Countryman, Burke vying for City Council seat
Incumbent Larry Countryman (left) faces challenger Lea Anne Burke for a seat on the Snohomish City Council.
SNOHOMISH — City Councilman Larry Countryman wants another four-year term, while challenger Lea Anne Burke wants her shot at helping govern the city.
This is Burke’s first run for City Council, but was nearly appointed to the council last year: a tiebreaker vote gave the seat to Felix Neals. Burke’s day job is as a planner for the Tulalip Tribes government. Her interest is in natural spaces. She volunteered for 11 years on the city’s parks board, spent time as president of the Snohomish Parks Foundation and served on multiple other Snohomish citizen boards. She currently chairs the six-member Snohomish County Noxious Weed Control Board.
Countryman is a business owner, most prominently for running the Countryman B&B from 1984 to 2019. City watchdogs most recently put heat on Countryman over permitting issues with his properties on Maple Avenue.
Countryman has won and lost elections in 40-plus years of politics. He won election to a fourth term on City Council in 2017; he also had two terms from 1976 to 1983 and a third term from 2003 to 2007. Karen Guzak, who had been knocking on the door in mid-2000s city politics, ousted Countryman in his 2007 re-election bid. He lost a 2015 city council rematch against Guzak. He’s also made runs for the state Legislature and for County Executive in 1983.
The Tribune asked both candidates five questions and is reprinting their answers.
What are the city’s largest priorities right now?
Countryman: First, protect our small town nature. Snohomish is small but our community reaches far beyond the City. Snohomish is their friendly hometown too. Nearby cities were charming until aggressively expanding with massive development. Second, let’s finally bring Harvey Airport and other businesses into the City as prescribed under State law. Until then, County zoning allows marijuana stores, junk yards, etc.
Burke: Providing quality infrastructure, public safety in all of its categories (i.e. health, traffic, racism, etc.) and responding to COVID-19.
Yes or no: Should the city act today to allow denser residential in parts of town as one way to encourage affordable housing?
Countryman: Housing affordability is a regional crisis. Snohomish shouldn’t fix everyone’s problems when we’ve done everything right! 60% of our housing is single-family, 40% multifamily. Surprisingly, 10% is subsidized. Let’s keep 3-story maximum heights. I helped create the 1970s Historic Residential District to rescue Snohomish and its old homes (8 restored by me). Keep the course! Other cities should learn from us.
Burke: Yes. I believe there is room for infill within the framework of existing infrastructure, the expansion of which is expensive and distruptive. I support the changing of single family zoning definitions to allow for a diversity of housing types: duplexes, triplexes, multi-generational housing, etc.
For parks, what specific areas should the city devote more resources?
Countryman: With many parks, Snohomish is itself a park (tree lined streets and Victorian homes). In 1978, I helped save our Historic Downtown from demolition and cheap malls! Working with businesses, I’m prioritizing a First Street redesign, wider sidewalks, protection of Snohomish’s character, and a Riverfront Trail extension to Pilchuck Julia Landing. I promote great parks but not gouging taxpayers.
Burke: Maintenance and operations, controlling invasive species, developing more pedestrian and bike trails and access, developing Homestead Park, water quality of Blackman’s Lake and the Pilchuck and Snohomish rivers, and planting more trees.
What is Snohomish lacking, and what steps would you take to try to change this?
Countryman: Snohomish is lacking a Council majority that understands who we are as a community, and why this town is a special place. The people here are what make Snohomish special. We need a Council that represents us, not trying to fix us. I don’t appreciate them suggesting our small city is racist. You are the most friendly, welcoming community!
Burke: We have challenges related to affordable housing, homelessness, racism and social divisiveness, pedestrian safety, and the impacts of climate change. We need to re-evaluate our residential zoning codes, a more comprehensive sidewalk plan and a commitment to a Safe Routes to Schools program, promote inclusiveness and accountability, and aggressively prepare for climate change.
What is your No. 1 goal you hope to see for Snohomish’s near-term future through being on the City Council?
Countryman: Local small businesses are extremely important to our success because they fund most of the City’s basic services. I will represent your small town values, enhance your welcoming culture and continue promoting a business-friendly environment as a trustworthy steward of your City finances, public safety, utilities, streets and great parks. That’s what I have done and will continue to do.
Burke: Changing the tone of our community discourse by promoting science, equity, inclusiveness, and public responsibility.
Calling all Snohomians
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