Race for City Council has become a meandering stroll through the park

Until last minute challenge boosted intrigue in Kelly’s bid for re-election
By Dan Aznoff | Nov 02, 2017


With one glaring exception, the contest to fill four seats on the Mill Creek City Council has evolved into an endorsement of the direction the city has taken under the leadership implemented by City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto.

The local election has lacked much of the intrigue of politics on the national scale. Mayor Pam Pruitt and Mayor Pro Tem Brian Holtzclaw are both running unopposed for second four-year terms. With 17-year Councilmember Donna Michelson’s decision to not seek re-election, former Planning Commissioner Jared Mead found himself as the only candidate in the race for council Position No. 2.

The only drama in this election cycle has been provided by Councilmember Sean Kelly, who filed to run for a second term in Position No. 1. Kelly has refused to comment on a Beacon investigation that revealed he bought a home in Snohomish and no longer lives in the city.

The soft-spoken Kelly said he thought he could continue to serve on the council as long as he owned property in Mill Creek. The councilmember’s misconception was discounted by Garth Fell, the elections and recording manager for Snohomish County, who told The Beacon that a candidate’s eligibility is determined by his permanent residence – the address on record with Voter Registration.

Fell said that a court order would be required to remove Kelly’s name from the ballot at this late date. He added that the remaining members of the council would be required to select a replacement if he is elected and later found to be ineligible to serve.

Given the opportunity to clarify his status, Kelly has ignored questions regarding his official residence. Since his initial admission that he was living in Snohomish, Kelly has not responded to numerous phone calls, emails and text messages from The Beacon or from the website News of Mill Creek requesting his side of the controversy.

His council colleagues have confirmed that Kelly has not addressed the situation with them.


Challenger steps up

Lawyer and entrepreneur Carmen Fisher had filed to run against the incumbent before the issue of Kelly’s eligibility came into question. She decided to challenge Kelly because she didn’t want to run against another woman or against the popular Holtzclaw.

Until last Friday, Fisher had resisted questioning the incumbent’s official residence. However, Fisher did file a challenge with the Snohomish County Office of Elections and Registration on Oct. 27 to force Kelly to clarify the issue before voters cast their ballots.

The challenger had previously chosen to focus her energy on the issues that prompted her to run in the first place.

“I want to represent the growing number of people who have moved into Mill Creek who live in the apartments that have sprung up around town in the past few years,” Fisher said.

“My motivation to get involved in politics stems from my personal concerns with social issues like those facing the LGBT community and Black Lives Matter.

“But now I believe it is important to become involved with the community that I have chosen to be my home.”

Like the other candidates on the ballot, Fisher believes the balanced 2017-18 budget has gone a long way toward establishing financial guidelines that will help Mill Creek prosper in the years ahead. She was impressed with the budget drafted by Polizzotto for 2017-18 that eliminated a multi-million dollar shortfall without cuts to vital services.

Mill Creek is at an exciting and critical point in our development as a city.  As revenues change and the Capital Improvement Plan expands, the council will soon be facing difficult choices,” Fisher told The Beacon. “I advocate decisions that reflect up-to-date best practices, creative solutions and a clear long-term vision.”

One long-time critic of the current council believes Kelly has not withdrawn because he hopes that Pruitt and the council will be able to name a replacement who reflects their own vision for the city.

“There is no other reason for him to stay in the race,” said the critic, who asked not to be identified. “His plan is obvious to everybody. I’m not sure who he thinks he is fooling.”

Millenial will bring fresh face to council

The 26-year-old Mead told The Beacon that his decision to run for Position No. 2 was based on a personal hunch.

“I knew that I wanted to run, but I was not sure for which seat. So I waited,” Mead said. “There were indications that she (Michelson) was on the fence.

“By the time I did file she was the only member of the council who had not publicly announced if she would be running for re-election.”

Michelson has served the city as both mayor and mayor pro tem during her nearly two-decade tenure on the council.

Asked for a final comment before the election, the current mayor and mayor pro tem steered clear of any controversy.

“I guess my ‘final word’ is that I look forward to the opportunity to represent the citizens of Mill Creek for another four years on the City Council,” Holtzclaw said.

“I also look forward to working with my fellow councilmembers and the city manager on the priorities laid out in my voter pamphlet statement.”

Holtzclaw has lived in Mill Creek for 13 years. He believes the city, with leadership from the city manager under direction of the council, has successfully re-organized staff and resources to more efficiently deliver city services.

Pruitt was even more succinct, emphasizing that the council has reached the point that it is “functioning well as a policy-setting team,” and that the city has the “professional staff on board to execute these tasks."

"It is important for the City Council to stay focused on a balanced budget and economic development to avoid large tax increases. The next four years will require long-term planning for capital improvements.”

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