Quality candidates a good sign | Rich Elfers

I watched with avid interest and some surprise as seven candidates vied for the Enumclaw City Council seat vacated due to the death of Kevin Mahelona.

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  • Monday, February 18, 2013 5:54pm
  • Opinion

I watched with avid interest and some surprise as seven candidates vied for the Enumclaw City Council seat vacated due to the death of Kevin Mahelona.

Usually, in Enumclaw, city council positions have had few real races. Most of the current council have gained their seats by running unopposed. That’s why I was surprised to see so many really good candidates for the open seat. That change in attitude about serving in elected office offered hope to me that more people are interested in improving the city in a positive way.

Our current administration under Mayor Liz Reynolds has done an excellent job of creating a strong, open, well functioning government in difficult times. The number of candidates who applied for the open council position indicates to me that people feel more connected to their city and want to be more active in running it. Good

leadership attracts people who, like the mayor, are interested in quietly improving our city while at the same time maintaining our small-town charm.

The council narrowed their list to three candidates, all three competent and able to serve this city well if elected: Julie Reece-DeMarco, Kyle Diercks and Mike Sando. The first two are attorneys with experience in government; the third was a history and government teacher and union president at the high school.

I had to agree with former council colleague Jim Hogan when he said any of the three would make excellent council members. Diercks was selected for the 11-month position. He would have been my vote had I still been on the council, although it would have been difficult to decide between the three.

I met Kyle and his wife Kari at the centennial dinner at the fieldhouse two weeks before the final council selection. The next day Kyle and I sat down at the Mountain Aire Mercantile, a downtown business that he and Kari own and operate. We talked for an hour about our lives and my experience on the council.

Kyle told me he had lived, studied and worked in Asia and Europe for several years. That interested me because I taught a course on Asian history for seven years and had toured Japan as an educational intern. We shared experiences and impressions about that area of the world.

Kyle has an undergraduate degree in government, besides his law degree emphasizing international law. I think this background would be very helpful working as a city councilman. Understanding how the law is formed and interpreted is a real asset when sitting in committee meetings discussing various ordinances and resolutions that come before the council.

Additionally, Kyle runs another business, Brand Bodega, out of a back room in the Mercantile while Kari runs the store. He works with corporations, helping them develop a brand strategy based upon their customer experience, making them distinct from other companies. This can be very important in increasing business.

Having observed some negative reactions when our previous mayor tried to brand Enumclaw as an equestrian center, I understand that getting the right identity for a city is extremely important to help bring in vital tourist dollars to downtown. I think Kyle’s expertise is something the city of Enumclaw could use. We need to revive downtown Enumclaw and a proper brand could be very important in that effort.

Finally, two things about Kyle’s dedication to his children impressed me. First, of all the places in the world he had lived and visited, he and Kari chose Enumclaw to raise their children.

And second, he was concerned that his children have the opportunity to experience nature firsthand. He wanted his children to be able to be around farm animals and still live in town.

That was one sticking point for him when asked by the council whether he would consider running in November. Since the city’s recent annexation rules about farm animals has changed to allow them in town, that should not be an issue for Kyle.

Good government comes from competent, caring people who are willing and able to work together with other elected officials who act and think differently than they do. The ability to tolerate and appreciate differences makes a city grow in positive ways.

The large number of candidates to fill the vacant council seat should be encouraging to us all that Enumclaw is moving in the right direction toward being an even better place to live.


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