Gold Bar’s new mayor Bill Clem said since filling the seat in December he already sees community strength as one of the city’s greatest untapped assets.

The Monroe business owner said he is still in the process of learning all he needs to know, but had some big strides to announce at the second of the two-part State of the City address hosted by the Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Issues related to crime, long-awaited infrastructure projects and reducing city debt have already seen significant progress.

Clem said Gold Bar is built on a sense of community, with an intent to preserve its logging and mining heritage. No one is necessarily looking for the city to become a suburban area, or small-scale replica of Everett or even Monroe. Its residents are committed to sustainable growth while remaining fiscally responsible, he said.

“We are proud to be a rural mountain town,” he said.

Clem was drawn to Gold Bar for its small-town feel, and the surrounding views of the Cascade Range. Two of his three daughters now attend Gold Bar Elementary School. His youngest — his son — just started preschool, and his oldest daughter goes to Hidden River Middle School in Snohomish, where his sister works.

Clem and his family moved to the city in February 2016. Before settling in, he ran an independent insurance agency in Bellingham for five years. Now he owns the State Farm insurance company branch in Monroe.

In the past few months it appears more families want to become involved in city activities. The two most recent council meetings, which are held at 7 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays each month, have had a noticeably higher turnout than usual, he said.

The city acted on the comments that were received, Clem said. In the past three weeks potholes on May Creek Road have been filled in, an easement was cleared and trail built so people could get into town from Pickle Farm Road without having to walk along the highway, and storm water drains were cleaned out, he said

Clem said it’s important to remain realistic — not everyone is going to agree all the time. Gold Bar’s city council chambers has a long history of heated conflict. He hopes communication and transparency can help mitigate fallout. Explaining a controversial decision clearly will at least improve relationships among the community.   

“I do believe we can disagree in a way that doesn’t create division,” he said.

Last year was a strong year for the city financially, Clem said. By the end of Clem’s stint as mayor he hopes there will be less debt than when he started.

Gold Bar’s general fund did not grow in 2017, but also did not operate at a deficit. Staff believe the same will be true for this year. The city’s annual audit also came back clean, he said. 

“Hopefully we can build on that and eventually keep the lights on under budget, so we can actually accomplish the city’s goals and say ‘yes’ to more things,” Clem said.

He announced the city will be able to accomplish a major utility project without taking on any additional debt. Replacing the 10th Street water main has been a goal for more than two years. It has been stalled because of a lack of funds.

Staff has been able to secure two grants that will allow the efforts to move forward, Clem said. It is finally going out to bid this year. The water system has been in need of updates and repairs for a long time, and is central to the city, he said.

Clem addressed the community’s recent reaction to a series of break-ins and burglaries that have been reported in and around Gold Bar since November. Groups were communicating and coordinating to try to put a stop to the crime. Sex offender Brett Card, who was wanted for at least one of the incidents, was located in a trailer in town last month, he said.

Gold Bar Police Chief Dave Casey relayed at Tuesday night’s Gold Bar City Council meeting that there had have been no such burglary reports since, Clem said. While none of the burglaries resulted in violence, many people were fearful it could, he said.

“That wasn’t just the (Snohomish County) Sheriff’s Office, and it wasn’t just the city, and it wasn’t just the community — it was the City of Gold Bar community working together to solve a problem,” he said. “So, that was a really encouraging thing.”