Snoqualmie City Councilmember Peggy Shepard is one of two candidates running for mayor in this November’s election. She will be campaigning against fellow councilmember Katherine Ross. This will be the first time Snoqualmie will have a new mayor since 2005, when current Mayor Matt Larson was elected.
The Valley Record sat down with Shepard to discuss her campaign and her priorities, if elected. These statements have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: Can you tell me about your background and how that qualifies you to be mayor?
Since 2018, I’ve been on council and I was liaison for the Snoqualmie Watershed Forum until last year. I have attended almost all committee meetings in addition to all the council meetings. I’ve been in close contact with the state auditor’s office, the Department of Ecology and the Department of Health. I also joined the Washington Coalition for Open Government.
I ran for city council against a 12-year incumbent and won. Prior to that, I worked as a technical writer for business analysis and developed stories for agile software development. I’ve worked in sales, customer relationship management, and market research. I worked for Cisco, Microsoft, AT&T, T-Mobile. I’ve worked closely with VPs throughout the world, engineers, marketing, sales and finance.
I worked for the city of Hayward, which had a population of 150,000 at the time. I worked there for seven years in the building and human resource departments. While I was in the building department, I worked closely with all departments, pulling records and answering questions. In HR, I supported the labor negotiations for 13 bargaining units, maintaining records for 1,000 active employees, including personnel health, discipline and background check records.
Prior to the city of Hayward, I was on several startup teams for businesses. One business was developing testing equipment and the other was for uninterruptible power supplies. Another was market research studies.
I’ve lived in Snoqualmie since 2006. The city needs to have a better understanding regarding what’s going on environmentally for the city of Snoqualmie. I feel that the other council members are not familiar with that.
As far as education, I’ve got a bachelor of science from UC Davis in textiles, and I have certificates in business intelligence and analytics and data analysis from Bellevue College. And I have a certificate in municipal leadership.
Q: If elected, what are your biggest priorities?
Preserving and protecting the natural beauty and wildlife in our community is my top priority, and respecting the Snoqualmie Tribe. Whenever we have a quorum of city council members, when we’re considering or conducting or advising on public business, I want to offer the opportunity for public input. I also want to stop censoring public comments on topics not on the agenda and develop a public engagement toolkit such as the one that they have in the city of Issaquah.
The water plan update that they’re currently working on does not include reclaimed water, so we need to make sure that reclaimed water is part of the plan and use reclaimed water for city irrigation. I also want to restructure utility rates to encourage water conservation and save residents’ money and start inspecting water system infrastructure with a certified engineer. Especially on these large infrastructure projects, where they’re at least a million dollars, we definitely need to know that we are getting what we paid for.
Q: Mayor Larson has been there for almost 20 years. How would your administration be similar or different from his?
He’s very pro-development and we are required to do development to some minimal degree, but he always increases the amount of density when he does development. I would not be inclined to unnecessarily increase density on development. My opponent talked about how the next step would be to contact developers and encourage them to come to our city and start putting developments on parcels that are owned by the city. I would not do that. Anytime that anything is supposed to be preserved, I would maintain that natural preservation.
The reason I ran for city council is because when I first became conscious of the hotel on the Ridge, the city didn’t notify the people that lived across the street or the people who own property across the street. The city is supposed to send a letter via mail to anyone within 500 feet of a project, and I was just shocked because really the residents have no say or very little say.
Q: How would you balance any future city development projects with the need for sustainability?
If you’re trying to balance your budget by cutting down trees, then what do you do when you’ve cut them all down? You can’t grow indefinitely and that’s ridiculous. The city in the last five years has had five, especially large, development applications in progress covering 574 acres, over 1,000 houses, almost 600 apartments and 300 hotel rooms. My opponent has consistently voted to increase density on these developments and talks as if this higher density is a legal requirement. Snoqualmie is a remote location, which means it is targeted for a much smaller amount of growth. For some families, it is a time and financial burden to commute from Snoqualmie. We have empty commercial space. Why would we build more?
You gotta be realistic and look at traffic and concurrency and roads. We don’t have jurisdiction for State Route 202. We can’t expand it or decide to expand I-90 or Highway 18. Those projects are hundreds of millions of dollars.
As far as balancing the budget, we should never have been balancing the budget based on development that we don’t know whether or not it will happen. For instance, the city counted on the Salish Expansion Project happening, and it didn’t. If you want to budget based on what’s realistically possible, you need to be sure not to do it on something that’s so speculative as development.
Q: How would you support small business and economic growth?
By not putting in a lot of extra spaces. Economic growth is going to be limited as far as what we can do here without having everything grow. Right now, we’re just not in a position to develop to the point where we can promise economic growth for an unlimited number of people or an unlimited number of new businesses. Currently, we have businesses and we need to support them, and we need to make sure that we fill our empty spaces up.
Q: What infrastructure improvements do you think are the most important going forward?
The biggest one is the Snoqualmie Parkway. Right now the cost to maintain Snoqualmie Parkway is more than $6 million, and it’s paid for by Snoqualmie residents. Currently, the city already has a plan to work on the older streets, and I think that that’s an appropriate priority because the streets that aren’t traveled by larger trucks and really are not in bad shape. It’s really just that one road that is used extensively by the heavier and larger trucks.
As far as infrastructure I’m really concerned about our water system. Our water plan doesn’t include reclaimed water, and I think we need to look at that as far as water savings and water conservation. That’s a huge priority and it’s overdue.
Q: How would you engage residents and support transparency in your administration?
I want to make sure that there’s always an opportunity. For instance, the city that had all these budget meetings, lots and lots of budget meetings, and they never allowed the public to be able to speak during those meetings. Sometimes when we have a meeting that’s really contentious among the residents, the city does the least that they’re required to do by law of notifying them.
In fact, for the water plan, they had a meeting to talk about the water plan and they gave 24 hours notice just on their city’s website. That is a very contentious topic and they should have done more as far as reaching out. I would like to see our city provide more information.
Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing Snoqualmie?
The biggest issue is the lack of talking to the residents about development. Most residents, when I doorbell right now, they have no idea what’s going on in the city and it just kind of breaks my heart. I talked to a gentleman the other day, he moved here from Sammamish because the traffic is just horrendous.
We’re not there yet, but we will be at the rate that we’re developing. I’m concerned that, that gentleman will always be stuck in all this traffic and I don’t think that’s necessary. I think that it’s our elected officials that are going in the direction they want to go.
I do have people, when I doorbell, say that they’re very concerned about climate change and and they’re concerned about just the environment in general and they have been here for a very long time and they really want to try to preserve it.
Q: Why do you want to be mayor?
I want to be mayor because I have been blocked from seeing records that normally council members look at if they choose to. I’m told I’m not allowed to see them, which I think is my responsibility. It got to the point where everything started stacking up one after another, and I said, this is really going to be changing my home and impacting my neighborhood. I don’t want to see it go the direction that it’s going anymore.
I would like to see us try to preserve what we have left, and do our part as far as affordable housing. The city has not been serious about producing affordable housing. Affordability is being used as an excuse to let developers build far too much too fast. This leaves taxpayers, even those who can least afford it, with unmet infrastructure and service needs.