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Applicants vie for open Maple Valley City Council position
The Maple Valley City Council burned the midnight oil Monday night interviewing and discussing candidates for the City Council Position No. 6 vacancy.
The seat was previously held by Victoria Laise Jonas who had been the longest serving member of the council but resigned her post last month due to moving outside of the city.
Nine candidates applied for the vacancy and were interviewed by the council Monday night. After concluding the main portion of the meeting the council went into executive session to discuss the candidates at approximately 10:30 p.m. and emerged and adjourned the meeting without making an appointment at 11:17 p.m.
Those who applied for the seat were Cathy Hilde, Pamela Shinsato, Leslie Burberry, Scott Travis, Katherine Turner, Christina Delia, Megan Sheridan, Sara Gilbert, and Dana Parnello.
The candidates were individually interviewed by the council, with each being given five minutes to expound upon their applications and share information about themselves with the council, then council members each had a chance to ask questions related to what the candidate had said or provided in their application. In their applications candidates were asked about why they want to be on the council, if they had any prior experience as an elected or appointed official, what strengths they would bring to the council, what their top three priorities would be as a council member, how they view the council’s role in the community, and what they view the city’s greatest challenge as.
Hilde has lived in Maple Valley for 20 years and currently serves as an alternate on the planning commission and has done extensive volunteering in the community. She listed “reducing spending” as one of her top three priorities, which Councilwoman Erin Weaver asked Hilde to expand upon.
“It has less to do with cutting where or how, what types of cuts to make, and has more to do with a thoughtful examination of where we are spending our money,” Hilde said. “Quite honestly I believe a big piece to that happens to be a real need in the city for a sense of direction, I have felt for a long time there is no clear direction the city is heading into.”
She went on to compare the city’s position to that of a skydiver jumping out of an airplane with a parachute — in the city’s case the parachute being reports, surveys, information and plans, “But we don’t seem to be pulling the rip cord,” Hilde said.
Shinsato has lived in the city for three years. She spoke about her business and education experience and her involvement in the arts, describing herself as “creative yet analytical.” She emphasized her creativity in tackling and solving challenges, not just thinking outside the box, but as she described it, “get rid of the box.” Shinsato also has extensive volunteer experience for a variety of organizations over the years and spoke about fiscal responsibility and fostering community.
When asked by Councilman Gerken why she moved to Maple Valley, Shinsato said she was looking for somewhere closer to a good dance studio for her daughter and said, “We just looked at it, fell in love with it and said, ‘This is where I need to raise my daughter.’”
Burberry, who ran against Laise Jonas for the seat in November, was next up.
“During my campaign last year I was impressed both by the concerns and the aspirations the citizens had for Maple Valley,” Burberry said.
He has lived in the city for 17 years and currently serves on the planning commission, he also has volunteer experience. “I’ve always served in one way or another,” Burberry said.
He went on to speak about his experience working with budgets and about his drive and desire to serve the city. When asked about economic development, Burberry emphasized partnerships, particularly meeting with developers to discuss both their and the city’s wants and needs, and attracting businesses to Maple Valley.
“It’s just a matter of how do you appeal to the right people at the right time and the right opportunity,” Burberry said.
He also spoke about community engagement and involving citizens with business and leadership experience.
Travis has lived in the city for nine years and has had a 30 year career in public service, serving in the Marines and law enforcement.
Travis listed “balancing economic growth with the residential, parks, and recreation areas,” as one of his top priorities on his application. When asked to expound upon that he said, “I just don’t want to see the city become too commercialized…. I just don’t want to see Maple Valley become another Covington.”
He also spoke about the importance of public safety and maintaing or even growing what the city is currently doing and about efficiently running the city government. When asked what he thought the biggest challenge to an efficient government was, Travis cited balancing financial realities with expenditures.
“Obviously there’s a lot more priorities and things the city would like to see done then the city has money to do,” Travis said. He went on to say that prioritizing those wants will be key for the city.
Turner has lived in the city for 12 years and has served with several different groups during that time. She said that she decided to apply after being encouraged by friends and family. She spoke about the importance of economic growth to her as well as the importance of parks, traffic, and sharing resources with surrounding communities.
When asked about her vision for the Legacy Site, Turner spoke about partnering with an outside group to, “create something special out here.”
As a follow-up she was asked how to pay for a project of that scale, Turner said she sported giving the community a chance to vote on a bond.
“I believe they should be given the chance to vote if they want it or not,” Turner said. “If they vote that they don’t want it then they can’t complain.”
Delia has lived in the city for eight years and spoke primarily about her desire to reach all the residents of Maple Valley. She also spoke about her business management experience both at a large business and at the small business level, and the desire to better advertise and expand services within the city.
“It’s finding what livable means to all the citizens and not just the citizens that we commonly would serve,” Delia said. “By commonly I mean your middle income family that owns a home, that’s not all the residents.”
Sheridan has lived in the city for five years and currently serves on the planning commission. She has also done other volunteer work throughout the community.
She began by reminding the council members how she has known them and worked with them in the community. She said her top priority is economic development in the city.
“For me that’s huge,” Sheridan said.
She went on to say that bringing living wage jobs to the city so people stay during the day is, “what we need.”
“I talked to many department heads,” Sheridan said. “The biggest thing that jumped out at me, sitting down with Shawn (Huntstock, finance director), is that we’re going to be at the point of budgeting by priorities.”
Sheridan also spoke about community engagement and when asked what she would do differently she said, “really going to them.”
“I was a youth leader for years,” Sheridan said. “One of the things we always lived on was you have to go to them. We are asking our residents to come to us instead of going to them.”
Gilbert has lived in the city for 16 years and serves as a city park commissioner as well as on the board of the Lake Wilderness Arboretum and is involved in other organizations in Maple Valley.
When asked about funding options Gilbert spoke about a bond or a metropolitan parks district to fund parks as well as bringing in businesses and employers for economic development. She also spoke about wanting to develop nonmotorized transportation options within the city to give residents more, and safe, options.
Parnello has lived in the city for 11 years and served on the council from 2010-11 after being appointed to an open position, and has also served on the planning commission in the past, as well as with other large organizations.
“I think I’m pretty qualified for the role,” Parnello said. “I’ve sat on the council with most of you.”
He spoke about his experience working with data as well as a master’s degree that he earned in recreation administration. His main focus, he said, would be on education and economic development, two topics he said he feels go hand in hand.
“We need to leverage what has made Maple Valley a great place to live, we need to make it a great place to work,” Parnello said.
Since the meeting was adjourned without an appointment being made, the discussion on who should fill the vacancy will be revisted for further discussion at the Aug. 4 special meeting.