The most contested race in Sumner next week is the grab for the Position 1 seat on the Sumner City Council.
And the common denominator that connects them all is a desire to eliminate the apparent dysfunction they say is eroding communication between council members, the mayor and city staff members.
Two of the four candidates in the Aug. 6 primary will advance to the general election in November.
Melony Pederson said she’s frustrated with the inept ability of the city council to communicate with each other in a respectful manner.
“I’ve been pretty involved in the city and have been on the design commission since moving into town,” she said. “I’ve been able to attend council meetings and meeting with city staff. Unfortunately, it is a dysfunctional atmosphere. There is a lot of energy that goes into conversations that are not necessary.”
Incumbent Ed Hannus pointed to council members Randy Hynek and Nancy Dumas as the instigators.
“There is a lot of confrontation on city council,” Hannus said. “Everyone should be able to speak their own opinion.”
Candidate Earle Stuard, a member of the Sumner Planning Commission since 2009 who retired from a position with the City of Bellevue, said he believes his background in finance and municipality work would enable him to be a “voice of reason.”
“I’m all for a spirited debate, because everyone is entitled to their opinions,” Stuard said. “But it seems like it all ends up in personal attacks on others.”
Stuard said he believes the time has come for a new face on the city council.
“My experience has shown that (Hannus’) interaction with council has diminished over the last couple of years, and now it’s time to have a fresh, new perspective,” Stuard said.
Stuard, Pederson and candidate Jody Wilkins believe there is a disconnect between the city council and residents.
“I’ve done some doorbelling in different areas of town, and the first discussion I have is there are parts of town that feel abandoned by council,” Stuard said. “It’s very important that council be proactive in reaching out to the residents. I would be in support of any kind of program that helps council connect with residents.”
Wilkins, 42, a lifelong Sumner resident, said he’s running for the seat to help encourage leaders to pass the mantle.
“I want to get involved and develop the next generation of leaders that are willing and capable of taking what previous councils have done well and continuing that where they made good decisions and also correcting or preventing potential pitfalls,” Wilkins said.
Like Stuard, Wilkins said there is a “perceived disconnect between decisions the leadership makes and the residents.”
“Whether that is real or imagined, I believe I can be a real bridge to reconnect the residents and help with communicating out how those decisions are being made and how they impact us all, and also helping people get involved and draw them in,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins, who graduated from Sumner High School and Seattle Pacific University, lives with his wife, Stacie, and his four sons. He is a Deacon at Mars Hill Church in Federal Way and a community coordinator for the Puget Sound Blood Center.
Along with Dumas, Pederson helped to found The Table, a community forum held on the last Tuesday of each month at the Sumner Senior Center. It was formed as an outreach to the community to give residents an opportunity to speak directly to council members outside of the normal council meeting time. About 15 to 25 people attend each week, Pederson said.
Pederson said it’s been successful, but Dumas is the only council member who attends.
If elected, Pederson said she would like to start a dialogue among council members as to how to improve communication and connection with residents.
Her background is in urban planning and architecture.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.