While it’s not a presidential-election year, we have a unique opportunity each November to cast our votes for people who serve as our representatives at all levels of government. The seats of public office can range from cities and counties to smaller jurisdictions such as parks or fire districts — even school boards.
Three races stand out on the Nov. 5 general election ballot for the Gig Harbor area. Our picks are Rick Jones for the Peninsula School District’s board of directors, Kurt Grimmer for the Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District, and Steve Ekberg for Gig Harbor City Council.
PSD BOARD OF DIRECTORS, DISTRICT 5
Jones previously had been appointed to the school board in a unanimous vote when his predecessor stepped down due to declining health. He picked up the ball and ran with it, and he looks to his two children who attend schools in the district for information about what needs to be improved.
Jones, a private pilot, points to a special camaraderie on the current school board, an environment he enjoys because of the non-partisan approach that focuses on education policy and success. He says the board members come from different backgrounds, and they’re willing to go to bat for what they believe in, but they’re also ready to compromise and come to a consensus.
He was part of the unanimous vote to put the school district’s $50 million capital levy on the November ballot, and he cited information gathered from numerous public meetings, parent surveys and other sit-downs with teachers that narrowed the focus to the district’s critical needs.
David Olson, the other candidate for the seat, has a rich history of service. He had a 28-year career in the U.S. Navy, for which he served as a community service director, and he’s currently a manager at U.S. Bank. His wife is an educator, and three of their four children attended PSD schools. He helped to coordinate efforts for Drug Education for Youth, and he’s a board member for the Gig Harbor/Peninsula FISH Food Bank.
Olson thinks the school board lacks leadership and that members are afraid to vote no. As a member of the public, he said he’d like to see certain issues discussed in the open. However, he didn’t want to take a stand on the capital levy this summer, and that sort of pause is concerning, particularly because it’s the biggest issue the school board is facing.
PENMET PARKS, POSITION 1
Grimmer and his wife moved to Gig Harbor 30 years ago from Tacoma and have been involved in the community ever since. He coached his kids as a volunteer all the way through high school in several sports. He has been on the Peninsula Athletic Association board of directors for the past decade. He has volunteered with clinics and has lined soccer fields for several years. His experience with organizing and supervising community athletic events would make him an asset to the parks district.
In his professional life, Grimmer has been in the financial services industry and spent 25 years in the banking industry. His knowledge of finance should translate well to understanding the fiscal side of the job, which requires working within the constraints of taxpayer dollars, and using that money effectively and creatively.
Grimmer has attended several meetings, including many public affairs forums, and he appears to be eager to receive input, and take that into account, if elected. He wants to organize a pickleball tournament at Uptown, a fun activity that would be good for all ages. He’s also expressed a desire to make recreation more accessible to all age groups, including the growing number of seniors in the Gig Harbor area.
Judy Pagni, the other candidate for the seat, has spent 10 years in the financial industry, and she’s been involved with community volunteer programs such as the March of Dimes and Big Brothers, Big Sisters. She received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Oregon.
Neither candidate has previous elected experience, but Grimmer’s familiarity with the parks system would be a bonus to his financial background.
GIG HARBOR CITY COUNCIL, POSITION 2
Ekberg, the incumbent, has more than 30 years of experience on the Gig Harbor City Council. He’s guided the city through substantial growth and infrastructure improvements, and he’s worked hard to maintain the character that makes Gig Harbor unique.
Ekberg has overseen vast improvement in the area of public parks and water-access points, and the city has added sidewalks in many places during his tenure. He hopes to continue to work on trail connectivity through Gig Harbor.
Although it’s not necessarily a headline-grabbing issue, Ekberg helped to guide the city’s wastewater treatment plant, not only contributing to a cleaner environment but setting the table for sustainable future growth.
He’s also forged valuable relationships with mayors, city administrators and various employees. Ekberg has been, and continues to be, responsive to his constituents, willing to meet or talk with them at any time. His work in the insurance industry also has proven to be valuable.
Challenger Jim Hagman and his wife, Candy, have lived in Gig Harbor since 1987, and they currently reside on the west side of town. Hagman has experience as a small business owner, and he’s been actively involved in the community as a youth soccer referee and coach. He has volunteered with the New Beginnings Home and served as the chairman of the board of directors for the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
While Hagman probably would be a nice candidate at a different time, the city would lose too much institutional knowledge were he to replace Ekberg, the clear choice for the position.