ARLINGTON — The Arlington City Council swore in not only re-elected incumbents Chris Raezer and Debora Nelson on Monday, Jan. 6, but also newcomers Jesica Stickles and Jan Schuette, as all four Council members recited the oath of office to kick off the Council’s first meeting of the New Year.
Although Stickles and Schuette had been regular attendees of the Council’s meetings as citizens, they agreed that one of the biggest changes of being on the other side of the table in their first meeting as Council members was the increased leeway it afforded them to ask questions and voice their opinions.
“I didn’t that night, but I am just getting warmed up,” Schuette said.
“Before, I had to write my questions down, and ask a director or Council member afterward,” Stickles said. “You miss out on the dialog opportunity, with all the people involved.”
Since Stickles had already been attending Council meetings for more than a year, she found few surprises during her first meeting, although her newfound status as the liaison to the Public Safety and Economic Development committees has given her some additional responsibilities.
Schuette acknowledged that one of her most significant ongoing adjustments will be remembering that her actions from now on will be viewed as those of a Council member, rather than a private citizen.
“The perception will be that whatever I say or do is as a Council member,” Schuette said. “That’s going to take some getting used to, and I hate second-guessing myself.”
By contrast, the election of Schuette and Stickles, as well as the re-election of Nelson, contributed to a milestone that Schuette herself had almost overlooked.
“City Attorney Steve Peiffle pointed out that, for the first time in the history of Arlington, women now hold the majority of positions on the Council, and it wasn’t a big thing,” Schuette said. “I hadn’t even thought about it, which was interesting, as I’ve been the first woman in several different situations.”
Both Schuette and Stickles noted that they’re dealing with the aftermath of a budget that they came into office too late to work on. While Stickles plans to focus on her committees, as well as on getting more familiar with the community’s needs and opinions, Schuette is already calling for a property tax increase to offset the impacts of that budget’s cuts.
“In order to balance the 2014 budget, the city eliminated all budget allocations to equipment repair and replacement,” Schuette said. “Our reserve is lower than what is required by our own policies. The city has already cut 21 positions, and our fire and police departments are running dangerously low on personnel. Our safety is seriously at risk.”
Both Schuette and Stickles freely conceded the difficulties of passing the levy lid in April, but they share the belief that the facts will persuade Arlington voters.
“Out of 19 cities in Snohomish County, Arlington is the lowest,” Schuette said. “Even with an increase of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, we would only be 13th.”
On a more upbeat note, just as Stickles is excited about the networking opportunities that her new role will bring, so too is Schuette optimistic about Arlington’s business prospects.
“I look forward to speaking with other council members from other cities, and hearing about what works and doesn’t work for their cities and why,” Stickles said. “We can bring back insights and ideas, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Relationship-building with other cities is always a smart thing to do anyway, since we have to work together on so many county projects.”
“I’m excited about being on the Council at a time when our aerospace industry is growing, when industries are expanding and hiring, because of what that means for our city and our citizens,” Schuette said. “I want to see more opportunities for job training and retraining. Attracting retail business, both downtown and in Smokey Point, will be a challenge.”
Schuette and Stickles expressed their gratitude to the citizens of Arlington, whom they encouraged to contact them with any questions, comments or concerns they might have.