Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Leavenworth City Council Election 2023

Posted

With five city council positions on the ballot in Leavenworth, voters have the chance to select a new lineup of leaders in the general election on Nov. 7.

City council members are elected by the people to perform the legislative duties of the city. They set goals, priorities, and policies. They approve the annual budget and monitor expenses with an eye on infrastructure improvement and the overall wellbeing of the city.

Council members are elected for four-year terms. Those elected at the general election in November will assume office on Jan. 1, 2024.

City council meetings are open to the public and take place at Leavenworth City Hall (700 Highway 2) on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m.

In our commitment to bringing you informed election coverage, The Leavenworth Echo has reached out to the city council candidates and sent a comprehensive questionnaire to each candidate, seeking their insights on key issues and their vision for Leavenworth's future.

Here are the questions we posed to the candidates and their responses:

Why are you running for city council, and what motivated you to get involved in local politics in Leavenworth?

Tibor Lak: I’m running for The Council seat because I really want City Hall to make the best decisions on how to use city funds. I first got on City council in 2004 because I felt that the city needed to focus on the towns infrastructure. And I wanted to find ways to boost the city’s revenue to accomplish these things. For instance our roads, alleys, pool, sewer plant and many other things that needed updated.

Travis McMaster: I am running for city council in Leavenworth because I have witnessed firsthand the transformation of a small, community-centric town like Sedona in my home state into a tourist-heavy, high-traffic destination with time-shares and commercialization.  This experience has motivated me to get involved in local politics in Leavenworth for several reasons including affordable housing and growth.  The influx of tourists can drive up property prices and make it difficult for local residents to afford housing. I am committed to exploring ways to address affordable housing challenges and make sure that Leavenworth remains an accessible place to live for all income levels.  I am passionate about promoting responsible and sustainable growth in Leavenworth. I believe that with the right policies in place, we can strike a balance between welcoming visitors and protecting the interests of residents.  Parking is something that can frustrate both locals and visitors alike.  We need a parking structure.  We won’t be the first small tourist-town to incorporate one and it can be done in a way that benefits downtown employees, locals, and tourists alike.

Polly McIntyre: Three years ago I started attending City Council meetings.  It was time to educate myself about how City Council runs and how best to voice my thoughts and concerns.  What I saw is a disconnect between the apparent direction of the Council and the desires of city residents.  Talking with people around town, it was clear they felt that they weren’t being listened to, that their input was irrelevant. Our city started something amazing 60 years ago. Today, we are a thriving, tourist-based community.  I would like to create an ongoing  discussion between residents, the Council and the business community on how we can sustain both a thriving economy and a sweet small rural town.  A town loved by both residents and visitors.

Shane Thayer: I decided to run for City Council because I want to give back to this community that has given me so much over the years. Leavenworth will always be home, and I deeply care about its growth and development. If elected, I will do my best to help address issues that affect the residents and businesses of Leavenworth. I am passionate about being a voice for the younger generations, having an open mind, and leading with compassion and understanding. I hope to be part of finding innovative ways to deal with the housing crisis, improving the town’s infrastructure with an emphasis on road improvements, and securing the future of the City Pool.

Rhona Baron: I’ve lived in Leavenworth since 1984 and have advocated, innovated and worked in many ways for our community.  In that sense, running for council is an extension of my history of engagement. However, I also believe we’ve reached a critical point where some of the elements we have enjoyed are at risk of being swept away.  Therefore, I would like to continue serving our community with a focus on collaborating with citizens and providing transparency and integrity at City Hall.  If elected, I will engage with our community to identify and protect what is best about life in Leavenworth while embracing the best of what the future can offer.

Marco Aurilio: I am currently finishing a two year term on Leavenworth City Council and am running for re-election to a 4 year City Council Position. When I established residence here, over 10 years ago, with my family, I volunteered in many areas of need here: Fire Department, Cascade Wellness Team, Youth Sports Coach and became aware of the lack of recreational amenities and affordable housing here as compared to other tourism economy cities. This motivated me to become involved and support positive change for the kids and community!

Zeke Reister: I was born here and grew up here in the Upper Valley.  I believe one critical function of city government is the preservation of the community. I became involved when some agencies wanted to allow short term rentals without the owner present within the residential zones of Leavenworth when the existing code already prohibited them . Those promotions ,  the allowance of the Adventure Park , and the clear cut need for affordable housing in our community   were all motivations for me to participate in local politics.

Anne Heesburg: I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to continue to represent and serve the residents of Leavenworth. I look forward to continuing to work on opportunities and issues that our community is facing. I am honored to have represented our community for the past four years as a council member, and look forward to continuing to do so for the next four years. Politics is not a motivating factor in my desire to hold a seat on the city council. I find joy and satisfaction in listening to our community members needs and wants, helping facilitate information gathering and data collection, problem solving and discussion opportunities, being a voice and representative, and working together to make balanced, thoughtful, data-driven decisions for the benefit of our community.

 

What unique qualifications or experiences do you bring to the table that make you a strong candidate for this position?

Travis McMaster: I believe I bring a unique set of qualifications and experiences to the table that make me a strong candidate for City Council of Leavenworth. My background in branding and sales, particularly with early stage emerging brands such as HOKA, Hydro Flask, Hey Dude, and POC, has given me valuable insights into how to effectively market and promote businesses. Additionally, my experience as the founder of my own company, VARM, a responsible sleeping bag brand, demonstrates my entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to sustainable business practices. I have a proven track record of helping companies think and plan strategically to grow smartly, while also building an extensive network of strong relationships and key partnerships spanning several industries. This experience can be invaluable in finding innovative solutions to the challenges facing our city and ensuring sustainable growth. I am a member of the Adventure Travel Trade Association who's mission is to empower the global travel community to protect natural and cultural capital while creating economic value that benefits both trade members and destinations.  Furthermore, my extensive travel experiences in Central America, Europe, Canada, and most states in the USA have provided me with a deep perspective on tourism, which is a crucial aspect of Leavenworth's economy. I understand the importance of balancing tourism with the needs and interests of the local community, and I am committed to finding ways to promote responsible and sustainable tourism in our city.  On a personal level, my background as a past professional cyclist, avid mountaineer, climber, ultrarunner, and triathlete has taught me the value of determination, discipline, and teamwork. These qualities are essential in working collaboratively with fellow council members and addressing the diverse needs of our community. Lastly, as a husband and father, I am deeply invested in the future of Leavenworth. My daughter has previously worked at The Gingerbread Factory and I want to ensure that our city remains a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. My commitment to the well-being of our community is unwavering. In summary, my diverse background in business, travel, sports, and family life uniquely qualifies me to contribute to the City Council of Leavenworth. I am dedicated to leveraging my experiences and expertise to address the challenges and opportunities facing our city, and I am excited about the possibility of serving our community as a council member.

Polly McIntyre: I am already attending our City Council meetings.  My involvement with Upper Valley Connection (working with the special needs community) for over 20 years has given me a great opportunity to work with a widely diverse population.  I have learned that everyone brings something to the table.  My 40 years in the dental industry has taught me the value of collaboration.  Listening and working with all participants will move us to outcomes that benefit all.

Shane Thayer: From a career perspective, I have 15+ years as an IT professional supporting various organizations in the Upper Valley. Prior to my career in IT, I worked at several locally owned businesses including Munchen Haus, Heidleburger, formerly Uncle Uli's, and currently Sherpas IT. I have also served on the By-Law Committee at the Leavenworth Golf Course. From a volunteering perspective, I have participated in multiple local area cleanups and organized fundraisers for the American Cancer Society in town. I have been incredibly community-focused my entire life and have strong connections with many members of this community. While this will be my first elected position, I have been regularly attending City Council meetings and have a thorough understanding of our local government and the city’s decision-making process.

Rhona Baron: My deep familiarity, leadership skill set and broad service within the community is an asset I will bring to the council.  In the four decades I’ve lived in town, I’ve engaged in multiple aspects of community life.  In the first decade, I worked with Peg and Bill Stark and their “Extended Family.” I also worked downtown as a server.  When the first color magazine about Leavenworth went to press, I sold advertising and helped launch the publication.  Meanwhile, I was on the core team at Salmonfest.  In the second decade I directed the choir at Faith Lutheran Church and directed the community Christmas shows.  Through my work in the arts, I taught, performed and volunteered, including co-creating environmental education using dance, music and language for Birdfest. In my third decade, I engaged with students at Cascade High School as the the director of the Distinguished Young Women program.  I also launched a career in radio at KOHO, then broadcasting from Sleeping Lady’s campus.  More recently, I worked as the Executive Director for Cascade Farmlands, marketing regionally grown food and drink, and producing the Leavenworth Wine Walks.  I currently serve as Creative Director of Dangerous Women, a collective of visionary artists who bring women’s history to life on stage. Through the years, my commitment to improving the quality of life in Leavenworth has not wavered.  I am an exceptional collaborator, compelled not by politics, but by great ideas and innovative solutions.  I am creative, articulate, balanced and hard working.

Marco Aurilio: Prior to running for office here, I have become acquainted with this community through volunteering and substitute teaching. As an elected official, it is my primary duty to represent the community, adults and children, and pursue their needs. My constant interaction and push for more city surveys and communication, with our community, allows me to understand who they are and what they want. My professional background as Firefighter/EMT, Swiftwater Rescue Technician, Pharmaceutical and Food Scientist, college instructor, local business owner and previous Recreation Council member in Northern Washington, contribute to my problem-solving toolbox to deliver meaningful progress for our kids, community, businesses and visitors.

Zeke Reister: First , the fact that I lived and worked here in the late 60's and early 70's and was present when Leavenworth was  beginning its transition to the Bavarian Village-and then returned with my family to live in a city neighborhood just after the fires of 1994 gives me a broad based perspective on our Leavenworth community.  As with many people , I value the incalculable beauty of our rivers and forest environment that is within walking and biking distance from our front porches. This must be protected and preserved and not exploited. I worked  very intentionally to build consensus when I was a public school teacher with my fellow teachers and do the same with my fellow council members. Hearing people out, no matter if I'm directly opposed to their ideas, is something I strive for.  Our residential neighborhoods are the backbone of our community and preserving their ability to be lived in is a most critical  priority for me.

Anne Heesburg: I believe my professional experience in environmental and land use planning, as well as my diverse experience in community and civic service make me a strong candidate for this position. Environmental and Land Use Planner: 15+ years; City of Leavenworth - Residential Advisory Committee 2009 - 2021,  Planning Commissioner 2010 - 2019, Parking Committee 2019 - present, City Councilmember 2020 - present, Mayor Pro Tempore 2020 - present, Economic Development Committee - 2020 - present, Public Safety Committee - 2020, Finance Committee 2020 - 2023, PRSA 2021, Link Transit Board 2022- present; Vice Chair 2023. Chelan Douglas Land Trust - Member 2009 - present, Board of Directors 2010-2019, Lands Committee 2010 - present, Outreach Committee 2015 - 2021, Governance Committee 2019 - present, Leadership Circle - 2019 - present; Leavenworth Mountain Film Festival - Board of Directors 2012 – present.

Tibor Lak: I served 3 terms previously and was appointed to current seat last when our city lost one of our long time community member and council member Carolyn Wilson who passed suddenly.  While severing the city I have been on several committees like Public works, Finance, Economic Development, and LAP. While on these committees I learned some great ways to get Grants to help our village that never have to be paid back.

 

Leavenworth is known for its vibrant tourist industry. How do you envision balancing the needs of residents with those of tourists and businesses in the community?

Polly McIntyre: I think balance is the key!  Our tourist industry IS thriving, but our residents are disconnecting.  I will work to bring together the whole of Leavenworth in forums like the Upper Valley Park and Recreation Service Area  meeting on September 19. 

The forum started with presentations by interested parties. Then public comment. Then a call for community involvement. This kind of engagement with issues isn’t possible at the regular city council meetings. At the PRSA meeting the community not only felt heard, but it created the chance for new ideas to come up in how to tackle difficult issues.  We need to give ear to our residents that worked so hard over the years to help build this thriving economy.

Shane Thayer: Because I have lived and worked here so long, I have seen firsthand our tourism economy grow and flourish. And while we truly live in a thriving, small business driven community, we have many serious challenges to sustaining our economy.  These challenges include affordable housing for our workforce, community facilities to attract families and improve our schools, and improving our infrastructure for our residents and our visitors.  To address these challenges, I see the importance of creating a balance between the needs of our business community and our residents.  I don’t see it as an “either/or” proposition, rather one of mutual success. My vision is to better leverage income brought in by our tourism economy to help improve and benefit the community and at the same time create more opportunities for our businesses. I support marginally increasing funding sources to help fund major projects such as additional parking, a new pool/rec center, and addressing affordable housing.  And by funding these projects, our community will attract more families and workers, address the needs of our tourists, and create a mutually beneficial and sustainable economy. We have an opportunity to build on our town’s business success and make Leavenworth truly a successful community for all.

Rhona Baron: In my opinion, residents needs and their community experience has begun to degrade in the past perhaps five years at a rate I have not seen in the past.  This concerns me.  For instance, I believe parking downtown should be free for locals on a thoughtful basis.  My initiative for free parking can be found on my candidate website, rhona4council.com  The bigger picture is that, although Leavenworth in general is booming, a number of businesses, still locally owned, struggle in various ways downtown.  We need to work with our local owners and prioritize them over out of town franchises.  I am also concerned about the impact our visitors have on local recreation and wild areas.  The best way to dissect and solve our issues is open conversation that will tap the entire town for solutions.  Change will come.  We must plan thoughtfully, and prepare to succeed together. 

Marco Aurilio: The priority here is to serve the community, however a thriving downtown economy can accomplish that, with appropriate priorities. I am a local business owner, who agrees with that philosophy. Business and tourism are the fuel that keeps this economy running and vibrant. I envision striking this balance by working with the chamber to keep the community invited and welcome to downtown. For example, I have proposed that local residents receive 10hrs of free parking downtown every month, and seeking support for that. Also creatively using Lodging Tax to help fund facilities such as the Aquatic Center and events that serve BOTH the community and tourists, with strategies to help improve business during our shoulder seasons, that mitigate the challenges for downtown business revenue fluctuation.

Zeke Reister: That is a struggle. Because of our vibrant economy, the incredible beauty of our local environment,  and its popular draw, we now have exorbitant housing prices which threaten the preservation of our community.  It is critical we implement strategies that promote affordable housing, work with the community to determine what they want for a city pool,  re engage efforts to establish a community center at Osborn, and establishing a cap on the number of B&B's allowed in our residential neighborhoods are just a few of the issues that need to be addressed to preserve our community.

Anne Heesburg: Our residents bare much of the impact, positive and negative, from our thriving and successful local tourism industry. The City of Leavenworth has the unique opportunity to use tourism lodging tax for eligible tourism promotion activities and tourism-related facilities, that benefit our residents as well as our businesses. Something I am proud to have played a part in creating is our Lodging Tax Grant Program. Lodging tax has made it possible for the city to provide a certain amount of annual funding for grants that are available to non-profit organizations for activities that encourage tourism locally. Thoughtful listening, dialogue and coordination with community members helps balance the needs across our community.

Tibor Lak: I believe that the best way to keep our city vibrant and our residents happy is to maintain the tourism at a high level.  Then the monies the tourists spend generates money to employ locals in the tourist industry and to generate tax dollars sufficient to keep updating and maintaining Leavenworth. I recognize that this is a fine line to walk to keep everyone happy, but we have to try moving forward.

Travis McMaster: I have seen how unchecked tourism and commercialization can erode the unique character and charm of a small town. I want to ensure that Leavenworth retains its sense of community and does not fall victim to overdevelopment and excessive tourism.  There are ideas that an expanded community center or hockey rink will be shared by tourists and the community alike.  I am a proponent of junior athletic programs but not at the risk of “if you build it, they will come” mentality, relying on tourists to pay part of the bill by their participation.  The Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce has done a good job with this delicate balance.  One example is moving from a city-lighting one night mass convergence on Front St, to a multi weekend event, both benefiting the businesses and relieving pressure on the town resources alike.

 

Infrastructure and public services are crucial for any community. What plans or ideas do you have for maintaining and improving essential services like roads, utilities, and public safety in Leavenworth?

Shane Thayer: Like most small towns in America today, we are faced with a deteriorating infrastructure. The quality of our roads, especially in the residential areas, is poor at best. Most roads require more than just filling holes which requires large amounts of funding. These complexities are due to outdated infrastructures under the roads. The Public Works Facility including the Water Treatment Plant are in dire need of expansion. Having access to a safe space to learn to swim or obtain water safety is a major public safety issue, especially given our proximity to a river that claims numerous lives every year. Our roads, public works, and community safety are immensely important to me. I would like to discover other resources for funding these necessary improvements. Improving our roads for the long term is critical. Properly addressing our water treatment needs will take new ideas and securing the future of our pool or a new one is something we need to address sooner rather than later. We need to hit these issues head on, and I am committed to finding solutions that will work.

Rhona Baron: Sadly, infrastructure in Leavenworth is a mess.  We have the third worst streets in the state.  We are in the top echelon for fire danger.  We have water lines that lose almost a quarter of their flow due to breaks and leakage.  Our sewer is close to triggering the attention of the Department of Ecology at peak season.  Storm water drainage is an issue, as is traffic flow. I am dissatisfied with the lack of progress from City Hall on these matters.   Infrastructure is crucial to everything that follows, meaning it must be in place in order for our citizens to live and do business in Leavenworth!  Some studies have been done by the city.  It’s a start.  But so much more needs to occur and be prioritized.  We must have emergency escape plan for catastrophic fire.  We must secure funding and repair our water lines.  We must consider the source of water and measure that against how much more development the town can sustain.  The list goes on.  I favor a multifaceted infrastructure plan because these pieces are connected, and connected to our future!  We must begin to act more assertively on infrastructure as soon as possible.

Marco Aurilio: I have been an integral part of the planning process to expand our wastewater treatment facility and public works on the East end of the city. Also, I have helped coordinate a grant writer for the city to find more funding for road improvement, as our road repair plans budget is beyond our tax resources. Furthermore I am lobbying to improve our Wildfire Preparedness, by proposing increasing our Fire Retrofit Grant( helps pay for improvements to older homes to resist wildfire embers) from $50k to $300k, and working on an automatic sprinkler system for downtown to prevent catastrophic structure fire from embers, as was recently witnessed in Medical Lake WA and Maui HI. Finally, I am pushing hard to have the Aquatic Center proposal realized for our children to have the opportunity to ALL become competent swimmers for safety in proximity to our beautiful and powerful Wenatchee river, and providing our students the possibility of receiving college athletics swimming scholarships, with the development of CSD Swimming / Diving Varsity Athletics.

Zeke Reister: There has been a history of deferred maintenance in the infrastructure of our water system and streets. As a council ,we have appropriated significant funds to increase  public works staff and street maintenance  equipment including two new dump trucks to expedite repairs and snow removal.

Anne Heesburg: Essential services such as roads and utilities are operated, maintained, and improved by our city’s Public Works department with funding from enterprise funds (self-supporting government funds), the city’s Transportation Benefit District funds, and grant and loan funds. The City has an incredibly hardworking Public Works team that is highly effective in keeping our essential services operational and maintained each year. Focusing available funds on maintenance projects, improving deficiencies, and striving to sustain a high level of service is a priority for me. Strong communication and coordination with the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office, community members, as well as the WSDOT is essential for maintaining and improving public safety in our community. Our city has three Sheriff’s deputies providing safety, justice and security, as well as a liaison officer that provides monthly public safety reports to the community.

Tibor Lak: One of the best way to maintain and improve infrastructure is the constantly applying for grant money from the Federal, State, and local agencies such as the Port of  Chelan-Douglas county.  These funds or even matching funds will help with the enormous cost of road repairs, sidewalks around town, sewer line updates and repairs. And many more things like maintaining our Public Works equipment and replacing outdated vehicles such as snowplows, tractors and other heavy equipment.

Travis McMaster: Maintaining and improving essential services like roads, utilities, and public safety in Leavenworth is of utmost importance to ensure the well-being and growth of our community. As we face the need for expanded development, particularly with projects like Alpenglow 3, it becomes crucial to have a well-thought-out plan in place. Regarding infrastructure - to accommodate the increased demand for utilities, including sewer and water treatment, we need a well-defined plan. Our immediate focus should be on a comprehensive 5-year plan that outlines the expansion of these facilities. This plan will consider population projections, usage patterns, and environmental sustainability. We should actively seek state and federal grants to help fund these infrastructure improvements. When it comes to road maintenance and improvements- roads are a vital component of our infrastructure. Regular maintenance and repair of existing roads for the long term are necessary to ensure safety and ease of transportation. I will make sure we fix the roads in the most fiscally efficient way. Finally, Emergency Preparedness-in addition to public safety, our emergency response plans need to be robust. During the August 10th, City Council Meeting, several fire agencies spoke and asked the city if they have done their part in fire prevention.  The city has had a retired firefighter on City Council, yet the city has looked to the local fire agencies as “it’s your job, not ours”. I will work with the city on strengthening our emergency response capabilities and increasing community awareness to handle unexpected events effectively. Leavenworth's continued growth and development require careful planning and investment in essential services and infrastructure. By addressing public safety, utilities, and road improvements in a well-coordinated manner, we can ensure that our community remains a safe, sustainable, and vibrant place to live, work, and thrive.

Polly McIntyre: Here is what I have learned. Roads and utilities are joined together.  Our City Public Works Administrator Tom Wachholder performed a thorough infrastructure assessment a couple years ago and this is what we are dealing with.  Our 50+ year old water and sewage lines run under our roads.   The sewage lines are now being repaired and lined.  The water lines are smaller than needed to supply our rapidly growing community. There is planning to systematically start replacing roads and water lines 'together' to be more cost effective.  This is a huge step in the right direction.  Each of us has our least favorite pothole.  Maybe we can open a discussion about spot pothole repair where there is a public hazard.  Police and Fire departments across the entire nation are struggling for resources.  This is an ongoing issue that would benefit from lots of public involvement, as was discussed in the City Wildfire Workshop meeting on August 10th.

 

How do you plan to address environmental concerns and promote sustainability within the city while also fostering economic growth?

Rhona Baron: I am not sure this question has quite the correct focus, as I don’t believe our city’s economic growth, including downtown businesses, are what most impact the environment.  But I will say that the natural world is a particular interest of mine.  In fact, 40 years ago I started an organic habitat yard in town that currently flourishes with 30 species of birds, mammals and the occasional frog.  The environment can only handle so much human impact before its renewing cycle of life is broken.   Therefore, I favor limits on human usage of our rivers, wilderness areas and wetlands.  This is nothing new, but in the greater Leavenworth area we are at risk of “loving” some of our natural assets too much.  I am also a huge proponent of environmental education. My dream is that community organizations and businesses such as Waste Loop, Wenatchee River Institute, The Farmers Market, Leavenworth Winter Sports Club, The Forest Service and the schools put their heads together and figure our how to make our Bavarian Village more accessible for environmental education.  I’d like to see environmental ed baked into more of what we do, including the rebuild of our now car- free downtown.

Marco Aurilio: Our city needs to improve its recycling capacity especially downtown and I have advocated and will continue for downtown recycling. I am supporting more walking and biking paths while pushing for parking garages outside of town with electric shuttles to better manage our people flow and keep cars out of downtown, which will ultimately provide more efficient delivery of people to downtown while improving their experience. I am also an advocate and participant of river clean up and river floater education on our sensitive ecosystem. Wildfire is also a huge environmental concern and together with Councilmen Lundgren and Reister, we are keeping that issue at the forefront of discussion and action.

Zeke Reister: That balance is a struggle. As a member of the Downtown Steering Committee we are going through a step by step procedure to renovate the downtown core.  The closure of Front Street to automobile traffic and making it a pedestrian plaza has enabled Leavenworth to become much closer to an authentic Bavarian Village. We are a city of 2,200 residents but our downtown core is visited by upwards of 2.75 million visitors annually. That has resulted in a potential overuse on our surrounding rivers and a detrimental impact on areas such as the Enchantments. The Enchantments are not our jurisdiction, but as a member of the River Study Committee which includes members of the Chamber, city government,and Chelan Co. agencies, and commercial rafting and tubing companies, we have initiated measures to educate river users on safety, garbage, and respecting private property, We hope to initiate measures in the future that actually limit the number of tubers that access the river on property owned by the city.

Anne Heesburg: It is important for the city to continue to partner with local non-profits like Waste Loop and companies to offer our residents and businesses the best way to dispose of solid waste and recyclables. Our recycling center offers recycling and yard waste services that keep these forms of refuse out of the landfill, and in turn reduces garbage costs. I would like to help foster growth in the city’s partnership with Winton Mfg to expand their composting program. This could greatly reduce garbage costs for food producing businesses.

Tibor Lak: It is no secret that we all need to do our part to be friendly with our environment. We should recycle when possible, re-use often, and encourage to our visitors too also. To make this possible I would like to see the recycling site enlarged and open more hours. But this will take personnel and money.  If we make this a priority both can be found. Putting people to work is economic growth.

Travis McMaster: While addressing affordability, we must also consider the environmental impact of development. I will work towards sustainable housing solutions that minimize our carbo90.6.fkn footprint and enhance the long-term livability of Leavenworth.  Preserving greenspaces is important and plays into my campaign slogan, “Progress with Purpose”.  Progress is inevitable but we must also preserve our natural surroundings.  Leavenworth has amazing institutions including WWRI and Mountain Sprouts that ensures our future citizens, not only of Leavenworth, but of the planet, respect, understand and appreciate our resources.  Leavenworth is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground.  The city has so many natural offerings from floating and rafting Icicle Creek and Wenatchee River to bouldering/climbing areas in the surrounding area.  Leavenworth has more to offer than shopping and drinking beer, let’s make sure we continue to offer it.

Polly McIntyre: I think environmental concerns are on everyone’s mind.  From the impact on wildlife, to the flow of water, to the importance of surrounding trees and green spaces.  Deer walk through our streets all the time, but we slow to look and so do our visitors.  Changing water flows have already impacted some of our recent development decisions.  Replacing our trees and grass with impervious surfaces will have an effect.  Green spaces— they provide connectivity for the wildlife.  They provide play space for families and gatherings and they contribute to a sense of mental health and calming.  These are big issues that will benefit from public input as we balance our community's well being and economic growth.

Shane Thayer: Our town’s success is not only tied to our Bavarian themed tourism, but also to our beautiful environment.  It is imperative we preserve this asset into the future.  One way to do this is by providing education and training materials on pack it in/pack it out to the thousands of nature enthusiasts visiting us. Additionally, educating our residents and businesses on and what the town’s limited recycling abilities is a huge step in the right direction for sustaining our environment. Fortunately, Waste Loop has shown tremendous support in the area for improving recycling. I am eager to work with this organization and others to reduce unnecessary waste and preserve our rich environment.

Leavenworth has a strong sense of community identity. How do you intend to engage with and involve residents in decision-making processes for the city's future?

Marco Aurilio: While I have pushed hard for more surveys and community meetings here, which has improved, I realize that most people cannot dedicate their evenings to meetings as they work full time, have families and need to recreate. I have been proposing monthly short surveys to keep our entire community engaged and will continue that push, along with forums and events. We need to hear from everyone, all 2500 residents, kids and adults, not just the 100-200 who can show Up!!! This year in cooperation with the amazing swim league volunteers, we coordinated the entire Swim League attending and commenting at a City Council Meeting to improve the relationship with the City /PRSA and outcome of the Swim League Pool Use Agreement and Season.

Zeke Reister: There are multiple issues in front of the community.  I maintain an e-mail list of 40+ Leavenworth residents both within and without the city limits. I try, as time allows, to send out information on upcoming issues before the City Council and ask for their input.    Earlier this month, the PRSA facilitated a public discussion in the FestHalle on building a year round pool with open discussion and a question and answer period. It served as a reality check on what was possible, what might be done,  and clarified misconceptions . I am advocating  similar further public discussions be held on the  Osborn Community Center,  issues of affordable housing, and other critical issues before our community

Anne Heesburg: I am an open-minded, active listener, and strong communicator that encourages respectful dialogue regardless of the topic or position. I will do my best to encourage community building, inspire positivity and positive interactions, active listening, strong communication, and respectful open dialogue with those who have entrusted me to serve them. I will also encourage our residents to attend and participate in our public meetings, and push for more community workshops and events where residents can engage, make their voices heard, and be a part of the decision-making processes.

Tibor Lak: The city has already been holding quarterly community engagement nights at the Fest Hall to present proposed projects and get community feedback. The city has also encouraged the community to attend the City Council meetings that are held at City Hall on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month. These meetings have seemed well received and a lot of great input has come from our local residents.

Travis McMaster: Did not provide an answer

Polly McIntyre: At City Council meetings I have comments I want to make, I want my voice to be heard and I want discussion.  Many of us in town have that desire.  City Council meetings have an agenda and a time frame that need to be adhered, this tends to limit active discussion.  As I mentioned in my answer to Question 3-  I would like to organize regular community forums that all would feel welcome to open and civil discussion.  Our greatest asset is our community, both residents and business owners.  I would like to see our greatest asset given its rightful place of importance.

Shane Thayer: It is my goal to make sure the community is informed and included as much as possible by keeping open lines of communication and engaging more young voters to better understand their wants and needs. An excellent current example of this is the work that Chantell Steiner and the city have done by providing access to the city’s budget on the website in a user-friendly digital version for anyone to view the financial information relating to projects, debt, capital improvements, etc. I think we can do more of this with other city-related information and communications. I would encourage a more regularly published survey of what is important to residents, which could also be a valuable tool for the City Council.

Rhona Baron: When people stop being engaged, it’s not because they are content.  Rather they have given up because they don’t feel their voice matters.  Yet, that seems to be exactly what has occurred with our community today.  Meetings at city hall are poorly attended.  Meanwhile, citizens  grumble about never being listened to and taken seriously by city hall. In writing “The Whistle” column in the Echo in the past year, I’ve learned that folks have a lot on their minds.  A lot they are unhappy about.  If I am elected, I will absolutely support transparency, communication and  collaboration with the community.  We need regular open mic meetings.  We need to stop paying for surveys weighted for certain results or those that leave us with unclear summaries of where voters stand.  Being an Independent and a (passionate) moderate, I have no political agenda except that city government behaves as an “active listener” to truly represent the people.

 

What strategies do you propose for addressing affordable housing and ensuring that Leavenworth remains an accessible place to live for a diverse range of people?

Zeke Reister: Ensuring and promoting affordable housing in Leavenworth is an uphill struggle due to lumber prices, land availability, and funding streams for the city. When Senator Brad Hawkins proposed SB5868   that expanded public facilities sales and use tax to include affordable workforce housing, I along with Mayor Florea, testified in favor of the bill in front of the Senate Housing Committee and lobbied our State Representatives Goehner and Steele for its passage in the House-which they did support and it became law. I  will also propose locating parcels of city owned land  which would be amenable for affordable housing. We are reestablishing a Housing Committee to recruit members of the community knowledgeable  in housing construction, real estate, and  strategies in affordable housing to further promote affordable housing in Leavenworth. There are other strategies such as Multifamily Tax Exemption and Inclusionary Zoning , deed restriction, and other strategies that are worth our consideration.

Anne Heesburg: Leavenworth is a very desirable city with many incredible employment and lifestyle opportunities. As our city has grown, its housing has not been able to meet the housing needs of all income levels. Working to solve our housing issues has been a priority of mine during my current council term, and will continue to be a priority. There is not just one answer to our growing housing needs in our city, but there is progress that can be made. I would seek to continue to implement recommendations from our Housing Action Plan, including the development of incentives within the city’s code for diverse housing types and increased inventory. I would work to coordinate locally, regionally and at the state level for funding opportunities. Partnering with and supporting the work of organizations in our city and county, such the local housing authorities, and housing trusts can be great steps in positive change.

Tibor Lak: Addressing the affordable housing issue is a very difficult puzzle to solve. The land in Leavenworth has jumped in value. The products used to build housing has doubled in the last few years. The wages that people make building houses has jumped. With all of these factors, it’s very difficult to find a way to build affordable housing. I’m not saying it’s impossible but it will take some very creative collaborations with other agencies to get this to happen. This will take time also. Maybe we need to look at the Habitat for Humanity model again. They built several houses in town. I believe that this worked because the people that would receive the house helped build it from the ground up. That gave them pride to have “sweat equity “ in the house.

Travis McMaster: As a candidate for City Council, I am committed to addressing the issue of affordable housing and ensuring that Leavenworth remains an accessible place to live for a diverse range of people. Here are some strategies I propose the following 5-point plan: Encouraging Regulations for Affordable Housing: I will work towards creating regulations that encourage progress and make it cost-effective to own a house in Leavenworth. Promoting Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Condos: ADUs and condos are excellent tools to increase housing options in our community. I believe that there needs to be a clearer understanding and perception of these housing options. ADUs, for example, can provide affordable housing opportunities for residents while also maintaining the character of existing neighborhoods. Dispelling Myths About Increased Density: It's essential to clarify that increased density does not necessarily lead to increased conflict or decreased quality of life. I can personally attest to this as I live in a condo myself. Many residents in Leavenworth may have misconceptions about the impact of density, and it's important to address these concerns with data and information. Supporting Workforce Housing: Workforce housing is crucial for the sustainability of our community. This housing ensures that essential service providers like barbers, dentists, doctors, retail workers, and servers can afford to live in the area where they work. This, in turn, reduces turnover for businesses and leads to better service for both our residents and visitors. Engaging the Community: I will actively engage with the community to gather input and feedback on affordable housing strategies. It's essential to involve residents, local businesses, and experts in the development of policies that will impact our community. My approach to addressing affordable housing in Leavenworth is multifaceted, focusing on regulatory improvements, promoting various housing options, dispelling myths, supporting workforce housing, and engaging the community. By implementing these strategies, we can ensure that Leavenworth remains an inclusive and accessible place to live for all its residents.

Polly McIntyre: Here in Leavenworth we are in a particular housing crux.  We have a special living environment - it offers beauty, recreational opportunities and a small town rural feel where we still know our neighbors and see them at the Post Office.  Everyone would love to live here.  Yet we also have businesses who need places for their employees to live.  Our Mayor is committed to bringing in housing that supports diversity as well as provides for our workforce.  This is admirable.  Yet on the realistic side I think we need to step back and evaluate the long term.  All of Leavenworth should weigh in on this difficult issue.  Let’s sustain the rural feel of our town as we plan what growth looks like.

Shane Thayer: I don’t believe there is a magic bullet to solve the housing problem, however I openly support programs such as Multifamily Housing Tax Exemptions which could increase affordable housing but can also incentivize market-rate housing. I have also studied the Housing Action Plan to fully grasp the needs and recommendations of Leavenworth. As a potential member of the City Council, it will be my duty to act and move the best ideas forward.

Rhona Baron: I have written extensively on this topic in The Whistle column, published in The Echo until I had to withdraw during the campaign season.  Detailed coverage can be found at LWhistle.com.  But in short, while I have always favored and supported workforce and more affordable housing, the complexities of creating it in Leavenworth, due to our unique circumstances, make success very elusive.  Efforts by the city thus far offer cookie cutter solutions developed in American’s big cities.  By imprinting our neighborhoods with truly urban ideas, we are destroying the small town feel we love.  And guess what.  It’s not working here.  The numbers indicate it won’t so let’s stop pretending we are a cookie cutter town and come up with more collaborative, original solutions.  In the final or “#3 Affordable Housing Whistle,” we open up other tools at the community’s  disposal.  Let’s rally around some real fixes.   

Marco Aurilio: Affordable housing is a complex issue that has solutions in government subsidy as Mayor Florea has adamantly pursued, and I support, but also in improved policy such as Inclusionary Policy which I have proposed with other city council support. Affordable housing will also be achieved through Private/Public Partnerships, that I am pursuing, for more apartments, condominiums and small homes, in strategically zoned city limits and in the UGA.

 

As a city council member, how would you work collaboratively with other council members and city officials to achieve your goals and prioritize the needs of the community?

Anne Heesburg: Just as with residents, I will do my best to encourage open, honest and respectful discussion, collaborative leadership, and strong and transparent communication with council members and city officials so that we can continue strong work together to achieve our goals and the needs of the community.

Tibor Lak: City Council members need to maintain an open relationship with City Staff and directors of other departments. This can be achieved by keeping our ears and eyes open. We need to reach out to the directors for information about the needs of the community. Open dialogue is crucial.

Travis McMaster: As a city council member, my primary objective is to effectively represent the interests and needs of our community while working collaboratively with other council members and city officials to achieve our shared goals. While I firmly believe that it is NOT the role of the city council to micromanage or interfere with day-to-day city operations, I am committed to utilizing my professional experiences and expertise to contribute positively to the betterment of our city rather than being a roadblock. I will actively listen to the concerns and ideas of fellow council members, city officials, and, most importantly, our constituents. Open and respectful communication is essential to building a strong working relationship.  I understand that different council members may have varying perspectives and priorities. I will work diligently to find common ground and build consensus on important issues that benefit our community.  I recognize the importance of respecting the roles and responsibilities of city officials and staff who are responsible for executing day-to-day operations. My focus will be on setting policy directions and providing oversight rather than micromanaging. I will rely on data and evidence-based information to inform my decisions. This approach ensures that our policies and initiatives are grounded in facts and have a higher likelihood of success. I will champion transparency in government processes, ensuring that decisions are made in the open, and that our community understands how and why they are being made. I will also hold myself accountable for the promises and commitments I make to our constituents. I will actively engage with our community to understand their needs and concerns. Their input is invaluable in shaping our decisions and ensuring that our policies are truly reflective of the people we serve. I will continually seek to educate myself on issues relevant to our city and participate in training programs to enhance my knowledge and skills as a council member. My goal is to be a proactive, informed, and supportive council member who contributes positively to the betterment of our city and the well-being of our residents.

Polly McIntyre: I’ve worked 40 years in an industry that depends on and thrives with collaboration.  I’ve seen the benefits of listening and discussing — working together for the best possible outcomes.  I am a voice in the community and will be a voice for the community.

Shane Thayer: Collaboration in its highest form happens when everyone works towards a common goal, and this starts with leading by example. Exceptional communication skills, having an open mind, being honest about my beliefs or position on community issues, and considering everyone’s opinions is how I plan to work closely and collaboratively with fellow council members and city officials.

Rhona Baron: I have a long history of working in partnership or working as a part of collaborative teams to create successful, popular programs and solutions.  Honestly, I don’t work well in a vacuum, so I have little desire to impose my ego on others.  What I am passionate about is good ideas and making sure they are in the mix.  I am always open to those!  Council meets in chambers.  I would like to explore ways we can meet elsewhere, even in smaller groups based on community interest. I support the healthy practices for communication developed by Nash Consulting for the city.  Lastly, I’d like to clear up the difference between “hearing” such as “I hear your words, but don’t agree,” and active listening which requires connection, response and respect. 

Marco Aurilio: In the last two years on council, I have learned to listen better, and understand diverse viewpoints. However, the priority remains Kids and Community, data- driven decisions. I have found it effective to meet with other city council/ board members outside of meeting and go mountain biking or float the river or just go for a walk to better understand their vision, and establish common ground and mutual agreement!

Zeke Reister: As a City Council we are seven individuals with some very diverse opinions. Working collaboratively to me,  means being a good listener and hearing my fellow Councilmembers out and valuing their perspective whether I agree or not. It aso means coming up with issues , ideas , and promoting strategies before the City Council that strengthen and preserve our Leavenworth community and working with Council members to make them happen.

 

Leavenworth faces seasonal challenges, such as heavy snowfall in the winter. How do you plan to address and mitigate the impacts of these challenges on residents and businesses?

Tibor Lak: One of our city’s most common problems is dealing with the amount of snow that we usually get each year. It’s not a new problem but one we try to alleviate by maintaining our snow removal equipment and buy new when needed. We have already ordered new snow plows and machinery. Hopefully most of it will arrive by the end of the year, but we have all heard the dreaded “supply chain issues “ . Just it is a top priority to keep our roads a sidewalks clear.

Travis McMaster: Addressing the seasonal challenges posed by heavy snowfall in Leavenworth is a critical concern for both residents and businesses. I fully understand the importance of effective snow removal, and I'm pleased to hear about the city's investments in new equipment and improved removal plans for 2023.  Here are my key strategies for addressing and mitigating the impacts of heavy snowfall: Efficient Snow Removal: Building on the city's investment in new equipment, I will work closely with the relevant departments to ensure that snow removal operations are efficient and responsive. Timely and thorough snow removal is essential to keep roads, sidewalks, and public spaces safe and accessible. Communication: I believe in transparent and proactive communication with the community. We need to keep residents and businesses informed about snow removal plans, schedules, and any changes due to weather conditions. This will allow people to plan accordingly and reduce disruptions. Prioritizing Key Routes: We should prioritize the clearing of major transportation routes, emergency access roads, and areas near schools and healthcare facilities. Ensuring these critical areas are clear will help maintain essential services during heavy snowfall. Review and Adaptation: Regularly reviewing our snow removal strategies and learning from each winter season's experiences will be vital. We must be willing to adapt and improve our methods as needed to ensure the best possible service to our community. My plan is to prioritize efficient and effective snow removal in Leavenworth, ensuring that residents and businesses can navigate our city safely during the winter months. I am committed to working collaboratively, keeping our community informed, and exploring innovative solutions to address these seasonal challenges. Together, we can minimize the impacts of heavy snowfall on our city and enhance the quality of life for all residents.

Polly McIntyre: We all have chosen to live in a beautiful 4-season mountain environment.  Snow is a part of those 4-seasons we love.  But it is not without its difficulties.  I have talked with road maintenance workers.  They are well aware of the issues that arise when we get BIG dumps. Safety being their chief concern, they are frequently working round the clock clearing roads to provide this.  They also realize their limitations.  We have recently purchased more equipment and our dedicated Public Works dept is working to improve this issue.  So many of us have woken up to a snow berm in our drives. The crew knows this, and when they get the chance, they try to get back and clear the berms.  But more often we do have to dig out.  If you have time, please help your neighbors.  This kind of care increases our sense of community.   We will never have all the resources in place for every possible instance.  When something comes up, let’s work together.

Shane Thayer: Having lived in Leavenworth for almost 40 years, I am very familiar with our seasonal challenges. I am eager to work with the city to find better ways to remove snow during the winter months, more specifically eliminating the berms that block driveways created by snowplows. Fire danger is also a huge challenge Leavenworth faces during the summer months. I personally witnessed the devasting Rat Creek Fire in 1994 and the Tumwater Canyon Fire in 2014. It’s necessary for our community leaders to educate residents on how to prepare homes for potential fire danger and take precautions to prevent the spread of wildfires by implementing more prescribed burning and utilizing Firewise programs.

Rhona Baron: The city has made a good start in the past year by purchasing new equipment to help with snow removal, particularly in the worst years like 2022/23.  We need to be thoughtful about how we build in the future, especially in residential neighborhoods.  We must mitigate worsening our already snowbound roads.  Through good planning, we can have a positive impact on winter roadways and travel.

Marco Aurilio: I understand snow removal intimately, as a snow removal contractor, and am working with council and Public works to improve our fleet and level of service, which has improved dramatically over the last year, with better plow trucks, improved snow blowing capacity and sanders purchased....hopefully delivered in time for our snow season! Also I specifically created and promoted a plan for the City to remove the large snowplow berms from residents’ driveways and I am working to have that approved and implemented for this winter

Zeke Reister: First, as a resident, I believe our Public Works staff does an outstanding job of snow removal for the downtown and the residents-given their initial staffing and their outdated equipment.  Second, we have strengthened the Public Works Dept. by hiring Tom Wacholder who is an outstanding Public Works director. Under his direction we have increased the Public Works staff to meet the needs of a city this size with the impact of 2.7million tourists.  Leavenworth has never been an easy place to live in the winter but with the  new equipment we have authorized and have on order for snow removal , I believe those winter challenges will be met.

Anne Heesburg: Weather event response requires funding and staff time, often outside regularly budgeted services, when it comes to unforeseen events. Planning for potential future events, being fiscally responsible with the funding that is available, and seeking out potential new funding and service opportunities for future events, will help the city address and mitigate challenges that our residents and businesses may face.

 

Lastly, what is your vision for the future of Leavenworth, and what key initiatives or projects do you hope to accomplish if elected to the city council?

Travis McMaster: My vision for the future of Leavenworth is one of balanced growth and sustainability, where our city continues to thrive as a vibrant community while preserving its unique character and natural beauty. I'm running for City Council because I've seen the impact of unchecked tourism and overdevelopment in other tourist cities, and I want to ensure that Leavenworth remains a welcoming and accessible place for residents and visitors alike.

Key initiatives and projects I hope to accomplish if elected include addressing affordable housing challenges by promoting regulations that encourage affordable housing options, supporting ADUs and condos, and engaging the community in finding solutions. I also plan to focus on sustainable development that respects our natural surroundings, preserving green spaces, and promoting responsible tourism. Additionally, I aim to foster collaboration with fellow council members and city officials to set policy directions and provide oversight while respecting their roles in day-to-day operations. Engaging with residents and involving them in decision-making processes will be a priority, ensuring that their voices are heard and considered in shaping the city's future. Ultimately, my goal is to create a Leavenworth that balances growth with preservation, remains affordable and accessible to all, and continues to embody a strong sense of community identity while embracing sustainability and economic growth.

Polly McIntyre: My vision for Leavenworth is a healthy and united community as evidenced by regular active involvement.  This would include both sides of the highway, the residences and the businesses coming together and discussing city issues.  Tackling problems together -  in these discussions all voices are listened to, not just heard.  In my two-year term, community re-engagement is my desired focus.  My vision is — I will host regular community forums that will educate and then discuss options and opportunities with the purpose of moving forward united in vision.  Our residents are aware of our town's issues.  Moving forward, adding residents voices along side business will bring the best outcomes for the future of Leavenworth.

Shane Thayer: My vision for Leavenworth is what I believe many of our families and businesses want. We all want to maintain responsible growth but know this means providing more workforce housing, improved road conditions, ample parking for residents and visitors, adequate snow removal, community facilities like aquatic/recreation center, and improved public works. My time growing up here, working here, building relationships with fellow neighbors and my passion for our town is what drives me. I have witnessed first-hand many changes Leavenworth has gone through and would be greatly honored to help shape a positive future for our town. I believe my deep roots in the community and connection to our younger voters, combined with my professional and civic experience make me a unique candidate.  As Leavenworth progresses into the future, I can bring a distinct perspective to tackle the modern challenges ahead.

Rhona Baron: For details on key initiatives and specific goals, please visit Rhona4Council.com.  My key projects are parking, infrastructure and improved connection with our natural environment.  Achieving these goals  will take far better listening skills and communication from and with city hall.  In summary, I envision a Leavenworth where neighbors stay connected to each other in a personal, small town kind of way.  I envision a place where our citizens and neighborhoods do not pay a prohibitive price for the success of tourism. I envision a Leavenworth that inspires both our visitors and our residents to enjoy a balanced, healthy and enriched life.  I envision a Leavenworth that tears down silos and builds bridges between our citizens.  I appreciate your trust and your vote.  Let’s work together to succeed!   

Marco Aurilio: Our future is bright, and the key items I will support are indicated in the PRSA Recreational Need Survey, and other needs that the community has clearly stated: Year-round aquatics center with public transportation to provide equity and access for the entire PRSA Area!! Improved paths, walkways and biking access. More sports facilities such as an Ice Skating Rink with summer court/turf access, and lighting for our current tennis/pickleball courts. Green space preservation. Heritage Tree and home program. Downtown walking plaza on Front St, with art and downtown Farmer’s Market. Affordable workforce housing. River access, safety, preservation.Improved roads and bike lanes. Wildfire preparedness and improved structure ember resistance. Improved Community Communication, surveys and meetings.Parking Garages and effective electric shuttle service between Parking Garages, lots, and Downtown.

Zeke Reister: My vision for the future of Leavenworth is that it remains a real community where families and individuals of diverse incomes continue to live and thrive-not a hamlet of second homes and vacation rentals. Preserving our community is  securing housing which stabilizes our downtown workforce and affordable housing for our hospital staff and nurses, our teachers, our firefighters and a host of other middle class incomes.  I hope before  my term is out that our Community Center for Osborn is complete or well underway, real progress has been made in building a year around pool if that is the will of the community, we have addressed and mitigated the impact of overuse on the Icicle and Wenatchee Rivers, and that our infrastructure of streets and water distribution have shown measurable progress.

Anne Heesburg: Leavenworth is an incredible town and community, and I feel so lucky to be an active member within it. I look forward to continuing to work on opportunities and issues that our community is facing, including housing, development standards, essential services improvements, parking, infrastructure improvements, business opportunities, our community pool, Osborn redevelopment, and capital projects.

Tibor Lak: If I’m re-elected for my seat on city council I want to focus on finding ways for people to earn money and employ people by letting individuals run home based businesses in their residents. By allowing people to earn extra money out of their homes the have more ways for them to put food on their tables while they are at home with small children. Daycare is another high cost on young families. In future I would love to see a harmonists blend of residents and tourists. And cultivate a strong and healthy vibrant community.  Also I’m still hoping for World peace!


 

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