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Candidates face off at Chamber
ARLINGTON — The exchanges between the candidates for Arlington’s elected offices remained cordial throughout the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce’s candidates forum on Oct. 11.
Arlington mayoral candidates Steve Baker and Barb Tolbert set the stage for the comments to follow by touting their commitment to economic development and ties to the community, with Baker citing his decade of service on the Arlington City Council while Tolbert pointed to her service as director of the Arlington Fly-In since 1994.
“I’ve served on almost every committee in this city,” said Baker, a longtime Arlington businessman.
“When I was first hired at the Fly-In, we had a staff of 60 and a budget of $60,000,” Tolbert said. “We now have a staff of 519 and a half-million-dollar budget, for an event that has a $10 million impact on the area.”
Tolbert and Baker agreed that balancing the budget would be their primary priority as mayor, with Baker declaring that everything would need to be examined for potential cuts to avoid increasing taxes, while Tolbert emphasized the need to focus on assets that would make Arlington more competitive with other cities in terms of attracting businesses.
Tolbert presented herself as an outsider to the city government with fresh ideas, while Baker described himself as knowledgeable enough in the inside workings of city government to get things done. This theme was repeated with Arlington City Council Position 4 incumbent Sally Lien and challenger Randy Tendering, as Lien expressed pride in her 16-year career in city government, which included drafting the first city comprehensive plan, while Tendering summed himself up as a 16-year resident of Arlington who’s seen the state of its roads firsthand as a school bus driver.
While Lien and Tendering also agreed that balancing the budget took precedence, Tendering advocated expanding 172nd Street NE to attract more businesses and generate more tax revenue for the city, as Lien urged continuing on the direction set by outgoing Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson.
“This is one of the best communities in the world,” Lien said. “We’re a well-planned city and we’re working on a plan to transform Smokey Point. I want to continue serving as long as I’m able to do so.”
“I like serving this community, and I don’t think anyone should run for office unopposed,” Tendering said, before drawing laughter by turning to Lien and adding, “Sorry, Sally.”
The At-Large City Council pits former Arlington Fire Chief Jim Rankin against local small businessman Ken Klein. Klein touted his background in finance and the five generations that his family has lived in the area, while Rankin cited his 30 years of senior management level experience at six different fire agencies, including five years of working with the Arlington City Council.
“I can help the Council work together and set priorities and goals that will allow us not only to survive, but also to improve as we continue to provide services to the community,” Rankin said.
“The economy is what keeps us moving,” Klein said. “Without jobs, we can’t provide those services. I understand land use. I’ve served on the Snohomish County Planning Commission. I know the people and the situation.”
State Rep. Mike Hope, who’s challenging incumbent Aaron Reardon for the office of Snohomish County Executive, was the only one of the two to appear at the candidates forum. Hope reiterated his objections to the county’s relatively high unemployment levels and promised that his jobs plan would maximize the strengths of local communities.