Candidates running for Snohomish mayor have ideas for city
SNOHOMISH — Four candidates are running for the executive strong mayor position and after the Aug. 1 Primary, two will remain.
Of the four people running for strong mayor, there is more than meets the eye.
These four individuals, each familiar with city government from their unique perspectives, are: Derrick Burke, Karen Guzak, John
T. Kartak, and Elizabeth Larsen.
Burke and Guzak are current City Council members that have been tackling city issues like transparency and marijuana for the
past few years, while Kartak and Larsen are new to politics, but have their own spin on how to approach a campaign and Snohomish issues.
All four have committed to a League of Women Voters-sponsored debate and forum scheduled for Thursday, June 29 at 5:15 p.m. in the Snohomish Library.
The public can observe them and also ask questions.
Before then, one can read here about some of the candidates’
ideals for Snohomish and why they seek the strong mayor position as Snohomish undergoes a government restructure later this year.
The city is transitioning from a Council-City Manager government to a Mayor-Council government structure with a strong mayor as the city’s executive in charge.
The people of Snohomish will elect, from among these four candidates, who will be in charge.
Snohomish hasn’t had a strong mayor since 1972.
Question: Why Are You Running?
Derrick Burke, 45, a owner/operator of Puget Sound Woodworking and current city councilman, said he is running because he thinks Snohomish needs an independent, realist candidate.
“I’m running because I genuinely believe I’m the right one for the job,” Burke said. “I’ll be able to work at this full-time. By most measures, people can think of me as the most independent and non-partisan candidate and I think that’s what this town needs right now.”
Karen Guzak, 78, a yoga teacher/owner of Yoga Circle Studio and current city councilwoman, said she is running because she thinks she is the best candidate for the job.
“That’s my ego speaking, but I think it’s the truth - I’m the best candidate and I have the most experience not only in the city, but also in the county with my work with several committees; my efforts have been to keep small-town values and promote our history and vitality while on City Council, and I think I’ve worked well with Snohomish’s best interest in mind,” Guzak added.
Guzak is also the former weak mayor of Snohomish, but stepped down in February.
John T. Kartak, 51, a “semi-retired general contractor,” said he is running because he said there needs to be change in the city’s government representation in making it more direct.
“There are three main changes I’m focusing on,” Kartak said. “To bolster up small town values, to return full transparency to government and to return full representation of the voters and community members.”
Elizabeth Larsen, 45, a senior environmental planner with the county, said she is running because she thinks she can bring some positivity to the table.
“I think I could definitely make a difference running for office and have been looking to get into city government for a while,” Larsen said. “I want to be more of a positive influence on the local politics and city policies, so I’m trying to cannonball into the middle of this and say ‘Hey everyone! I’m here and I want to get involved!’”
Question: What Do You Think of Government Restructure?
Burke, who voted with the rest of City Council to formally oppose Prop. 2, said he never had strong feelings about it, but sees it as the will of the people.
“The pros and cons are the same: It makes the mayor more politically responsive, and the downside is, it makes the mayor more politically responsive,” Burke said. “Out of the people running, I see myself the most thick-
skinned about that stuff. I’ve been hearing people saying they were against it, that voters didn’t know what they were voting for, and I don’t believe that. They know what they voted for and they wanted the change. If I win, I’m going to make changes.”
Guzak, who campaigned heavily against Prop. 2, has accepted the outcome and
now wants to steer the ship as the city goes through the waters of change.
“All seven of us councilmembers were against the restructure because we thought we had a very functional city government but when I looked at it, I thought I should step forward,” Guzak said. “Because for the positive direction we seem to be going, I want to maintain the continuity. There are projects the city is working on and I want to keep it positive and keep it going and I think we’ve accomplished a lot.”
Kartak, who helped cam-paign for Proposition No. 2 to change the city’s government structure, still believes in it.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” Kartak said. “While I do respect those that didn’t agree with it, we’re going to choose someone who is hired and elected by the voters, a strong mayor. This makes it more direct - and I believe in direct representation.”
Larsen, who said she voted against Prop. 2 as a Snoho-mish voter last year, said it could be a good change if she can have anything to do with it.
“Now we have this mayor position, it’s important we find someone who supports community activities, can manage the staff and plan for emergencies,” Larsen said. “I think the city is great, and would help with the change. I’ve been involved with planning and development, and with emergency planning, which I think should also be a focus apart from the restructure.”
Question: What Are Your Goals as Mayor?
Burke said his goals as mayor are part of an over-arching theme of better fiscal management and more
“People are concerned about growth and affordability here,” Burke said. “So there needs to be better management of the city’s budget, of projects, more community programs funding and I’d want to look at our procedures for city committees. One of the other big comments I’ve been asked more than one time is, what right does (the city) have to raise taxes and fees for economic development and essentially discretionary projects, when we are banning state-legal industries that could help pay for it?”
Guzak said she wants to keep things going strong, and has been talking to several people as she canvasses the community.
“I’m hearing that people are concerned for this change for government and what voters will decide about retail marijuana,” Guzak said. “We have big issues coming up. Whatever City Council de-cides to do, there’s going to be a whole lot of unhappy people either way. I’m glad we’ve waited until now to see how other cities are doing, and
now we can make a more informed decision and the (marijuana) advisory vote
will help clarify to council what we need to do.”
Kartak said he has many goals, if elected mayor, but one of the bigger issues remains the homelessness and drug epidemic.
“There are souls who are living on the streets in grow-
ing numbers who need to be saved and on the flip side of that, it’s not just them suffering, it’s the whole community,” Kartak said. “As a member of the Snohomish Neighborhood Watch Coalition, it’ll be important to promote the small-town values and get neighbors involved. Perhaps provide a space, like in Lake Stevens that has a family service center that’s geared towards helping them find services. For these small communities, these are solution centers like they’re all connected and incredibly helpful. A lot of people think that it’s an ‘either/or’: Either law enforcement will solve this problem, or the government agencies will. It’s really a balance there.”
Larsen said she would want to tackle hearing more about citizen issues via town-hall meetings.
“I’ve been to several city council meetings and having citizens get up and voice their opinions is really important,” Larsen said. “With town-hall meetings, we can get more back-and-forth dialogue and allow people to speak their minds for more than three minutes. I want to have conversations and connect with people. That way we can discuss any neighborhood-area issues and share information. I think it’s important to hear more from the people in a more interactive way.”
Voter ballots will be mailed out July 13 and the last day to register to vote is July 24. The August Primary is Aug. 1, and the General Election is Nov. 7.
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