City Councilmember Jim Kamp is challenging Thomas for the mayor's seat.
City Councilmember Jim Kamp is challenging Thomas for the mayor's seat.

Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas met last Tuesday with challenger and City Councilmember Jim Kamp for one of the two public forums.

The mayoral candidates fielded questions on growth management and economic development during the annual Monroe Chamber of Commerce elections forum last Tuesday at the Rock Church. Both were given three minutes for opening remarks, and then provided a brief closing statement.

“My platform is simple,” Kamp said. “I want to see Monroe become the center point for east Snohomish County; I want us to lead in business, education, entertainment and activities. We have three highways coming into town, a passionate and capable citizenry, and pride in our accomplishments. What we need is opportunities.”

Kamp said he believes the city needs a change in direction, and that he has the vision and ability to make that happen.

The candidate’s background is in database administration and project management. He was a project manager at Boeing in Everett, and has lived in Western Washington his entire life. He moved his family to Monroe in 1996. After arriving, he volunteered with the Monroe School District and at his church.

Kamp was first elected to the council in 2011. He won by the closest margin in Monroe’s history — two votes took the election. Before filling the council seat, he was on the city’s planning commission.

Thomas spent six years on the council before winning the mayor’s seat in 2013. He obtained a degree in planning at the University of California-Davis, where he met his wife, Lara, in 1992. The couple moved to Monroe because it is a great place to raise a family, he said.

“I really value my time serving as your mayor; I listen to my community, I lead through partnerships and other organizations, and I deliver on projects and initiatives,” he said.

Thomas has worked in the public and private sector. For the past nine years he has been employed as a senior legislative analyst for the Snohomish County Council. He has worked as a firefighter, was the planning commissioner in Olympia, acted as volunteer church leader, coached, and has experience in the private sector.

Both Kamp and Thomas were asked to address their stance on the projected growth in Monroe and what infrastructure is needed to prepare for further expansion. More than 6,000 people are expected to move into the city within the next 18 years.

Kamp said during his door-to-door campaigning he asked residents if they would be willing to pay more in taxes to complete the projects outlined in the city’s Monroe Transportation Benefit District, which was adopted in 2012.

More than one person asked to have their approval put in writing, Kamp said. Aside from infrastructure, he said, the city needs better dining and entertainment options.

Thomas said he has already been working ahead. It is why he prioritized the 191st Avenue Southeast extension project, the design of which is slated to begin next year. He said the city has already been investing in roads, sewer and water, and setting money aside through the fees paid to the city by developers.

Thomas said he has and will continue to work on bringing more business into town, and to support the manufacturing and industrial park. He wants to see more growth along U.S. Highway 2, and create a destination where people want to come recreate and shop.

He said he wants to see Monroe residents working in town. That means more employment opportunities must be made available, he said.

The city would need a more robust economic advisory group to make sure that happens, Kamp said. He said a commission would be more effective than the “study group,” referring to the Economic Development Advisory Board the city council recently approved.

Kamp said he wants to revive the role of economic development manager, a position that was eliminated when Thomas took office. Monroe needs someone that can really market the city full-time as a viable destination, he said.

Thomas has told the Monitor his priorities would remain public safety, fiscal responsibility and transportation improvements, if reelected. He brought forth the idea for the city’s embedded social worker last year, and has worked to bring other projects into downtown through local partnerships, such as the Wagner Swifts sculpture.

Kamp has told the Monitor he hopes to make the city’s budget process more transparent. Usually the council does not see the numbers until the document is in its final stages, he said.

The mayor’s seat is the last place to fight for “the issues you really care about,” Kamp has said. He said he wants to ensure it is the people that are being represented.