Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher has been a fixture in Snoqualmie politics for the past decade, and his retirement in December means the city will get...
Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher has been a fixture in Snoqualmie politics for the past decade, and his retirement in December means the city will get a new leader — the first time in eight years since Fletcher was elected.
Squaring off in the November race are City Councilman Matt Larson and political newcomer James “Greg” Harrelson.
They have different views on how to deal with the city’s projected $2 million budget shortfall, which is expected to hit by 2010 when one-time revenue from the construction of the Snoqualmie Ridge housing development disappears.
Here’s a look at the two candidates:
James “Greg” Harrelson
Contention stirred this year among residents when the council began considering whether to stick with its 102-year-old Police Department or join a dozen incorporated cities that contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office for police services.
James “Greg” Harrelson, 43
Occupation: Group program manager at Microsoft
Personal: Married; one son
Background: Originally from Dallas. Harrelson has managed teams at Microsoft responsible for revenue in excess of $250 million. He now trains senior managers on leadership, communications and software-development methodologies
Top three endorsements: Snoqualmie Police Association; Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher; longtime resident Gloria McNeely, a board member of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Society
Campaign Web site: www.gregformayor.com
Matt Larson, 44
Occupation: Residential architect; stay-at-home dad
Personal: Married; four children
Background: Elected to City Council in 2001. On the parks board from fall 1999 to summer 2000 and on planning commission from summer 2000 to December 2001. Chairman of Public Works Committee and member of Community Relations Committee from 2002 to 2003. Chairman of Finance and Administration Committee and member of Planning and Parks Committee from 2004 to present
Top three endorsements: The Affordable Housing Council; five members of the Snoqualmie City Council; Duane Johnson, planning commissioner
Campaign Web site: www.mattformayor.com
Harrelson says he’s committed to maintaining Snoqualmie’s Police Department by cutting costs elsewhere and bringing in more revenue.
Harrelson, a group program manager at Microsoft, said a local police force was one of the top reasons that drew him to Snoqualmie five years ago from North Bend, which contracts for police services with King County.
When he lived in North Bend, he said, he called the police about an incident and it “took 45 minutes for an officer to arrive.”
Harrelson said there are ways to bring in more revenue to offset the lack of the one-time revenue stream that will dry up in 2010. The Police Department annually issues about $140,000 in traffic tickets — but all of that money winds up going to the city of Issaquah because it has a municipal court to process the fines, he said.
Harrelson suggested Snoqualmie create its own municipal court, which, he says, “will more than pay for itself” in the long run.
“It’s another revenue stream that could support [public-safety] services,” he said.
He says businesses aren’t moving to Snoqualmie because of restrictive business licensing rules and unusually strict architectural codes.
“A lot of businesses don’t want to move out here because they perceive it to be more expensive than, say, Tacoma, which offers a lot of incentives,” he said. “We need to go and find out what keeps businesses from coming here and do something to change that.”
Larson is a residential architect elected to the City Council in 2001. He lives on the Ridge and is a stay-at-home dad to four children. Among his priorities are fiscal responsibility, public safety and growth control.
Larson said he’s mainly focused on finding ways to manage the $2 million gap projected in the city’s budget five years from now. He sees three key ways to handle the fiscal challenges: voter-approved tax increases, cutting costs and reducing levels of service, and increasing the revenue/tax base through more retail and commercial growth.
“We simply cannot afford to have any excess fat,” he said. “You can’t close that big of a gap by just cutting out paper clips and [staff] retreats.”
As part of that, he wants the city to examine money spent to pay for its police services, which accounts for the biggest slice of the city’s budget. Of the city’s $7.8 million 2005 general-fund budget, $2.16 million went to police services.
While Larson says that ideally he’d like Snoqualmie to retain its Police Department, “I think it’s fiscally irresponsible to make promises to keep services local.”
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or firstname.lastname@example.org