Our endorsements for Tumwater mayor, school board

Kemt is best for Tumwater

Residents of Tumwater are fortunate to have two highly qualified, motivated and intelligent City Council members competing for the honor to follow Ralph Osgood as mayor.

In a close call, The Olympian’s editorial board supports Pete Kmet, 55, over Neil McClanahan.

Both men will stay on the council after the Nov. 3, general election. One, however, will serve as mayor and give up his council seat. It will be up to the remaining council members to appoint a replacement.

Tumwater has a strong-mayor form of government. The mayor presides over council meetings, but only votes in the event of a tie. In this form of government, the mayor has much more responsibility in the day-to-day operation of city government. It’s the judgment of the editorial board that Kmet is better suited for that responsibility.

That takes nothing away from McClanahan who celebrates his 58th birthday today. He retired as undersheriff where he oversaw a 240-employee department with a $27 million annual operating budget. Tumwater has about 160 employees and a current expense budget of $13 million, so McClanahan certainly has the administrative experience to serve as mayor.

In addition, his leadership of the Homeless Consortium, the Housing Authority of Thurston County and the Capitol Lake Adaptive Management Plan Steering Committee has been stellar. His recent arrest for driving under the influence and his admission that he is a recovering alcoholic may have cost him support in the August primary. It’s Kmet’s measured approach to issues and his concern for what’s best for Tumwater citizens and their neighborhoods that earns him the endorsement. It’s important to note that a majority of the new council members support Kmet’s election over McClanahan.

Kmet’s biggest challenge will be convincing the retail community that he is sincere in his quest to attract new, small business to Tumwater. He has been a council leader in efforts to keep out Wal-Mart and prohibit warehouses near the airport. Kmet must understand that Tumwater needs a strategic plan for economic development that will draw new businesses and their tax revenue. His plan to convert the old brewery property into mixed-use development is a good start.

Voters should elect Pete Kmet as Tumwater mayor on Nov. 3.

Reelect Rita Luce to Tumwater board

Voters in the Tumwater School District should return Rita Luce to office for a second, four-year term.

Luce is being challenged by Bill Proffitt, 55, of Littlerock. Proffitt deserves credit for taking a chance and giving school district voters a choice of candidates. Given the important role schools play in Thurston County, it’s a shame that 14 of the 15 school directors up for election this year are running unopposed. This and a few voters in the Centralia School District have the only contested school board races in all of Thurston County.

Proffitt, who graduated from North Thurston High School in 1972, made a career in the military as a pharmacy specialist and pharmacy instructor. He moved to the Tumwater School District in 1993 where he and his wife saw all three of their children graduate from high school. He is semi-retired, working part time in the computer industry.

As a school board member, Proffitt said he would emphasize the importance of vocational education and make sure schools are well equipped to educate students. He has attended some school board meetings where he brought up issues such as the fact that there were only 20 textbooks in his son’s class that had 30 students enrolled.

While Proffitt deserves credit for running, he simply cannot match the experience and depth of knowledge Luce offers voters.

She volunteered in the schools for 25 years before her election and continues to spend time in school classrooms as a board member.

Luce, 61, a beauty shop owner, is most proud of her work to expand the number of gifted student programs in the Tumwater School District and her efforts to expand vocational education to the middle schools. When the district has more money, she would like to push foreign language education into the elementary schools.

When it’s time to cut spending, Luce said, she will do her best to keep budget cuts as far away from the classroom as possible. With the retirement of Superintendent Terry Borden, she will look for a replacement with Borden’s strong communication and people skills.

Through her volunteer experience and leadership, Rita Luce has earned a second term on the Tumwater School Board.