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Johnson on top in Buckley primary

By Shawn Skager

The Courier-Herald

And then there were two.

With the results of the Sept. 20 primary now official, the race for the mayor of Buckley has been whittled down to two candidates - three-term incumbent John Blanusa and longtime councilmember and Planning Commission member Pat Johnson.

Buckley voters followed the trend in other local cities, such as Orting and Bonney Lake, by giving the most votes to non-incumbents.

In Buckley, Johnson snagged 366 ballots for 39.19 percent of the vote as opposed to Blanusa's 309 votes, or 33.08 percent. (Numbers current as of Monday).

According to Johnson, she is not surprised by the voters' choice.

"I worked really hard and did a lot of doorbelling," she said. "I was beginning to get a feeling there was a chance for me to beat Mr. Blanusa. I was beginning to get a feeling that there was a chance I could win, because of the questions that a lot of people had. I felt they were ready for a change.

"A lot of people thought that 12 years was a long time to be mayor," she continued. "I think a lot of people, not just in Buckley, are disenfranchised. They want change, they're not sure what changes they want, but they want change."

Although this primary is the first that Blanusa has trailed since he was elected 12 years ago, he said that he wasn't surprised by his second-place finish.

"No, (I'm not surprised) not really," he said. "I didn't promise things I can't keep. I don't want to be another Bonney Lake. Because I think that's where we're heading - welcome to Bonney Lake East.

"Look at what's happened in Bonney Lake and Orting," he continued. "They put up all those houses and no roads. Now they've got traffic problems."

Johnson agreed that balancing the growth in Buckley is the primary issue in the mayor's race.

"Growth is the big issue, what we need now is to get our ducks in a row," she said. "We need to get the new sewage treatment plant online.

Johnson said that her concern with not moving ahead on the sewage plant upgrade was that the city might lose some of its federal and state funding, forcing Buckley taxpayers to foot the bill.

"We don't want to do that," she said. "Having to redo the plant has bought us some time. It's giving us time to get everything in order."

According to Blanusa his main concern was that without his leadership and fiscal knowledge, development in Buckley would spin out of control without the proper amount of infrastructure to support it.

"What I want to do is just keep the bills down for the people," he said. "What we're inviting is out of control growth, by putting a too big of a sewer plant with more capacity then we need. We're inviting unlimited growth. The pillage is about to begin."

Johnson, however, said that she thought development was necessary - with the right guidance.

"The developers who come to Buckley need to come on our terms not theirs," she said. "We need to understand that their business is to make money. We just need to make sure that they don't make too much money at the expense of our taxpayers."

Now that the primary is over, Johnson said the main thrust of her campaign will be getting out and talking to the citizens.

"Now it's just getting out and talking to be people listening to what they want," she said.

Despite the closeness of the primary, Blanusa said he was content with letting his last three terms in office speak for him.

"It's a pretty nice town now, that's why everybody wants to move here," he said. "I do what I can for the people. That's all I care about, nothing else."

Shawn Skager can be reached at sskager@courierherald.com.

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