Beckwith, Dean square off in Enumclaw
April 30, 2009 · Updated 4:25 PM
By Kevin Hanson, The Courier-Herald
Two very visible candidates, each with an extensive record of service to the community, are battling for a post on the Enumclaw City Council.
Voters will make their decision when going to the general election polls on Nov. 4, choosing either Jeff Beckwith or Athena Dean to fill the Position 4 seat on the council.
A 14-year resident of the city, Beckwith currently serves on the City Council, although this is his first time going before the public. Following the death of councilwoman Nell Cole, he was appointed in October 2000 to fill the vacancy.
Beckwith came to the council from inside the city family, moving up from a position on the Park Board. He also was a co-founder of the city's Urban Forestry Board, is a member of the Washington Community Forestry Council Executive Committee and is a member of the Foothills Trails Coalition.
"I've loved it, I really have," Beckwith said of his year-long council experience. "It's been exciting, intense and challenging."
One of the things Beckwith has enjoyed is learning about all aspects of city government and the dynamic relationship between departments. Given his professional background (an arborist and department manager for Puget Sound Energy) and his work for the Park Board, "people think I'm the tree guy or the park guy," Beckwith said, explaining that's not true. A year on the job has allowed him to gather information about all city operations, he said.
Beckwith said his primary goal "is to get the city into a better financial state." The council had to take a hard stance last year, making some serious cutbacks, and he doesn't see that happening again. "The city is pretty lean and mean right now," he said.
Financially, Beckwith is definitely opposed to asking residents for more. "We're taxed enough already," he said. He believes the city can increase revenues by lifting the current moratorium on utility connections before the wastewater treatment plant project is finished, so developers are ready to begin as soon as possible. Also, he feels putting an emphasis on the highway corridor would lead to greater financial opportunities for merchants and increased revenues for the city. "I'd like to see 410 look like downtown," he said, noting the highway businesses now provide a hodge-podge appearance that's not likely to convince passing motorists to stop.
A key element to making the state Route 410 corridor more appealing, he said, is development of the trail system now in the works. An active trail, visible to passing motorists, would create a positive impression, Beckwith said, and that, it turn, leads to people stopping and spending some time (and money) in Enumclaw.
Beckwith said his post with Puget Sound Energy has provided good training for his council work, as he is charged with overseeing a municipal budget. "It's very similar to trying to manage the city's budget," he said, "and unlike private business."
Dean believes she has the entrepreneurial spirit that could help Enumclaw grow and prosper without hounding the public for additional tax dollars. As the owner of WinePress Publishing, a downtown business, she sees the need for a vibrant downtown and an ongoing need to creatively increase revenues for the city.
She cites her own experience as a prime reason to believe in Enumclaw. Since moving her business from Mukilteo more than five years ago, she has cut overhead expenses by 50 percent. Upon relocating, Dean started getting involved, and has served on the city's Park Board, is a member of Rotary Club and is active with the Enumclaw Downtown Partnership (where she chairs the Economic Restructuring Committee).
One reason for seeking the council seat, Dean said, is a belief that business owners need to be better represented in city government. "It's an important viewpoint," she said. "We need to be creative, to have an entrepreneurial attitude that doesn't always stay in the box."
At the heart of Dean's campaign is the message that the city needs to be innovative when it comes to generating additional revenues. A goal would be to continually market the city as a "destination," rather than someplace to pass through on the way to Mount Rainier or an event at the county fairgrounds. The goal is to bring additional dollars to city merchants and, in turn, tax revenues to city coffers.
Also, Dean feels there's an existing perception that Enumclaw is difficult to deal with, for anyone looking to develop a business. "I'm not sure where that perception came from," she said, "but we need to become more customer-friendly." If the process of getting needed permits is at all difficult, she said, it needs to be streamlined.
As a book publisher, Dean is a proponent of seeing the city library return to a six-day schedule. Budget constraints a year ago led to the library being closed on Fridays and only open five days per week.
Kevin Hanson can be reached at email@example.com