By Polly Keary, Editor
The City Council of Monroe has four seats up for election this year, but only two are involved in contested races, and only one of those involves an incumbent.
Running for Position 1 are Kevin Hanford, who was first elected to the city council two years ago, and Brad Waddell, who is running for his first public office ever.
Brad Waddell, 53, is a corrections officer at the Monroe Corrections Center who has lived in Monroe since 2005. Prior to his current career, he served in the U.S. Army for 20 years as a military police officer and drill sergeant, eight of those in active duty and 12 in the reserves. He graduated from Stanwood High School in 1979, then went on to two years of community college. He is a coach in a number of high school sports, and has served on the Missions Board and as a deacon at the First Baptist Church in Monroe.
Kevin Hanford, 42, is an aircraft mechanic at Boeing, where he is currently working on the 787-9. He formerly managed Able Auto in Monroe for eight years. He grew up between Monroe and Kenmore, and has lived in Monroe for more than 18 years.
He is completing his first term in office in Monroe, where he has served in the at-large position on the council, a two-year seat.
Last week the two spoke with the Monroe Monitor on a variety of topics, ranging from political philosophy to specific current issues.
The order in which the candidates’ responses appear was decided by coin toss. The answers have been edited for length and, to the extent possible, for reasonable equality in the length of their responses.
What, in your view, is the role of the city council in city affairs?
Waddell: The role of the city council person is to serve the public, the city and the taxpayers, to listen to their concerns and act on them based on the facts given to you. It is to come to a good conclusion before you make a decision, and make sure everything is transparent and above board. Also, it is to make sure we balance the budget. Public safety is the number one concern, fire and police, and it is important to make sure school zones have traffic laws that are good, and that 911 service is excellent, and the proper care is available at medical facilities.
Hanford: Our responsibility is the budget, and making sure that the city stays in the black and stays on track. We need to make sure we are within our goals financially. We are there to govern and make sure we don’t overstep our bounds, and to make sure we do things within the guidelines of our city.
What are some things that Monroe is doing well?
Waddell: I think we are on the right track with our schools, especially the high school, in terms of it having everything it needs. I’m sure it needs more funding, but the district does well over all. We are on a good track with our community, and with some of the development, with Lowe’s and the other areas that have new shops. The baseball fields and the community center are good, and the food bank serves the population really well. And I think the churches are doing well helping the community.
Hanford: Monroe is just shining right now. We’ve got the Walmart deal closed, we’ve got Providence about ready to open, and businesses are coming to Monroe. The business that’s right across from Lake Tye is getting ready to open. We’ve done a fabulous job of marketing and getting businesses to come. And we as the council have worked hard to get us in the black and get the reserves funded.
What are some things that Monroe could do to improve?
Waddell: I would like some traffic congestion eased, with traffic lights and monitoring the problem areas closely. I’d like to see the Police Department improve with the number of full time positions they need, and enough vehicles and safety improvements, and the medical facilities staffed with all the right positions. It was good seeing bonds passed this year, and the community involvement in passing them.
Hanford: We definitely need to address the downtown area, and work together with the Chamber of Commerce and rally all of the people together to really focus on the future of the downtown and how that’s going to look. That may involve some major traffic changes, and we have got to figure out what to do with parking and restrooms.
What do you think is the best way that the council can support the downtown?
Waddell: I think having involvement with the community will help; we have parades and different functions there, and we need to have more functions in the downtown area to support the shops and owners we have, like having special days, especially on weekends, for a food market or different things like that, so people can shop and go in the stores.
Hanford: We need to definitely consider purchasing a property to put in a parking garage or a lot of some sort, and we definitely need to work together with the chamber to figure out how the city can help best. The only way I know the city can immediately help is to spend money to improve infrastructure, things like parking and restrooms, and actually spending the money to do that.
What are your thoughts on the current proposal to rezone land at east Monroe to allow for commercial development?
Waddell: I think we need to really look at it closely. Any rezone needs to really be looked at, what kind of soil it has, will the EIS ensure there won’t be landslides. The fill dirt would have to be looked at to make sure it’s good for foundations. I think a lot of studies and reports would have to be done prior to any approval. And we need to make sure the landowners all get a chance to talk about their concerns. We need to proceed very carefully in this area.
Hanford: I think we definitely need to take a strong look at the EIS study, and talk with the Planning Commission to really make sure that’s something we want to do before we rezone it, make sure that’s something we really need to do. With the river there, there are obvious concerns that have been brought up over the years. I don’t want to say we should or shouldn’t before we get a good look at the EIS and talk it all through.
The Liquor Board has released a list of towns that will be allotted a marijuana retail outlet in the wake of I-502, the initiative that legalized marijuana use and sale in the state. What are your thoughts on marijuana-related businesses in Monroe?
Waddell: I want to ensure this is nowhere near school zones. It needs to be in an area more isolated, maybe like the industrial area, and it needs to be strictly regulated to make sure they are in compliance, and we need to be making sure people going in and out secure the items they purchase and don’t use them in public or while driving. It needs to be tightly regulated and studied.
Hanford: I’m still undecided. By law, when I took the oath, I swore to uphold the constitution, and at this point, I’m having a hard time going along with what the state is saying, when I’ve taken an oath to support the constitution. There’s going to be a lot of debate, and it will take a lot of convincing to convince me to act on that.
What are your thoughts on traffic at intersections including Blueberry and Kelsey in light of the possibility of increased multi-family housing in the city?
Waddell: I think any development needs to be looked at carefully. More housing, if it’s appropriate with good easements and driveways, is good for the community. But it also needs to be affordable for the city, it needs to be done in accordance with the laws, and there needs to be studies for traffic and an EIS, and we need to make sure it goes along with the community and what people want as much as possible.
Hanford: I’m excited about that, I think it’s great. Obviously we have a traffic problem where Blueberry meets Kelsey, so we have a problem there, but the development is great. We just need to fix that traffic problem. I don’t think we are necessarily going to make that worse. There is going to have to be some major changes though. I like the idea of one-ways, a large circle of one-way streets.
What would you like Monroe residents to know about you?
Waddell: I bring new ideas and strong leadership. I’m very hardworking, I work for the DOC, and I have been there 22 years. And I learned part of that leadership in the Army. I know what leadership is. I would bring to the city council leadership, the city could trust me. I’m transparent and straightforward.
Hanford: I care for our community. I want the best for our community. I want to see us continue to succeed and stay in the black and get new businesses and grow the ones that we have here, and see our downtown revitalized.