Incumbent Gig Harbor City Council member Steve Ekberg and challenger Jim Hagman debated last Thursday morning during the weekly public affairs forum at Cottesmore of Life Care. The candidates are seeking city council position No. 2.
Ekberg, who served on the council from 1974-86 and again from 1994 to today, touted his experience.
“I like what I’m doing,” he said. “I do a good job. I still have enthusiasm and desire to be involved in the community. I want to make sure the citizens’ money is well spent. We’ve had 17 straight audits with no findings whatsoever.”
Hagman, originally from Indiana, moved to Gig Harbor with his family in the mid-1980s. He said his experience as a soccer referee helped him learn how to deal with contentious issues.
“I talk about soccer because I think about the city council, just about half the people are not happy with you,” Hagman said. “They usually let you know about it. Issues come up that are very contentious, close to people’s hearts.”
Ekberg pointed to his work with parks and sidewalk improvements.
“When I started, we had one park,” he said. “We’ve been able to add additional properties. We now have over 21 parks in the city and three piers. We continue to work on the development of our most recent parks, and we’re working to get a trail system approved.
“When I first started, we barely had any sidewalks,” Ekberg added.
“We’ve added many sidewalks; you see a lot of people walking around town.”
Ekberg also spoke about his work with the sewer plans and his hope to continue the visioning process for downtown Gig Harbor.
“The sewer plan improvements make the harbor a cleaner, better place,” he said. “Downtown revitalization is very important. It’s very important to work with the chamber and waterfront alliance. We need a lot more business activity and people living down there. I always have tried to use a balanced approach.”
Hagman thinks the council needs a fresh perspective on issues from people who don’t live in the downtown area.
“I believe a new perspective on issues is vital to the community,” he said.
“Building heights are probably the biggest issue right now,” Hagman added. “I’ve had to face people that are pretty angry about a soccer call.”
Ekberg pointed to the working relationships he has forged during his tenure on the council.
“My primary function on the council is the budget,” he said. “We set the policy for the city. Over the years, I’ve had very good working relationships with mayors and city administrators. I go to the staff directly when the citizens call and ask a question.”
Hagman agreed that the budget is the most important function of the council.
“I was reading through the budget, and it spelled out the duties of a council person,” he said. “It’s mainly managing the budget; not spending more than we’re bringing it. It seems like the city has done a great job of doing that. They’ve done a great job running the city.”
Hagman said the biggest difference between he and Ekberg is the level of experience.
“The major difference is Steve has over 30 years experience, and I have zero,” Hagman said. “I think I’d bring a good perspective. Just the fact that I live over here on the west side, if I don’t win, almost 100 percent of the representation will be from downtown.”
Ekberg said he’s worked with different people to get things done.
“There’s a value to that,” he said. “I just can guarantee you I have lots of ideas, tons of energy, and I’d like to continue.”Reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.