Tumwater officials vie for City Council spot

Planning Commission chair Sullivan faces Councilwoman Lucas for Position 6

jpawloski@theolympian.comOctober 27, 2013 

Debbie Sullivan, left, and Kyle Taylor Lucas face off in Tumwater City Council election.

Two women with a wealth of municipal government experience are vying for Tumwater City Council Position 6, and if the primary was any indication, it will be a close race.

Debbie Sullivan, chair of the Tumwater Planning Commission, defeated incumbent Councilwoman Kyle Taylor Lucas in the primary by 34 votes.

Now, both are on the ballot in the general election as the top two finishers in the August primary. Lucas, who was appointed to the Tumwater City Council in March, said she believes her campaign organization is ready to make up the difference by Nov. 5.

Sullivan has served as chair of the Tumwater Planning Commission since 2006. A former small-business owner who works for the state Department of Commerce, Sullivan said she wants to help attract new businesses to Tumwater to expand the tax base. She said she favors “managed growth,” and if elected to the City Council, she would work to encourage commercial businesses and state government offices to come to Tumwater.

Sullivan noted the number of state agencies and state workers in Tumwater has created a base of commercial businesses in the city that is not diverse.

“We lose approximately 50 percent of our population at 5 o’clock,” she said. “…We’re at our saturation point with state buildings.

“I bring a lot of institutional knowledge to the Tumwater City Council,” Sullivan added. “I think that’s of value to citizens.”

Lucas, a consultant for tribes that need help with navigating local, state and federal government bureaucracies, said she has about 20 years of public policy experience. She was an executive director of the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs under then-Gov. Gary Locke. She said she is extremely proud of her tenure there, turning around the agency and restoring its staffing and budget after she took over and it had been required to take corrective actions because of an audit.

Lucas said she provides an underrepresented voice in local government because of her membership in the Tulalip Tribes. She added that she grew up in poverty and spent part of her childhood in foster care, and those hardships give her a keen understanding of issues important to lower-income families.

“It informed in me a sense of compassion and concern for children and families,” she said.

Lucas said there are important differences between her and Sullivan. She said her vision for a sustainable community would preclude attracting commercial development that would only bring “low-paying, nonunion jobs,” such as a proposed Trader Joe’s distribution center that was endorsed by Sullivan. The distribution center wound up in Lacey.

Sullivan said she does not agree with a current zoning restriction that requires distribution centers in Tumwater to be under 200,000 square feet. She said the Trader Joe’s distribution center would have created 500 jobs for the city.

Lucas said she wants to ensure that development is environmentally friendly, and she supports only “clean, green,” commercial development in Tumwater. Lucas added that bringing in affordable and low-income housing to Tumwater would be a priority if she is elected.

Sullivan said she also supports bringing “green” businesses to Tumwater, including solar energy, high tech or wind turbines.

She emphasized that she sees the role of local government in development as “creating an even playing field” for businesses.

“Government should not be picking the winners and losers,” she said.

Lucas noted her experience as the Tumwater City Council’s representative on the Community Action Council and the Thurston Council for Children and Youth. She also has served as a host for Camp Quixote, Thurston County’s self-governing homeless camp that is supported by local churches.

If elected, Lucas said she will listen closely to local citizens.

“Public engagement is No. 1,” she said. “I really think that it’s critical that we hear the voices of those that are governed and follow their lead.”

She added that one concern she hears from voters as she goes door-to-door is that Tumwater residents don’t want to see their city develop like Lacey.

Sullivan said in addition to her work on the Planning Commission, she has volunteered with other local agencies, including Community Youth Services in Olympia, for 18 years. She also has worked for the Thurston County Sheriff’s Jeep Patrol and is a founding member of South Puget Sound Mobile Search and Rescue.

If elected, Sullivan said she would work closely with the Port of Olympia to help develop commercial sites at the Olympia Regional Airport in Tumwater, which is owned by and managed by the port.

Lucas said her environmental concerns have won her endorsements from the Washington Conservation Voters and the Thurston Conservation Voters.

“I want to ensure that Tumwater grows and develops in a way that allows us to enjoy a high quality of life, without it having an adverse impact on future generations,” she said.

Sullivan counts the Tumwater firefighters union and the Tumwater Police Guild among her endorsements. She said she is a union supporter and supports the creation of more affordable housing.

Sullivan does not agree with her opponent’s attempts to brand her as right-of-center.

“I represent 80 percent of the moderates in Thurston County,” she said. “I’m a moderate Democrat.”

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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