Candidates for a variety of public offices appeared before about 75 Key Peninsula voters at an Oct. 12 online forum to describe their qualifications. The perennial nonpartisan event is sponsored by the Key Peninsula Business Association, the KP Civic Center Association, KP Community Council and KP News.
Moderator Gina Cabiddu, the KP community manager of Children’s Home Society of Washington-Key Peninsula Family Resource Center, introduced each candidate and asked questions submitted in advance by the online audience. Responses are summarized below.
Linda Ader said she was an environmental professional for 30 years and a former PSD parent now looking for a new way to serve. She described expanding vocational and technical education, saying, “A lot has been done, as Director Olson indicated (below), and there’s more that can be done.”
She said, “When I talk to parents, the three things I think that come up when I go around speaking to individuals, is concerns related to the indoctrination of our kids into Critical Race Theory concepts, the more graphic comprehensive sex education curriculum and ideologies that are coming out of Olympia, and then also concerns with relation to recovering from Covid impacts. These are the things that I really want to pay very close attention to when it comes to what the parents of our district want, and I have the backing of many of these groups and I’m very grateful for that.”
Jennifer Butler said she is an architect and former Naval officer and was the chair for Stand Up for Peninsula Schools, an advocacy group that helped pass the capital bond funding four new schools and two remodels, that she is a mother with two children currently in PSD and concerned about the effect the pandemic is having on education.
Butler described the need “to expand CTE (career and technical education) programs to have more real world learning" and college prep. “Seventy percent of our graduates plan on attending college but six years later only 50% get a degree,” she said. “Currently our 24 credit graduation requirement is very college-prep focused and it’s really only serving about half of our students. Our skilled trades program is fantastic but it’s quite small, so let’s build on that and expand it to other areas.”
Juanita Beard said she is a mental health therapist, business owner and working mom with two small children at PSD. “My whole reason for running is to be able to advocate for all children to have an equal playing field and a great education and a safe brain space where they can be supported.” She said she would look at “all the ways we are evaluating our students and their ability to be successful.”
“The EDI committee (equity, diversity and inclusion) has been doing work that hasn’t really been implemented yet,” Beard said. “There is work to be done with the board hand-in-hand to make sure those voices are heard.”
David Olson, the current president, said he has served eight years and ran initially because “My primary focus was to steer them away from having everyone having to go to college and to make sure people were aware that there was a vocational education option for our kids.” During his tenure, he said the district passed a levy and a bond, built four new schools and is updating two more, and started a dozen new vocational classes.
“I’ve been meeting regularly with our superintendent and members from our EDI committee to make sure that our equity and diversity in our school district is not just focused on one or two sub-entities but that we are making sure that all our students — special ed, homeless, autistic kids, dyslexic kids — that they all have the equal opportunity to be successful, not just one subgroup,” Olson said.
Shawn Jensen said he is a landscape architect who has served six years. “If reelected I plan to do much of what I’ve been doing thus far and that’s providing a professional opinion on how we are developing these facilities and leaning heavily on our comprehensive plan that we recently updated in 2020.”
Answering a question about funding, he said, “For now we are receiving adequate funding for the facilities that we have. The difficulty is going to come as we develop these facilities into more parks and more places for people to visit. ... We may run into a situation where if we have to do capital measures we may have to go to the voters for a bond. That’s not something we’re considering right now.”
John “Pat” Kelly said he served on the commission from 2013 to 2019 and achieved the goals of building a playground on the north end of the KP, the splash park and off-leash dog park. “We do need a proactive commissioner that’s one to tackle some real problems and not just rely on a document and think that’s going to get the job done, because a document is not going to get us a safer entry and exit to Gateway Park. I can help do that. It’s not going to solve the problem that we’re closing facilities because of vandalism and dumping.”
Answering the question about adequate funding, Kelly said, “I do believe the parks are adequately funded, the big issue is how those funds are allocated. … One thing that KP Parks has been very good at in the past is getting outside grants for specific projects. We can also really reduce a lot of our costs with citizen volunteers. The KP has a long history of volunteer groups helping out and that could really reduce our labor costs. Finally, we have a KP Parks Foundation that exists to raise money for the parks, so that is another option.”
Laura Gilbert said her purpose was to “provide an alternative” (because) “races that are unopposed are uninteresting and doesn’t raise the bar.” Gilbert described being concerned about the environment, reducing pollution, and keeping the port economically viable. “I think we have to work toward building a niche market for ourselves. We can only fit ships that are so big in there, but we have to be the best and the fastest at what we do.”
John McCarthy, the four-year incumbent, said he started out as a longshoreman at the port, became a lawyer, and retired as a superior court judge. He cited the port’s new clean air strategy and his three years on the local economic development committee that has funded a paddler’s dock and museum in Gig Harbor. “We’re working closely with the railroads and the shipping lines because of the congestion that is now occurring and there’s a lot to be done on that front. The U.S. Shipping Act needs to be modified.”
Dick Marzano, seeking reelection, said he retired after 52 years as a longshoreman in Tacoma. “I strongly support family-wage jobs and cleaning up the environment. Infrastructure needs continual updating.” He described the port’s efforts to reduce congestion, such as utilizing off-dock facilities for container storage, extending gate hours, and “working to have warehouse distribution centers open longer so truckers can bring their products to that market.”
Elizabeth Pew said, “I’m running to build a more sustainable, equitable and collaborative port,” stressing “economic opportunity and jobs on the one hand and environmental health and climate change mitigation on the other.” She described the need to attract industries in sustainable energy; to invest in business and tourism along with capital projects; and “to continue to develop our work force and having projects to get people into maritime careers.”
Mary Bacon described her experience of 15 years as an environment toxicologist and health physicist and past president of a labor union. She said the port needs to become climate-resilient with a new strategy and infrastructure. “We need to be talking about getting these goods from the ship to the rail, not the trucks or drivers, then we’d solve two goals by reducing emissions and increasing movement. What we need to look at is another way of distribution … and tariffs at least for the next 12 months to alleviate some of this burden and stress.”
Don Meyer, the incumbent, said the port “needs proven leadership to ensure we create and protect family-wage jobs and that we practice outstanding environmental stewardship,” and pointed out the port had won an award for reducing diesel and greenhouse gases already. “A lot of the fixes, we don’t control but we can be an advocate for policies. We’ve got to have policies that basically encourage people to get back to work and give a little more regulation relief for the trucking community.”
The Zoom meeting can be viewed in its entirety on the Key Peninsula Community Council website kpcouncil.org. To read candidate statements in the Pierce County Voters’ Pamphlet, go to piercecountywa.gov.
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