About 100 people gathered in the Stanwood Middle School cafeteria to hear more than 20 local candidates outline their platforms at the Candidate & Issues Forum on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

The forum has been sponsored by the Stanwood-Camano branch of AAUW, in partnership with Stanwood Camano News, since 1998.

Stanwood Camano School Board

Four of the five school board seats are on November’s ballot. The races in Districts 4 and 5 each have two candidates running—the first contested school board races since 2005. All races are non-partisan

District 4 candidates — incumbent Ken Christoferson and challenger Brett Kinny — led off the forum by focusing on experience.

Christoferson, a local business owner, previously served on the board from 1995-1999. He was re-elected in 2003 and has served continuously to the present.

Christoferson said he was proud of the work he has accomplished as part of the current school board. He said he is especially pleased with the Career and Technical Education program at Stanwood High School.

“I think it’s important that we continue to widen opportunity for students with a robust CTE program,” he said.

Kinny, who works as a manager in manufacturing, said his experience makes him well-qualified to serve on the board.

“I know what is needed to prepare students for the future,” he said. “I’m passionate about giving students the tools to succeed.”

In the race for the District 5 seat, incumbent Natalie Hagglund and challenger George Zeigen outlined different paths forward.

Hagglund, a local preschool teacher who has served on the board since 2015, said she has focused on student and staff safety, the CTE program, working to ensure student success and making fiscally sound decisions as part of the current school board.

“I show up prepared for all school board meetings and read all related documents,” she said. “I’m also not afraid to ask questions.”

Hagglund was asked how the district has prepared students for the state-mandated increase to 24 credits for high school graduation. She said the district has created a plan for the new requirements.

“We have been proactive to identify and help students who are falling behind,” she said. “For example, additional summer school classes have been put in place to make sure students are able to get the credits they need to graduate.” 

Zeigen, a retired Stanwood Middle School counselor, said he will ask tough questions about issues such as staff support and resource allocation.

“I will question the status quo and I will not act as a rubber stamp of approval if elected,” he said.

Both candidates were asked if they would provide greater support to the district’s homeschool students and families.

Zeigen said he recognized the importance of the district’s homeschool program at the Saratoga School.

“I will review resource allocation for our homeschool students to ensure that we continue to do our best to serve these kids,” he said.

Hagglund said that making sure homeschool families are communicating appropriately with staff is critical.

“I think it’s important to look at what steps families have taken to voice any issues,” she said. “Parents need to address needs with teachers and principals before moving up the chain.”

Stanwood City Council

The two vying for City Council position 5 outlined different philosophies.

Incumbent Larry Sather said his top priority is to see a new city hall and police station built above the flood plain. The second priority is to strengthen the city’s AA- credit rating and to continue to contract with Snohomish County for police service.

He said he served as president of Peace Lutheran Church and on church councils, “but I don’t bring my religious views onto city council business. I try to vote for what’s in the best interest of the city.”

Sather touted support from Stanwood Mayor Leonard Kelley and all the council members except out-going member Kelly McGill. He’s supported by the Snohomish County Council member Nate Nehring, Sno-Isle Labor Council, Teamsters and machinists.

Challenger Steve Shepro, who serves as vice president on the Stanwood Planning Commission, said the commission acts as the first line of defense against improper development.

“Hundreds of new homes are being planned and built in Stanwood, we need to work together to make sure this growth doesn’t overwhelm our infrastructure,” he said. “We need to improve traffic flow and pedestrian safety.”

Shepro is on the Stanwood Parks and Trails Committee and supports improving parks and trails.

He said he wants the city to recruit medical care services, so people don’t have to travel out of town.

Responding to a citizen question about citizen involvement in city government, Shepro said “citizen input matters deeply to me and is of vital importance in maintaining a strong community.”

He said he supports the city’s efforts to build a better website and Facebook communication, adding that the city is working on a “planning cafe” where people can come in and express their ideas about growth.

Sather urged those concerned about issues to attend council meetings and consider making a comment during the period at the beginning of each meeting.

“What I promise to do, is to listen to those comments, consider them, and then to vote in what I regard to be the best decision,” he said.

In the position 6 race, two planning commissioners — Sid Roberts and Marcus Metz — are competing to join the council.

Metz didn’t attend the forum.

Roberts said his background of being raised in conservative Kansas but raising a family in Stanwood helped shape his leadership and governing philosophy.

“If elected, I’ll show up,” he said. “I’m always early — 15 minutes early — it’s a problem,” he said with a laugh. “I also read the packet; half the battle is being prepared.”

Roberts feels passionately about civility in government. He talked about three- to four-hour Lynnwood Council meetings that got pretty rowdy. He prevously served on the Lynnwood City Council, but now lives in Stanwood.

He said he’s concerned about maintaining civil discussion in government and that he thought he helped Lynnwood have a more civil government.

“I don’t believe it’s right to throw people under the bus; I believe we need to get on the bus. We need to work together,” he said. “I believe in debate. We need to discuss the issues, really get down in the weeds and decide as a community what’s best.”

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