mayor, City Council, city staff and with our community.

2. We need to maintain a financially viable city that enriches the lives of our residents, tenant businesses, and visiting public.

3. We need to continually take a proactive approach to maintaining and replacing our ever-growing infrastructure of the city.

I feel the best way to address these issues is by having open and transparent communications between the council and the citizens of Snoqualmie. In doing so, there needs to be every opportunity taken to allow the community to voice their concerns on matters before making decisions on their behalf. Effective use of the city’s webpage, newspapers, mailers, and public meetings allows the community an opportunity to stay informed of actions the council would be making on their behalf.

How to balance growth with quality of life?

In my humble opinion, the vision for Snoqualmie is to maintain balance between growth and development, while still expanding the small-town family feel that Snoqualmie must offer. We have several opportunities to do this and it can be done with existing tax resources and attracting local businesses to our available retail community.

What other issues are emerging in Snoqualmie?

I see public safety as an issue that has to remain on the top of our priority list. We must keep our personnel staffing and equipment at exceptional levels to provide our community with the service demands they require. As we continue to grow and flourish as a city, maintaining a solid, transparent budget in which we can forecast growth will be instrumental in not only planning but also being prepared to foresee any issues.

Proper planning and efficient use of local tax dollars will set the city of Snoqualmie apart, and that will then attract both new residents and but also businesses. We must stay educated on advancing technology both in the healthcare sector and public safety.

What is the city doing right?

I recently had the opportunity to participate in the 2016 City of Snoqualmie Citizens Academy. This program gave me and others in the academy a unique opportunity to receive an insider’s perspective on the daily operations of our city. I graduated from the academy having a better understanding of the inter-workings of the city’s departments, as well as a firm knowledge in their roles of serving our community. I would say that the city’s staff does a great job of multitasking and utilizing its resources.

During the last several years that I have lived here in Snoqualmie, I have had the privilege of seeing it flourish into a beautiful city. Investments are being made into this town that we are already seeing return on the investment, both in the residents but also in the culture. However, as we continue to grow, Snoqualmie has been able to maintain the small-town culture that I think will attract generations to come.