Four years ago, candidates for Everett's City Council and mayor had a $50 million gorilla of an Everett Events Center to argue about and...

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Four years ago, candidates for Everett’s City Council and mayor had a $50 million gorilla of an Everett Events Center to argue about and concerns over public safety after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and political newcomers unseated council incumbents.

Now things are a little different.

There are fewer “issues” to debate — the events center got built and helped reinvigorate downtown, and safety fears have abated somewhat since the weeks after Sept. 11. This fall’s challengers for two council seats concede that winning Tuesday is a longshot.

But the challengers for the mayoral and council seats are trying to make their cases, saying Everett’s neighborhoods, particularly in South Everett, aren’t getting enough attention from officeholders as the council pursues large developments. Incumbents retort that Everett has a strong system of 19 neighborhood associations that are regularly heard by council members and city staff members.

Candidates for two other council positions, Paul Roberts and Drew Nielsen, are unopposed.

Mayor

Perhaps the most competitive race is for mayor, in which incumbent Ray Stephanson, 58, is facing off against 10-year Councilman Ron Gipson, 47.

Ron Gipson, 47


Occupation: Everett councilman; juvenile-corrections officer at Denney Youth Center

Personal: married with three children

Background: ran a family business (furniture store) for 10 years; has spent 10 years on the Everett City Council; member of various boards, including the local Red Cross; played fullback for the University of Washington football team, including the 1978 squad that won the Rose Bowl

Top endorsements: Everett firefighters; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 113; Everett Transit

Campaign Web site and e-mail: www.rongipson4mayor.com; rongipson@comcast.net

Ray Stephanson, 58


Occupation: Everett mayor; former Verizon executive

Personal: married with three children

Background: two years as Everett mayor; private-sector business experience; seven years on the Everett City Council in the 1980s

Top endorsements: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Snohomish County Labor Council; Machinists union

Campaign Web site and e-mail: www.ray4mayor.org; info@ray4mayor.org

Stephanson is touting his “sound business practices and experience” and his successes in the city’s top job as reasons he should be re-elected. He cited his efforts to protect Boeing jobs and keep Naval Station Everett off the federal base-closure list.

Stephanson said these are important times for Everett as the city shapes its rapid growth.

“We are really at a crossroads in our community’s history,” he said. “We have accomplished a lot in the last two years.”

But Gipson said the current administration doesn’t listen enough to the community, especially when making decisions about large developments. He said he would seek more public opinion.

“Whatever project we have, we need to let people know what’s going on,” he said.

Stephanson said that if re-elected, he’d like to continue managing the city in much the same way he has since he was elected in 2003, when then-Mayor Ed Hansen left to become the general manager of the Snohomish County Public Utility District.

Stephanson said he also has some big projects he wants to pursue. Like other candidates for city office, Stephanson is pushing for a four-year state college in or near Everett.

Gipson, however, suggested that expanding Everett Community College into a four-year institution might be a better solution. But he would like to hear what people think before decisions are made. He also wants more money go to trade and vocational schools.

Council Position 2

This race brings Charlene Rawson, a neighborhood activist who says many council members don’t participate enough in neighborhood activities, against incumbent Mark Olson, who believes the biggest issue remains how Everett is going to make room for its growing population.

Rawson said she launched her first bid for city office because she felt there wasn’t enough outreach from the City Council to the neighborhoods.

Rawson described her campaign as “grass roots” and said she originally had hoped to help with somebody else’s council campaign, but no one stepped up.

“Everybody wanted it, but nobody wanted to endure the rigors of actually challenging an incumbent,” she said. “One day I just said, ‘Somebody’s got to do it, and it might as well be me.’ “

If elected, Rawson hopes to energize neighborhoods, get them more involved in the political process and make them ready for a big emergency, such as an earthquake or terrorist attack, she said.

She also would like to see at least every other council meeting be conducted in the evening, so people who work in the daytime could attend. Currently, one meeting a month is scheduled in the evening.

Olson said Rawson’s talk about neighborhoods not being included is misleading.

“Everyone is included in the discussions,” he said.

Olson would like to see a four-year college in Everett and has pledged to continue working to make a mixed-use project along the Snohomish River a reality, saying it would be the “crown jewel of the city.”

Olson said he also would like to see additional Sounder commuter-rail service from Everett to Seattle and an investment in parks and open space over the next four years.

“I just see the potential of the city as enormous, as long as we can keep the local economy moving along and manage resources wisely at City Hall,” he said.

Council Position 3

While Councilman Arlan Hatloe falls into line with other incumbents talking about such issues as a four-year college and transportation, Jackie Minchew, a music teacher at Silver Firs Elementary School near Mill Creek, wants his candidacy to get people talking about renewable energy.

Minchew said oil is going to become increasingly scarce and that government needs to encourage people to find sustainable ways to live.

“I believe that there are energy realities coming down the pike that will impact each of us in our homes and in the way we live,” he said.

Though conceding that the City Council can have little impact on the global oil supply, he wants to encourage people to pursue “new sustainable lifestyles.”

“To the extent that a City Council member can influence that … that’s what I want to do,” he said.

Hatloe does agree it’s important that people try to conserve.

“Unfortunately, my opponent is concentrating on [future depletion of nonrenewable energy], and it’s an issue that’s a nonissue” for the council, Hatloe said.

Minchew said the second reason he is running is, like Rawson, he believes the council doesn’t hear from enough of the city.

He said most council members live in the northwest corner of the city, and he doesn’t see how they can represent Silver Lake in southeast Everett from there.

Minchew said he’d like to see a limited districting plan that would divide the city into four or five council districts with some at-large positions.

Minchew also said he could represent blue-collar, working-class people, having spent much of his life as an industrial worker in Arkansas.

Hatloe said the council has “excellent working relationships” with the neighborhood associations.

If he loses, Minchew said, he’ll likely run again.

“Running for public office has been a tremendous educational experience for me,” he said. “I don’t believe anybody should ever run unopposed.”

Brian Alexander: 425-745-7845 or balexander@seattletimes.com