Mayoral seat draws most candidates

TUMWATER – Five candidates, including three City Council members, filed Monday to become Tumwater’s next mayor.

The position drew the most interest during the first day of filing week, when candidates for elected office register their names with the Thurston County Auditor’s Office. The deadline to file is Friday, so more candidates could step forward.

One reason interest is high is that the new mayor will navigate the city through its first transformative period in more than a decade.

The city will lose its top two officials at year’s end. City Administrator Doug Baker has announced that he will retire after 16 years on the job Dec. 31, the same day Mayor Ralph Osgood’s term expires. Osgood began serving as mayor in 1994.

Under the city’s strong-mayor plan of government, Osgood is Tumwater’s chief executive officer and is Baker’s boss. Baker runs day-to-day operations and enacts policy set by the City Council. Lacey and Olympia use the council-manager plan of government, under which the city manager answers to the entire council.

Longtime City Councilman Pete Kmet entered the mayoral race Monday, expressing concern about the drunken-driving arrest of his opponent, Neil McClanahan, who was the only candidate to formally announce his run prior to filing week.

Kmet, 55, said McClanahan is a friend and that he hadn’t considered running against him prior to his May 21 arrest by Olympia police.

“But I really feel that he would be ineffective as mayor, given his condition right now,” he said.

He added: “I’d like to see Neil get his treatment and his life in order.”

Olympia police arrested McClanahan, 57, after a driver noticed him driving erratically on Harrison Avenue before pulling into a parking lot. His blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit for driving, police said.

He pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence but told The Olympian he does not intend to contest the charge. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for early July. McClanahan said he has been struggling with alcoholism since he retired as undersheriff in the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office in March 2007 and has entered voluntary treatment twice since then. He said he is under a doctor’s care.

“I have a disease, and I feel if other people can’t get past the facts of the disease, then they should vote for my opponent,” McClanahan said in response to Kmet’s comments. “I rest on the contribution to the community that I’ve made over the last 35 years.”

McClanahan noted his work with the blood center, the Housing Authority of Thurston County and the Homeless Backpacks program.

Kmet is serving his fifth four-year term, having first been elected by voters in November 1991. He said he had never considered running for mayor before because of his friendship with Osgood.

“I really think I can use my experience and my clear thinking and sound judgment to help Tumwater through this transition period,” Kmet said.

He said that if he’s elected, his priorities would be keeping the city fiscally sound, protecting and enhancing neighborhoods, and promoting the redevelopment of the Town Center and the former Olympia brewery, which has sat idle for nearly six years.

Joan Cathey, 65, who was elected to the City Council in November 2007, said she had been considering a run at the office since Osgood’s announcement.

Cathey’s priorities include public safety, a solvent and strong city budget, and continuing to develop a solid economic base built by the current leadership.

“I think this is a time of great change in Tumwater, and I think it needs to be taken full advantage of to let the people of the city of Tumwater and Thurston County know we’re on a good path,” said Cathey, executive director of the YWCA of Olympia.

Justin Kover, a 34-year-old landscaper, said the situation surrounding the Littlerock Road project prompted him to run for mayor. The Tacoma-based contractor, Alpha Development Corp., walked away midway through the $4.3 million project, and the city and surety company are working to resume work.

Kover has no government experience. He called himself a “working poor guy from Tumwater” who could do a better job of bringing the voter’s perspective into the workings of City Hall.

“I feel I have more in common with the electorate than anyone else on the council,” he said.

David Raatz, 45, a truck mechanic, welder and fabricator who works for Gresham Transfer Inc. out of its Kent terminal, said he was prompted to run by the lack of city response during December’s notable snowstorm.

“The citizens deserve better,” he said. “What would happen if we had a earthquake? What would happen if we had a natural disaster?”

Raatz, a former Army sergeant, said his priority would be delivering a better government that’s focused on the citizens.

He praised Osgood’s performance over the years and noted, “I see a void that needed to be filled, and the people have got to come first.”

Christian Hill: 360-754-5427