Last Tuesday night, the North Bend City Council started the process of appointing a new member. After opening remarks, the applicant left the chambers. They were then called in one by one to answer questions.
Five applicants were present: Errol Tremolada, Sheraz Malik, James McEachran, Terry Pottmeyer, and Sam White. Each applicant was given one minute to introduce himself or herself, followed by counsel questions.
The applicants were asked five questions by Mayor Pro Tem Koellen, which were attached to the council packets and which they had been provided a copy of ahead of time; the applicants had up to three minutes to answer each of those questions. Council members then had an opportunity to ask follow-up questions.
Following all questions and answers, each applicant had one minute to make closing remarks. After all applicants had been interviewed, counsel entered an Executive Session to discuss the applicant’s qualifications.
Upon returning to the meeting, all the candidates were thanked for their time and encouraged to continue to engage in the process. A motion was made and seconded to invite candidates Errol Tremolada and Sam White to second-round interviews on November 21st at 7 pm.
Below are the five questions and some excerpts from Tremolada and White’s answers. Click here to hear all five candidates’ and Tremolada and White’s complete answers.
Question one: What do you consider to be the biggest challenges facing the city?
Tremolada: I walked around for six months talking about financial independence. And it’s more of strategically partnering with neighbors, regional partners at the Snoqualmie tribe, areas where we can create a tax base that’s sustainable over multiple generations, obviously, my children’s generation, many people I talked to talked about how their children had graduated through school and now would like to come back to North Bend are currently living with their parents, how do we get them on their feet and on their own? And do we have a tax base that can support the infrastructure that would do that?
And with that, part and parcel are probably the biggest reason I ran for council, which was stimulating Small Business Growth. Most of my biggest supporters are small business owners here in town. I have a commercial real estate background. For 15 years before moving to Washington State, I worked with small and mid-sized companies in commercial leasing sales and development. Most of that being the Tenant Advocate, so representing their needs and understanding leasing costs of startup costs for small businesses. How do we get a mom-and-pop out of the gate and on Main Street and operate and make money from both sides of the table?
White: I was researching before coming tonight and looked at some of the US Census data from 2020. They said North Bend has 12 and a half percent of its population living below the poverty line. And I was shocked by that. And then, it seems the national mean is about 11% of people living below the poverty line. So, it seems as though North Bend is above the national average. That’s something I hadn’t considered previously until this week; I’d really like to see North Bend be able to address some of these issues; the cost of living has skyrocketed. And I would love something like North Bend to implement its own minimum wage that’s higher than the state standard as a sort of quick potential means to get people money to be able to afford housing in this town, as opposed to having to wait for development to take place. Because that’s a many multi-year process as opposed to something that at least in my mind, not you know, being fully versed in the bureaucracy of politics and how things go but, in my mind, you know, set in setting a higher minimum wage in town could potentially put in place faster sooner.
Question 2: What would you like to see North Bend look like in 10 years?
Tremolada: I’d like to see it as a fully connected town. So, one of the amazing things that I think about North Bend is that its topology is fairly flat. So, whether you live in Tanner, Forestor Woods, Si View or down by the blueberry farm, it’s easily accessible to the city center.
I think creating a more vibrant, dynamic downtown center and fully connecting that. So, I’d love to see in 10 years truck down all the way to downtown fully accessible with small businesses, whether it’s coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, what have you.
We saw the engineers out a few weeks ago measuring out the sidewalks. So, obviously, Council has been dealing with some of that, and we’re excited about it. But I think a fully connected town, kind of from end to end, would be what people move here for, which is to park your car in your driveway and have the best trailhead in North Bend be your driveway, whether you can walk or bike to the bakery for donuts, or what have you.
White: I would like the downtown area to be more vibrant and have more places to go, hang out, and mingle with the community. In a perfect world, I would really like the auto dealership to be relocated and maybe put in some promenade shops on either side, seating, and an outdoor green space for kids to play in.
I want shops with art. I want restaurants and pubs, things of that nature. I also would really like outlet malls to be revamped. But that’s probably beyond the 10-year project. And it’s complicated because obviously, the city isn’t on that. But something like U Village is more reflective of a small town. Unlike a vast sea of asphalt, the character fits with North Bend.
I also would really like to figure out a way for all city employees to get a living stipend to ensure that city employees can live in North Bend and be part of this community, especially public works employees and those on call. So, it would be great if we could figure out how to support these employees and get them to live in town. I’d like to see some smaller, more affordable homes. And then, finally, it’d be cool if we had a pool.
Question three: Why do you want to be selected for this open position? What contributions Do you want to make? And what value do you bring to the table?
Tremolada: Well, I would like to be selected for the position because I think any seat on the council must represent the voters. Fortunately, I just ran a race last week, and I have some real data to share with you that I received a little over 1100 votes.
And so, I represent a certain contingent of the electorate, obviously not the most in that race. But a good chunk of your neighbors, who I think some are, I should say, most probably identify similarly to me to how young families moved into town and expect to be invested in this town for many years, are very active in various parts of the community.
I think having a diverse perspective on the council, both for where you live in North Bend and where you are heading in the future of North Bend, may not mean you may disagree with the opinions every time. Still, I think the council should represent a diverse group of opinions. I think that’s how North Bend gets better across the board. And what I bring to the table, I think, is the commercial development background.
So I think, obviously, we’ve grown as a town, and as you grow, the level of service and demand increases, and I think commercial development needs to follow. I think there’s a lot of discussion, at least on the campaign trail, about what that looks like. Are they small, medium-range businesses? Is it a larger business? I work with jurisdictions on annexations, entitlements, zoning, rezoning building permits, planners, planning commissions, and city councils nationwide. But I think I can bring a unique perspective. And I understand what the developers need. Yet I moved to a small town that doesn’t really want that. And so, I think I can appreciate the negotiation at the table, the planning at the table and allow the development process to pan out and hopefully add value to moving the ball along and to get that development that the town not only accepts but wants.
White: Engaging with the council members (during the Citizen’s Academy) as a citizen was awesome. It was just a great experience. And so that was one thing I wanted to get into, just being a liaison and someone who can build excitement for the city government and increase engagement.
Regarding contributions, I’m a scientist, which is probably not the usual background for coming to the city council. But you know being a scientist means you must be open-minded; you must consider all available options that might explain the results you’re seeing; you can’t see data and accept it; you have to question it and figure out whether or not it makes sense. Additionally, as a scientist, you’re always collaborating. It’s never just one person working on a project; you rely on other people’s expertise in different fields to help make well-rounded guesses, education, and decisions about the data they gather.
Question Four: Why did you choose North Bend to be your community?
Tremolada: We knew we were coming to Snoqualmie Valley from California. And I think when we toured the valley extensively. What we liked came from the Bay Area, which very much embraces the outdoors. I wanted a place where I could raise kids. I could hopefully spend more time outside than inside and with other families that would embrace that.
White: Yeah, unfortunately, this is the blandest answer. We lived in West Seattle for ten years in a three-story townhouse. And we have a child and a dog and ran out of space. And during the pandemic, we constantly drifted out to North Bend. Because there were things to do, and the outdoors were amazing.
Question Five: Please review the community vision statement, City’s mission statement, and brand statement, and tell us what provisions you strongly support and which you would propose to modify, if any.
Tremolada: I think I touched on it a little bit; the rural character of this town is, I think, important to everyone. As I said, it’s certainly one of the major reasons my neighbors and I moved to this town. But I think it existing, enhancing the existing built environment of downtown is also incredibly critical. And I think the discussion around that is dynamic as you go around your neighbors and see what that means.
But I think all our local businesses that I’ve talked to you through the campaign really want that, you know, we, and we have a massive leakage study that I know you guys all saw I 90 And how much money leaves town on a regular basis. And we capture some of those, you know, folks coming out for a hike and grabbing a burger and a beer. But how do we turn that burger and a beer into a few more bucks, something that’s more sustainable for multiple small businesses in town and more long-standing over the years?
So, as much as I agree with the rural character and natural beauty, I think the downtown enhancement needs to be amplified; I guess that is a better way to put it.
White: Yeah, for the vision statement. None of those three statements really struck me. That’s ok, and I came up with something that I felt worked better. And it’s a nurturing nature-building community shaping tomorrow; it’s simple, kind of to the point.
The mission statement isn’t really a statement. It’s many things. And so, I also came up with another alternative, which is just a single sentence. It’s a statement saying we commit to enhancing the quality of life in North Bend by promoting community engagement, environmental stewardship, and economic vitality, creating a place where residents and businesses thrive together.
And finally, the brand statement. It’s nice, but I think it’s too wordy. When I think of brand statements, I think of short to the point and memorable. Just do it. Got Milk, where’s the beef? And if you may have guessed, I came up with a couple of options. Miles of smiles, and I did hear, you know, it’s corny. Sure. But you know, the idea is that it’s, you know, miles and smiles, meaning the people here, you know, are friendly and approachable. but it’s also where we have miles and miles of hiking trails and biking trails, which people enjoy.
The clerk will contact the two candidates named regarding the additional process. There will be additional questions asked in the second interview on November 21st.
[The council meeting of November 14th was very long. To cover all the questions and answers would have made this article over 5000 words. I encourage everyone to click this link to hear all the applicant’s answers in full]