The situation in Woodinville leading up to the Nov. 8 general election and the four City Council races on the ballot is fairly straightforward...

Share story

The situation in Woodinville leading up to the Nov. 8 general election and the four City Council races on the ballot is fairly straightforward:

A bunch of new guys want to throw the old guys out.

The differences largely come down to people who think the city has done well since its incorporation in 1993 and a group that thinks it often has been a miserable failure.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

Incumbents point to how Woodinville has developed in the years since incorporation, building more retail areas, public amenities such as City Hall and a multiscreen movie theater, along with developing a six-year transportation plan, adopting a comprehensive plan to deal with growth and keeping a sewage plant from being built downtown.

Challengers argue that the city’s traffic is intolerable, that it has a flawed growth strategy that will allow it to far exceed its target population, and that the City Council rubber-stamps staff recommendations with little critical analysis.

In a reflection of how the world is changing, much of the fight has moved from street signs to the Internet. That’s where dividing lines are bluntly laid out, at a site titled, which is paid for by the Woodinville Citizen’s First Campaign.

Candidates forum

Woodinville City Council candidates will take part in a forum from 6-8 p.m. today at the Hollywood Schoolhouse, 14810 N.E. 145th St. The forum, hosted by The Woodinville Weekly and the League of Women Voters, will be moderated by Tony Ventrella, local sports broadcaster. Each candidate will give a two-minute introductory speech and will be asked up to eight questions.

“… we will have a collapsed road system, the developers will be long gone, the city planners will have found new employment and we will be left to clean up and pay for the devastation that’s left,” the site argues, blaming “old school candidates” for “the problem.”

Position 1 Chuck Price, 51

Occupation: Civil engineer

Personal: Married; three children

Background: Present city councilman (elected in 2001); former Public Works director and city engineer in North Bend; now a consultant to seven cities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties

Top endorsements: None listed

Campaign Web site:; e-mail

Gareth Grube, 60

Occupation: Consulting civil engineer

Personal: Married; two children

Background: Former city councilman (2001-03); now a planning commissioner; consulting engineer with a Kirkland firm often involved in municipal projects

Top endorsements: None listed

Campaign e-mail:

Position 3 Hank Stecker, 50

Occupation: Loan officer

Personal: Widowed; one son

Background: Planning commissioner; member of tourism task force; transit-oriented development committee

Top endorsement: Master Builders Association

Campaign Web site:

Randy Ransom, 49

Occupation: Operations manager, Bellevue Parks Department

Personal: Married; two children

Background: Former city councilman (1998-2001); mayor for two years

Top endorsements: Cascade Bicycle Club, Woodinville Firefighters Association

Campaign Web site: None

Position 5 Mike Roskind, 45

Occupation: Homeland-security consultant

Personal: Married; two children

Background: Former naval officer, Seattle police officer and Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy; served on city advisory panel for park-and-ride lot; Woodinville Citizen Corps coordinator

Top endorsements: King County Republican Party

Campaign Web site:

Bob Miller, 60

Occupation: Vehicle fleet manager for Seattle police

Personal: Married; two children

Background: Present city councilman (elected in 1993); former mayor and deputy mayor

Top endorsements: Seattle Police Management Association; Woodinville Firefighters Association

Campaign Web site: None

Position 7 Don Brocha, 54

Occupation: Software engineer

Personal: Married; two children

Background: Present city councilman (elected in 1993); two terms as mayor

Top endorsements: None listed

Campaign Web site:

Peter Tountas, 71

Occupation: Retired engineer; inventor

Personal: Married; no children

Background: Storm-water committee, community clubs, homeowners association

Top endorsements: King County Republican Party

Campaign Web site:

The challengers cite the council’s support for King County’s planned Brightwater sewage-treatment plant north of the city, allowing what they say is unchecked growth, the size of the city’s staff and building a new City Hall as among the reasons to defeat the incumbents.

Residents then are urged to vote for Chuck Price, Hank Stecker and Mike Roskind, along with write-in candidate Peter Tountas.

Price is the only incumbent endorsed by the challengers.

On the other side are candidates who have long been involved with Woodinville and pride themselves on what the city has become.

They are Gareth Grube, a former council member who’s running again; Randy Ransom, also a former member; Bob Miller, who has been on the council since the city was formed; and Don Brocha, the mayor and also a member since incorporation.

The incumbents have a nearly universal reaction to the arguments of the challengers.

“They are sending a mixed message,” said Brocha. “Is it Brightwater? Is it traffic? Is it growth?”

On each campaign issue, he notes that the city has taken steps to cope with the difficulty.

There’s a six-year road plan that lays out a variety of traffic solutions. A growth strategy is to direct development toward downtown, revitalizing that area and protecting neighborhoods. Staff size is driven by factors such as whether to handle work through the city or to contract out, he said, and Woodinville needed a new City Hall.

The former school used as City Hall was “boiling hot in the summer and freezing in the winter,” he said. “It served us well for eight or nine years.”

Here’s a position-by-position look at the races:

Position 1

Grube vs. Price

Price has been a public-works director and city engineer in other cities and now works for a Seattle engineering firm.

Grube was appointed to the council in 2001 and defeated in 2003.

“I think not all the incumbents feel a need to connect with the people they represent,” said Grube. “I don’t think the incumbent listens, or he listens but doesn’t pay attention.”

Grube says Price doesn’t go to retreats or serve on regional groups.

“He’s not there,” said Grube, who also says that putting a moratorium on building permits, as advocated by, is sure to result in more problems, including legal fights.

“I know how things work, why things are the way they are,” Grube said. “I don’t think he values people and meeting them like I do. You can persuade me.”

Price acknowledges that he doesn’t appear in an annual city basset-hound parade.

“You won’t see me on that float,” he said. “The job is not kissing babies. I’m an engineer, trying to do the best for our city. This isn’t a boys-and-girls club. This is serious stuff.”

Price wants the council to focus on transportation, financial responsibility, encouraging more public participation in issues facing the city and getting a better handle on growth.

He notes that three years ago he worked on a Kenmore city-staffing study and found that the city has 18 employees, while Woodinville has 54, leading to his argument that Woodinville is overstaffed.

Position 3

Ransom vs. Stecker

Stecker says he wants to see some simple changes, like improvements to highways 522 and 202, improving the connection between downtown and the wine area to the south, and revitalizing downtown, which could include condos.

Stecker says there are issues other than traffic, “but that’s the one everyone’s hot on.”

“I do believe in infrastructure,” he added.

“I think we need to increase the service levels. The city needs to be aggressive and go down to Olympia [to lobby for increased state funding]. Woodinville has some serious ingress and egress problems that need to be resolved,” he said.

Stecker says evidence of poor decisions is obvious, including a new City Hall and staff sizes.

“I call it the Taj City Hall, and you can quote me on that,” he said. “I think we’ve become ‘staff for staff’s sake.’ “

Ransom said he’s not too interested in the observations made by his opponents and that he has his own strategies and goals, particularly when it comes to traffic. He says the city’s traffic problem is a regional issue that the state needs to address.

“It’s interesting that they’re throwing me into that lot,” he said. “My strategy is just to reach out to the people. My passion is customer-service oriented.”

Ransom said his skills come through cooperation.

“I’m good at leadership, consensus,” he said. “The council is a team of players. That’s what I’m about.”

Ransom served on the council from 1998 to 2001, choosing not to seek re-election then because of personal matters.

“I’m ready to get back to work,” he said. “My passion didn’t go away.”

Ransom shakes his head at suggestions that City Hall is too nice.

“The City Hall complex was planned for many years,” he said. “It was pretty much driven by the inability of staff to function in the old school building.”

Position 5

Miller vs. Roskind

Miller says he wants to continue on the council partly because he takes satisfaction in what Woodinville has accomplished and he wants to see more of the same. He points to the city now having an identity and being a desirable place to live, and says two improvements he wants to work on are roads and parks.

“I want to make sure things keep moving forward,” said Miller. “I’m interested in doing what’s best for the people. That’s the only reason I’m here. It’s not an ego thing. It’s not for ego-maniacs.”

Roskind said he got interested in city politics partly through trying to establish neighborhood-watch programs, but found the City Council was grappling with growth issues and had plans to “explode” the city population.

“I’m going, ‘What are you guys going to do about traffic?’ ” he said. “They said, ‘It’s under control.’ That’s not a believable answer. It became clear there was a problem.”

Roskind mentions low-angle speed bumps in neighborhoods as something that might help, but acknowledges that he has no magic solution.

“I honestly don’t have the answer to the traffic problem, and I don’t claim I do.”

But, he says, “That little group down there, they vote against the interests of the community as a matter of course. Whether I get elected or I don’t get elected, I’ve made my point. People are talking.”

Position 7

Brocha vs. Tountas

Until about the middle of September, Brocha thought he wouldn’t have to campaign, since no one had filed against him.

Then signs began going up and brochures were distributed, urging voters to write in Tountas.

Brocha and Tountas offer similar descriptions of what led to the ballot battle.

“My guess is the other three guys talked Peter into running,” said Brocha.

Tountas, in effect, said that’s true.

“I could see myself as the only guy on the council with my kind of ideas,” he said of not filing to run. But after the others filed, he decided to campaign.

As for the state of the city, “What’s so terrible?” Brocha asks. He contends that Woodinville has successfully dealt with its challenges.

“I think Brightwater is part of this that got some of the community mad,” he said of the planned King County sewage-treatment plant north of Woodinville.

Yet the truth, he said, is that Woodinville successfully avoided having the plant built downtown.

Yet where Brocha sees successes, Tountas sees difficulties.

“We feel the public was not heard on Brightwater,” said Tountas.

“I think there’s some really silly fiscal responsibility on the council,” he said, noting that he attends about 95 percent of City Council meetings.

He lists a variety of what he believes are problems, including city staff dictating policy and a concern that Woodinville’s mix of “country living, city style,” is disappearing.

Tountas suggests that such things as 3-D modeling and a building moratorium would allow the city to see exactly what growth would bring.

“Let’s take a deep breath for a couple of months,” he suggested.

Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or