The Poulsbo City Council race has four new faces and three familiar faces running for spots on the dais.
Two of the spots consist of contested races while the other three are not, with two races featuring incumbents Jeff McGinty and Connie Lord.
Vying for the council’s Position 1 seat are Dawn DeSalvo and Andrew Phillips. For Position 2, Britt Livdahl and Ricky Moon and running unopposed for Position 7 is Gary McVey. Incumbents Connie Lord and Jeff McGinty are both running unoppossed for re-election.
The North Kitsap Herald spoke to each candidate in order to better understand what they hope to bring to the table.
What new perspective will you bring to the city council if elected? If you are an incumbent, what do you want to continue to do in your position if re-elected?
Dawn DeSalvo: My perspective may not be new. I am asking for the honor to serve the people of Poulsbo to ensure that we keep it the great city, I feel that it is. We live in paradise here I have seen too many places lose their identity. My perspective comes from my life growing up in Washington, Oregon, and California along with being a military spouse and living on the east coast, I know what we have here and I want to preserve it.
Andrew Phillips: Each person brings their own set of tools and ideas to the table, which are shaped off each person’s life choices. I personally have been shaped by my education, military background, and raising children. And while I’m only 34 years old, I’ve seen and been to a lot of places in my life. Each experience adds a layer to my perspective, which in turn, allows me to look at situations from a different angle while being open to new ideas. The Poulsbo City Council has done a fantastic job over the years, and to continue providing great leadership and insightful analyses of problems we face as a community would be a great honor. My hope is that I will be one of eight sounding boards for ideas that will help strengthen our city, neighborhoods, and community as a whole.
Connie Lord: As an incumbent, I want to continue to guard the financial stability of the City of Poulsbo which translates to guarding the monies received by our tax paying, rate-paying citizens and being frugal good stewards of the public’s money. I want to continue to guard the well-being of the character of Poulsbo which means protecting our small town, friendly community while encouraging sensible growth with living-wage jobs and affordable housing. I want to continue to protect the quality of Liberty Bay and our salmon-bearing streams, and continue to protect our citizens by monitoring outside influences which tend to undermine this small-town character: unfunded state mandates, and the consequences of state regulations and policies.
One recent example is Poulsbo’s proactive response to new state regulations which place level-three sex offenders into communities without a process that safeguards the safety of citizens due to inadequate notification or input from affected jurisdictions. Our city council is countering this hazard by enacting a process of adopting appropriate zoning regulations to protect the safety of our citizens.
Britt Livdahl: As a designer, builder, and creative entrepreneur, my current work revolves around problem-solving, and doing so in ways that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, and fiscally responsible. I offer a creative and design-centered perspective that is not often found within governing bodies but is immensely valuable. It’s natural for me to think beyond the status quo, and to ask why something is done the way it is, and how it could be done differently in order to solve a problem, or ideally multiple problems concurrently. The challenges we face are not isolated from one another, but that is typically how solutions are sought out. Instead, we should be considering the intersectionality of the issues and determining how to address them from a holistic standpoint.
Ricky Moon: I will bring in new energy and an open mind to the other members of the council as well as a unique knowledge of the downtown businesses, having spent so many years working there.
Jeff McGinty: I have served on the city council since 1991 and will continue working to keep Poulsbo the unique city we all enjoy. Balancing quality of life with the pressures of growth is a continuous challenge. The state Growth Management Act (GMA) mandates that each city plan for and accommodate the population numbers projected in the year 2044. I will work to ensure the city’s charm and quality of life are maintained while supporting the growth objectives we are mandated.
Gary McVey: I’m running for Poulsbo City Council because I believe my 30 years of leadership experience in business, nonprofits, and the government will bring a highly qualified new perspective that is effective and results-oriented. Having served on the Poulsbo City Planning Commission since 2017, I’ve had a front-row seat to many of the growing pressures and other challenges facing the city. I believe I can use this and my other relevant experience to help guide Poulsbo toward a successful future, while also respecting its past. I’ll also bring the perspective of an experienced and committed community leader and volunteer.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest issue facing the city of Poulsbo right now and what will you do as a city council member to address it?
Dawn DeSalvo: Our biggest challenge I would say is our parking downtown. Right now most of the employees that work downtown also park on the waterfront because there is no other option and thus we rarely don’t enforce the three-hour limit. I believe we need to build a parking garage at the current location of the King Olof parking lot that is at least one story underground to provide an option for those that need to park downtown for the entire day.
Andrew Phillips: The biggest issue facing the City of Poulsbo and Kitsap County is substance abuse and mental health. This issue is not a small one and is a contributing factor to the homelessness issue, crime, and the safety of our community. While the city council is a position of power within Poulsbo, the level of interaction needed to help with this issue must be at the county level and above. There are a lot of lessons to learn throughout western Washington regarding combating the epidemic, both good and bad, but the first level of intervention is family. At the second level, we as a community need to help those in need through community-based rehab and mental health programs, which the [Behavioral Health] Navigator program, through the police department, has the tools and knowledge to do. Often people shift the issue to the police to address, merely seeing it as a criminal activity, but that is a fallacy in our way of thinking. Having people with the tools to address drug addiction is step one. But, once those issues are recognized and capable of being rehabilitated, there have to be sufficient programs in place for treatment. Our criminal justice system is not made to handle drug rehab and mental health treatment. Placing someone in a jail cell is a temporary removal from a situation that will continue once released. Kitsap County as a whole must come together to increase the inpatient rehab and mental health beds. But, as the saying goes, “not in my backyard,” we need to find the most suitable location in the county to treat not only those within Poulsbo suffering from addiction and mental health crises but all of Kitsap County. If elected, I will look at ways Poulsbo can address substance abuse and mental health through outreach to neighboring city councils. This problem will not go away and thinking about it as another city’s issue is neglecting to accept that Poulsbo has an issue with drugs, both used [by those] traveling through, and those needing help with a mental crisis.
Connie Lord: Growth. The single biggest issue is staying on top of state and regional government assignment of increased population. The Puget Sound Regional Council has the function under the State Growth Management Act to allocate predicted population numbers to Kitsap County, as well as the other four counties it oversees. Poulsbo will be required to absorb a certain amount of population by 2050. This new growth will be divided among the County and its jurisdictions and will require vigilance and proactive negotiations with Kitsap County. We must do our best to keep our allocation fair and appropriate for our ability to absorb the negotiated new population. This long-range planning affects every aspect of Poulsbo’s future needs for housing, water, sewer, transportation, parks, commercial, schools as well as many other impacts to our economy and quality of life in our city.
Britt Livdahl: The continued rapid growth of our community is the greatest challenge that we face, which of course is not a single issue. We struggle to keep up with the demand for housing, the streets have become more congested, there is a noticeable increase in the transient population, and there’s added strain on our infrastructure that’s old and in need of upgrades. Poulsbo is a wonderful place to live, and therefore it’s appealing to outside investors who don’t care about our charm, heritage, or desire to retain a small-town look and feel.
One of the most important roles of the city council is to implement the vision set forth in the Comprehensive Plan. This is our guiding document and the principles on which we base decisions for the future. The plan is due for an update in 2024, and the work of revisiting and potentially revising portions of the plan is something I take incredibly seriously. This is the primary way we defend ourselves against unchecked growth and an inconsistent aesthetic, and I am particularly passionate about this aspect of the job. I will advocate for new policies that put requirements in place for affordable housing, the protection of wildlife habitats and greenspace and incentivize the repurposing of existing spaces. Safer, more pedestrian and bike-friendly streets and continued improvement of local transit are part of reducing vehicles on the roads and addressing environmental sustainability. Working in conjunction with the rest of the county, we should address our transient and homeless population through a housing-first model, along with an increase in the additional services aimed at mental health, substance abuse, and employment.
Ricky Moon: My main concern is with our aging sewer line, which stretches along the waterfront and out to Brownsville. If it ever breaks, the pollution it will send into Liberty Bay will be catastrophic. I would like to work to get a more modernized system in place.
Other issues I would like to focus on are our street and sidewalk safety infrastructure as well as parking and expanding the post office to be more functional.
Jeff McGinty: Poulsbo, like all cities, has the challenge of providing for the health, safety, and welfare of the community while controlling costs and keeping it an affordable place to live. As a council member, I will continue to look for new ideas and innovations that provide solutions while controlling costs. The city just recently completed the rehabilitation of the main sewer line going down State Highway 305. Working with the engineering and public works departments in identifying solutions, the city used a proven slip line process from Europe, to avoid digging up and replacing pipes. This saved the ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. With our outstanding staff, I will continue working to identify cost-effective solutions to affordable housing, mental illness, drug addiction, traffic congestion, environmental impacts, and the many other issues that face us. We must continue to consider costs and impacts on our citizens when developing and implementing new policies.
Gary McVey: One of the biggest issues currently facing Poulsbo is growth management. We live in a very desirable place, within commuting distance of major military bases and the rapidly expanding Seattle metro area. How do we manage this growth — much of it dictated by Washington’s Growth Management Act — while also retaining our Norwegian village charm? We do it by thoughtfully and purposely engaging citizens, developers, surrounding city and county government leaders, and other partners. The upcoming update to Poulsbo’s Comprehensive Plan will provide an excellent opportunity to effectively manage the city’s growth for the next 20 years.
What has driven you to be a participant in city government?
Dawn DeSalvo: What has driven me to participate in the city government can be best summed up as love for this city and my desire to keep our unique slice of heaven that people love to visit and families want to reside.
Andrew Philips: My ability to reach people from all walks of life. As a youth sports coach, the ability to connect with children and shape them into contributing members of society is no easy feat. That drive to improve those around me, as well as not settle for ok, is a driving factor in running for the city council. In addition, my family and friends supporting and pushing me in this effort. Throughout my life, I’ve sought out opportunities, taken advantage of them, and placed myself in a better position. As a city councilmember, using my ability to influence and help others will increase our community’s quality of life. I’d like to use that influence to better our community resources, particularly our parks. Poulsbo needs a modern, convenient, and inclusive park that the community can get out and enjoy. Bringing a splash pad, pickleball court, volleyball, basketball, dog park, and modern playground to Poulsbo is not only good for our children but will increase interactions among the adults visiting. There are a lot of examples in the area, as well as the region, of fantastic parks that provide outdoor recreation for the community. As a council member, citizen of the community, and father, I’d like to put forth effort into making that a reality.
Connie Lord: As a resident with a prior understanding of how local government works, (eight years in land use planning and deputy city clerk for the city of Winslow), I brought that knowledge and experience to help govern Poulsbo. Now, after 20 years on the Poulsbo city council, I have an in-depth understanding of the role of a city council as the policymakers and how council, mayor and staff interact. A love for my city and passion to help keep Poulsbo thriving while maintaining its small-town character is also what I bring, along with an understanding of infrastructure needs, and awareness that city governments also must adhere to state laws and mandates which are often beyond the control of the local government. My historical knowledge and experience will help keep the city running efficiently, meeting our fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers whom we work for, and striving to keep costs to our citizens as low as possible.
Britt Livdahl: I’ve recently come to understand that if I want to see a change in my world, it’s not enough to sit passively and wait for it to arrive. Conversely, if there are things I want to preserve, that too requires action and commitment. Poulsbo is my hometown, I love living here, and this is one way for me to invest personally in our future.
Ricky Moon: I worked for years in the downtown business core and have come to know the business owners’ needs. I am looking to retire soon and want to serve the community I grew up in and I think this is the best way to go about it.
Jeff McGinty: I participate in city government because I care about our community and desire to keep Poulsbo the unique city we have chosen to call home. Being in the city government has brought me a greater appreciation for the city’s highly skilled staff, outstanding service organizations, and the many volunteers helping throughout the community. Their roles continue to be a major factor in shaping and maintaining Poulsbo as a desirable place to live.
Gary McVey: I’ve been driven to participate in city government by my three decades of leadership experience and by my service as a Poulsbo City Planning Commissioner. City Council members are primarily responsible for two things: setting policy and establishing the city budget. As a member of the City Planning Commission, I’ve worked with other commissioners to recommend policy changes and additions to the City Council. This includes recommendations related to city commercial codes, zoning, commercial and residential development, and other issues.
The North Kitsap Herald asked each candidate one question, separate from the other candidates. Unfortunately, Jeff McGinty did not respond to one of the questions asked before deadline for this story.
NKH: Your priority issue is parking, Anderson Parkway along the water offers a lot of options, but it could directly impact the Port of Poulsbo, of which your husband is a commissioner. Would you recuse yourself from conversations on parking in that area should you be elected?
Dawn DeSalvo: All issues with parking involving the Port of Poulsbo, I will recuse myself from those conversations.
NKH: Why have you chosen to focus your campaign on drug addiction and mental health? Many of the other candidates, including your opponent, have chosen to focus on infrastructure and housing, two problems that are much more visible to the public.
Andrew Phillips: There are a lot of issues that cities can focus on, but not a lot of attention is given to the issue of substance abuse and mental health. Affordable housing is an issue that affects just about everyone, some a lot harder than others, but it is something we’ve dealt with for a while now. Whereas, substance and mental health are usually viewed in a negative light because the people involved are seen as “less contributing” members of society. But, a lot of issues stem from substance abuse, including homelessness, crime, panhandling, etc. In addition, substance and mental health issues can have a correlation with the inability to afford housing. I think framing a campaign on one issue is a little misleading. There are a lot of issues we as a city and society need to address. One person sitting on a council is not going to solve that problem — it takes community action. But, a council member can bring attention to an issue. Given a lot of people, both sitting and running for the city council, have focused their efforts towards affordable housing, a voice for those suffering from other issues is always a good thing.
NKH:It seems the state has gotten into the habit of making decisions and laws that have disproportionate effects on local communities. You brought up the example of the SVP house on Viking Way, some others are the recent ban on the sale of flavored vape and the rules surrounding independent investigations per I-940. Is there anything the city council can/ should do to confront the state on these types of decisions and their impacts on local communities?
Connie Lord: About the only thing we can do is to make our voice heard in Olympia. For that reason, we have under contract for the past two years a paid lobbyist who represents our concerns and briefs us regularly on the status of bills and any scuttlebutt he might hear that could affect the city. We (council members and mayor) attend the AWC Legislative Conference in Olympia each January and at that time are able to schedule meetings with our legislators in person. That close contact has been very helpful; I secured several grants via these meetings. The mayor and sometimes a councilmember or two periodically has gone to Olympia to testify on a bill under consideration.
The only other opportunity that sometimes presents itself is to join in with the County or other cities in a group effort to let the legislators know what impacts they are imposing on us.
Of course, none of this is helpful if we don’t know about pending legislation before it gets passed. When that happens, all we can do is contact our legislators and strongly inform them of the adverse effects on Poulsbo and urge them to work to undo such laws or modify them to mitigate the consequences.
NKH: During the candidate forum, you were particularly adamant about a potential plastic bag ban, stating the city should do more. How would you take that ban further as a member of the city council without inconveniencing businesses and consumers?
Britt Livdahl: The key term here is plastic. Single-use plastic bags, or the myriad of other single-use items that are used for convenience in the retail and foodservice industries, are made from petroleum-based materials that do not break down, are difficult to recycle, pose a threat to our health, and are polluting every part of our environment and the organisms therein.
There are options that are not plastic. Compostable products made from renewable, plant-based sources are available, and the more the public and municipalities demand these alternatives, the more innovation will take place to offer them to us at a lower cost. There are now many examples to look towards when considering what kind of restrictions might be put on single-use items. Seattle was one of the first cities to enact laws that require compostable take-out items, and Portland recently instituted a law where plastic items are not automatically provided but must be requested. These are not major inconveniences to businesses and consumers, but they may increase costs slightly until industries adapt to changing demands.
There are many ways to approach waste reduction, and I’d like to see Poulsbo be more proactive in our efforts. For decades, our world has put convenience ahead of protecting waterways, wildlife, and our own food sources, and now it’s time for us to come to terms with the consequences of these choices. China will no longer take in all our unwanted waste, and there’s a garbage island twice the size of Texas floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Trash litters our local roads and beaches. This is simply unacceptable, and the burden of responsibility is on the shoulders of each and every one of us.
NKH: You have run for public office in the past, and you had some health issues that caused you to step back from that pursuit, are you in a place now healthwise where you think you can keep up with the demands of the job as a public servant?
Ricky Moon: I had prostate cancer and underwent treatment for it. As of right now, I am cancer-free and in good health and feel ready for this responsibility.
Due to your race being uncontested, you didn’t participate in the candidate forum, but you did attend. What were some questions that were asked at the forum that you would have liked to answer?
Gary McVey: The question of how many city council meetings I have attended. I would have said that over the past six months, I’ve attended or watched live on BKAT community TV all but two city council meetings. Since last May, I’ve also attended approximately 10 city council committee meetings, including Finance/Administration, Public Works, Public Safety/Legal, Community Services, and Planning and Economic Development. I’ve also attended meetings of the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council, which includes representatives from all of the cities in the county, county commissioners, tribal officials, the Navy, and Port representatives. I’ve attended these various city and regional meetings because they were of interest to me and I believe they will help prepare me to serve on the city council.
Please share a fun fact about yourself
Dawn DeSalvo: I love skydiving.
Andrew Phillips: A fun fact about myself is I went to law school in 2011 to become a Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Officer and I was just recently selected to commission into the Navy Reserve JAG Corps.
Connie Lord: I am an inveterate multi-tasker!
Britt LivDahl: I’ve been to 42 of the 50 U.S. States, and I don’t count airports or visits I was too young to remember! Road trips seem to be in my genes, and thankfully I found a fellow adventurer in my husband, Jason. New England and Michigan are all I need to fill in the rest of the map, so maybe 2020 will be the year!
Ricky Moon: I have run for office before, and I learned a lot from that experience.
Jeff McGinty: I had the honor of meeting Norway’s King Harald V and Queen Sonja when they visited Poulsbo in October of 1995. It was a very exciting time for our city. Although I have an Irish surname, I have ¾ Norwegian Heritage.