Candidates face off in primary races Aug. 18

Candidates - Courtesy photos
— image credit: Courtesy photos

MARYSVILLE — Ballots have already been mailed out and voters in Marysville have their primary candidates to choose from in the races for Marysville School District Director District 1 and Snohomish County Council District 1.

Marysville School District

In Marysville, incumbent School District Director Don Hatch Jr. is not running for office again, so Chris Nation, Heather Thweatt and Mark Hatch are all running for the next four-year term.

Nation has already been active in the school district for a number of years, including stints as chair of the Bond Oversight Committee, officer of both the Citizens for Marysville Schools and the Marysville Rotary Education Foundation, and community representative on both the District Planning Facility Committee and the General Advisory Council. According to Nation, he’s chosen to run for the school board to continue his work on behalf of the district, which he stated is motivated by his belief that “all children deserve a chance.”

“We have to give these programs a chance to succeed,” Nation said. “If we constantly revamp them, then we don’t have any continuity, and that does a disservice to our kids.”

Nation warned against hasty decisions, which he believes could cause more problems, and instead advocated tweaking to achieve best results. He deemed the Smaller Learning Communities to be a benefit to most kids, at the same time that he acknowledged that the SLCs do have problems. To correct these problems, he suggested soliciting greater and more constructive feedback from students, teachers, families and staff.

“We probably implemented the SLCs a little too fast,” Nation said. “We’re a very special district, with our relationships to the Tribes, the unions and our own administration. There’s been some turmoil there and the district has not always been transparent. We need to get citizens involved because these are their schools. They belong to all of us.”

Nation characterized the early responses to the SLCs as disgruntled, but asserted that more recent classes of students have thrived in the SLCs, and singled out the Bio-Med Academy as a success story. He admitted that crossovers can be difficult, but defended the SLCs as an effective method of accommodating such a large high school student body.

Thweatt served on the council of the Marysville Cooperative Education Program at Quil Ceda Elementary from the time her child entered second grade to his graduation to middle school, and she touted her experience of serving on a board to create policies, as well as in dealing with diverging opinions. She shies away from the idea of micromanaging staff, and instead insists that “those who work with our children know best,” in no small part because school staff and educators put those policies into practice.

When her son left the Co-Op, Thweatt looked for ways to stay involved in the school district, and joined the Citizens Planning Committee. Once she learned that Don Hatch Jr. would not be running for re-election, she considered whether she was willing to invest the time required to serve as a school board member. Ultimately, though, the same motivation that had gotten her to sit in on school board meetings on a regular basis persuaded her to run for the open seat on the board itself.

“I wanted to be part of the decision-making process, rather than just a member of the audience,” Thweatt said. “It’s inspiring to sit in on those meetings.”

Thweatt believes that the SLCs deserve more ongoing review, and echoed Nation’s suggestion of tweaking them, rather than performing more radical alterations. She suggested measures such as community surveys to solicit feedback.

“We can’t just abandon them,” Thweatt said. “We’ve got too much invested, with no clear alternative.”

Mark Hatch grew up in Marysville, and he’s the parent of an SLC student, so he hopes to speak on behalf of school district families who have concerns about subjects such as the SLCs and the math core program.

“There are obviously areas that need more attention, because they aren’t working as well,” Hatch said. “Kids are having trouble in certain areas, so we need to fix them. If we were to just do away with the SLCs, though, how would that affect the school district? Parts of the SLCs work. They offer smaller class sizes and more one-on-one focus on areas that kids are strong in, but we still need to figure out the tools to give our students and teachers, because not everyone learns in the same way.”

Hatch emphasized that getting students to pass the WASL is a priority for him, even as he admitted that SLCs can be confusing, even for a parent like him.

Hatch is a member of the Tulalip Tribal Police, but he added that, “I’m here to represent the whole Marysville-Tulalip community, and not just Tulalip. I want to see all our kids have the best education possible.”

Snohomish County Council

In the County Council primary race, prospective Democratic candidate Krista Larsen dropped out, leaving only Democratic challenger Ellen Hiatt Watson and Republican incumbent John Koster.

If Koster wins, term limits mean that this next four-year term will be his last. While he would like to make progress toward his long-term goals, such as working on the TDR program and adding more parks and ball fields to the county, his recent door-belling of an estimated 8,000 homes helped cement his conviction that the economy must be his main focus in his final term, since he sees economic health as the wellspring from which all else flows.

“I was a small business owner for 25 years, and giving someone the ability to live out their dreams of prosperity is exciting to me,” Koster said. “Government’s role should be to facilitate that, where it should, and to stay out of the way, where it should. We need a healthy economy to keep businesses here, and we also need to diversify our economy.”

Koster appreciates the business of Boeing and other aerospace industries, but he would also welcome a greater number of manufacturing jobs and bio-tech industries. At the same time, he reiterated his support for commercial air service at Paine Field, which he sees as a potential economic driver for the region, as well as for a four-year college in Snohomish County.

“I have no illusions that I’ll get all these things done by the end of my next term, but at the very least I want to keep the momentum going,” Koster said.

In looking ahead to the county’s budget balancing challenge, Koster listed a number of crucial aspects of government, from transportation and health care to the environment and law enforcement, and then noted how interconnected they all are, since “I dare you to name one thing that you can touch without affecting any number of others. If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that these tough choices force us to look inward, and figure out the differences between what we must do and what we want to do. We’ll need someone who already has an understanding of how it all fits together, because we won’t have time for someone to learn it on the job.”

Although she majored in political science, Watson had no desire to enter politics herself until about two years ago, when she spearheaded an effort to push back against developers in the Seven Lakes area who were asking for changes in the rules regarding development in the area. Watson and hundreds of others spoke out against “the incredible scale of development” that was being proposed in the 2,000-acre rural area, especially in light of how it would impact traffic.

“When we won the appeal, it showed that citizens who get involved have a voice,” said Watson, who supports the Growth Management Act. “We need to keep our rural areas rural. Land use impacts our quality of life and I couldn’t wait another four years for John Koster to reach his term limit with the damage that could be done in the meantime.”

Watson pointed to the Smokey Point area as an example of “ill-planned growth that puts our watershed at risk,” and emphasized the importance of offering low-to-middle income housing, so that “the middle class doesn’t get squeezed out.” As with the issue that started her down the road of politics, she believes that “we shouldn’t encourage urban sprawl,” and that code laws should be made clearer, and followed without exceptions that might favor some parties over others.

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