Two very different candidates for Poulsbo mayor

Erickson says she has the background; Moon is concerned about growth, regulations

POULSBO — Becky Erickson took a break during Viking Fest to chat about the challenge of juggling responsibilities as mayor with campaigning for reelection, and — I am not making this up — the Vestre Sund Mannskor broke into the third verse of “Sixteen Tons”:

“I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine

I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine

I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal

And the straw boss said ‘Well, a-bless my soul.’ ”

“There are so many things that are pending right now that we need to move forward on,” Erickson said of her campaign for a third term.

“We need to start working on a new sub-area planning process with the county to make sure that our city is sized the right way, so that we’re not so dense. We need to continue with expansion of our parks. The Edward Rose project is pending; I have the history and I really need to be here when it occurs.”

Edward Rose & Sons proposes a 55-acre neighborhood with 540 apartments on 46 acres — 11.7 units per acre — on Bond Road and Highway 305. The neighborhood will have a community center, swimming pool, and central park with pedestrian paths; and on 9.2 acres, a commercial area and 160-room senior care apartments, with pedestrian plazas, a public park, a shared-use path, transit stops and streetscape landscaping. The project is expected to boost Poulsbo’s population by 10 percent.

In addition, “We’ve got four apartment buildings [being built] in the next 18 months,” Erickson said. “There are a lot of things that are on the horizon [that], because of my history here, I know intimately. There’s lots to do.”

Should she win in November, Erickson, 62, would be the fourth of Poulsbo’s 21 mayors elected to a third term.

She received an undergraduate degree in economics from University of Washington in 1979, and served as chief financial officer and operations director of Pinchot Programs at Presidio Graduate School on Bainbridge Island from 2007-09.

She won a seat on the City Council in 2007; she ran for council after her Noll Road farm was annexed into the city, and she wanted some say on the direction of the city’s growth and its protection of natural resources.

In 2009, she ran for mayor, concerned about city spending and opposed to the selection of what became the site of the new city hall. She defeated the incumbent, Kathryn Quade, 53.37 to 45.75 percent.

She tightened the city’s belt, moved far-flung departments to the new and expansive City Hall, and began selling surplus property — the old city hall site, the old police station.

By 2016, police department staffing was back up to pre-recession levels, and a code enforcement officer was added. But during her watch, the police department went through a series of crises and she is now on her third police chief in eight years.

Overall, though, Erickson believes the state of the city is good.

“The city’s really healthy right now, but the city wasn’t healthy when I took office,” Erickson said. “What we have to do is let it grow and thrive. And let’s not forget the strength we have; we have to protect it to a certain degree.

“It’s real easy [for a city’s economy to turn south]. I’ve seen cities all around the Western Washington area that have not fared well since the recession and are still struggling. We have to be always vigilant to be sure we keep on track. On the other hand, we don’t want such rapid growth that we displace the things we love about the town.”

Erickson said having an election challenger has a “silver lining”: lone candidates don’t get much attention, but now she’s forced to campaign and participate in candidate forums and field questions from press and public.

“I’ll be able to talk about what’s occurred and what I think needs to happen next. But it is a tremendous amount of work,” she said of campaigning. “I am busy. Half of me says. ‘I’m not silenced like I was last time.’ Another part of me says, ‘Wow, I have to go through all those pieces, which takes a lot of work.’”

Erickson defeated Jim Henry for City Council in 2007, but Henry — who returned to the council two years later and is retiring after almost 30 years of city service — praised Erickson.

“I’ve had three mayors I’ve worked for — Donna Jean Bruce, Kathryn Quade, and Becky Erickson,” Henry said on May 26. “I loved Donna Jean; she was tough as nails. Kathryn, I gave her a hard time for being a [liberal]. Becky, she’s a business woman and she always thinks about what is going to profit the city. I’ve always learned something from her and I enjoyed that.”

Recruited to run

Moon, 61, is a busy guy. It’s a sunny afternoon May 26 and he’s on his cell phone scheduling a media interview while doing a roofing job.

That day, the North Kitsap Herald reported that Moon had lived in Poulsbo for 10 years but hadn’t registered as a Poulsbo voter until the day he filed his candidacy for mayor. Prior to that, he had voted as a Kingston resident, even though he hadn’t lived in Kingston since 2007.

He shook it off.

Moon said he was encouraged to run for mayor; but he won’t say by whom. He believes city laws are onerous in some areas, and lacking in others. Mayor Erickson once threatened to prosecute him for trimming a city tree’s branches that hung over the old Olympic Hotel building on Front Street.

City ordinance states that trimming a city tree requires a permit and supervision of the city. Moon states he had the right to trim branches that extended over private property; the hotel building, which houses Liberty Bay Gallery and is owned by the Sluys family. He was never prosecuted.

He’s concerned that the city is growing without the infrastructure to support it. He produced photos that show how heavy rains overwhelm the storm drain system downtown, resulting in flooding. There is inadequate fire suppression downtown, he said. Elsewhere in the city, land is being clearcut to make way for new development even as several big commercial spaces close, and streets are becoming congested, he said. More cleared land and more asphalt means more surface stormwater coursing down to Front Street and Liberty Bay.

“Poulsbo doesn’t need to be a 20,000-population town,” he said. Make City Council meetings more welcoming and interesting, he said, and get the public’s input on city growth.

He does love Poulsbo, though. “It’s peaceful,” he said. “You can leave your keys in the car. I have no fear of walking downtown, or on any city street, at any hour. I feel safe here.”

He does worry that construction of more apartments will result in an increase in crime and drug problems. “People won’t be able to go out without having a fear factor,” he said. And he doesn’t see the need for North Kitsap Fishline’s expanxsion on Viking Avenue. He’d like to see a system where people use EBT cards to shop at local stores, rather than have to go to food banks.

Moon graduated in 1973 from North Kitsap High School; he placed fourth in wrestling at state and also compete in gymnastics. He fought forest fires during the summer in Chelan, and in 1974 began his construction career with R&R Construction, helping to build Parkwood East in East Bremerton. He became a contractor in 1981 and a general contractor in 1985.

Formerly a Kingston resident, he’s lived in Poulsbo since his 2007 divorce; he wears a bracelet for each year of that marriage. He proudly shows photos of his family — four daughters and nine grandchildren.

He has a sense of humor. “What’s the worst thing that can happen to me,” he asked regarding the mayor’s race. “If I don’t win, I can always say I came I second place.”

Moon readily admits he has a lot to learn — for example, he seemed to be unfamiliar with the Growth Management Act, the state law that requires cities and counties to identify areas where urban growth will take place in order to protect environmentally sensitive areas and open space. And he’s concerned that he won’t know all the answers to voters’ questions.

One of Moon’s fans believes he isn’t ready to serve as chief executive officer of a municipal corporation with 94 employees and an overall budget of $60 million.

“I did tell Ricky that I thought it was the silliest thing he’d never done in his life,” city booster Bill Austin said. “He’ll be squashed.”

(The Sluys family, on the other hand, presented Moon with a framed and matted certificate of appreciation detailing his work maintaining the family’s 11 downtown properties.)

Austin said he doesn’t plan to endorse in the mayor’s race, but he said jokingly of Erickson, “She’s done a pretty good job, for a farmer.”

About the job

The mayor is Poulsbo is elected by voters, and is the full-time, salaried CEO of the city. The mayor’s annual salary is currently $74,678.

Poulsbo has an estimated population of 10,210. The city has 94 employees in seven departments, and an overall budget of $60 million in expenditures and $59.9 million in revenue in 21 funds.

According to the Revised Code of Washington, the mayor:

  • Is the chief executive and administrative officer of the city, in charge of all departments and employees, with authority to designate assistants and department heads.
  • May appoint and remove a chief administrative officer or assistant administrative officer.
  • Shall see that all laws and ordinances are enforced and that “law and order is maintained in the city.”
  • Shall see that all contracts and agreements made with the city are faithfully kept and performed.
  • Shall preside over all meetings of the city council, and may cast a vote only in the case of a tie.
  • Shall report to the council concerning the affairs of the city and its financial and other needs, and shall make recommendations for council consideration and action.
  • Shall prepare and submit to the council a proposed budget.
  • Shall have the power to veto ordinances passed by the council.
  • Shall be the official and ceremonial head of the city and shall represent the city on ceremonial occasions.

— Richard Walker is editor of Kitsap News Group.