MickHager, Rowe will be new to council

Challenger unseats Stinson, mayor for past 4 years

Monica MickHager

Monica MickHager

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council will likely have two new faces in January.

Monica MickHager and Owen Rowe are in line to join five others on the council, including incumbents Amy Howard and David Faber, both of whom won re-election Tuesday night.

MickHager, 63, was leading incumbent Deborah Stinson, 64, by 422 votes when preliminary results were released, with 57.7 percent of 2,742 total ballots in Position 3.

The next count from the Jefferson County Auditor’s office is scheduled to be released at 4 p.m. Friday. The election will be certified Nov. 26.

“I have a nice lead,” MickHager said Wednesday. “I don’t know if it’s premature to think I won, but I’m feeling pretty confident.

“We have to wait to put that stamp on it.”

Amy Howard

Amy Howard

Stinson, Port Townsend’s council-elected mayor since 2016, has been involved in the past year with hiring a city manager. John Mauro’s first day on the job was Friday.

“This was a job I enjoyed doing, and I felt really grateful and honored to do it,” said Stinson, who was seeking a third term on the council. “I was really hoping to do another four years as we on-board the new manager.”

MickHager was critical during her campaign of the city’s debt. Former city finance manager Sheila Danielson said in September the city’s annual debt service payment is $1.7 million, and the debt-service balance will be at $19 million at the end of this year.

“It’s a significant amount of debt,” MickHager said. “It’s going to take a couple of years to try to pay that off.”

Stinson disagreed throughout her campaign and reiterated Wednesday that the city is “well within the acceptable range in debt level.

“That’s how you get things done in a timely manner,” she said. “The whole premise of the debt and our financial situation was really misconstrued for the public. I felt we’ve been very responsible in our financial matters, and the state auditor has also agreed.”

MickHager said she wants to set up a system where the community can provide more input on critical issues.

“I think we really need to re-look at it and see how we can reach out in a way that is part and parcel with making the decisions,” she said.

As she went door-to-door during her campaign, MickHager said she heard residents’ concerns about the condition of city streets.

“They said if they saw one road worked on, they would be patient,” she said. “I think it’s been so many years that none of us have seen anything.”

Stinson said her work timeline has been accelerated before she leaves office at the end of December.

“It’s more work than it would have been otherwise because I need to make sure this manager [Mauro] gets fully on-boarded,” she said. “There are lots of things that have to be transferred much sooner than anticipated.”

Howard, 37, won a second four-year term in Position 6 with 72.7 percent of the vote in her race against Bernie Arthur, 80.

“I’m pleased with how it turned out and thankful for the vote of confidence from city voters,” Howard said.

Howard wants to continue her work on affordable housing as well as “efficiency in bureaucracy.”

“I want it as straight-forward as possible,” she said.

Arthur, who said he’s lived in Port Townsend for 50 years, previously had run unsuccessfully for both City Council and Jefferson County commissioner.

He said Wednesday he ran because he doesn’t like to see seats unopposed.

“I believe in the Democratic system, and that’s the only reason I signed up this time,” he said. “The last four years, only about 30 percent of the people who are registered voters in Port Townsend voted. So I thought maybe if I put my name on there, other people will vote, and it will look more like a democracy does.”

Howard said she did not run a doorbell campaign or use political signs. Instead, she met with between 10 to 15 groups of people through personal invitations, civic clubs or forums.

“I’m glad I had those opportunities to talk to people,” she said.

Rowe, 51, ran unopposed for council member Bob Gray’s Position 4 seat. Gray chose not to run for re-election after two terms.

“I’m very happy with the result, and I look forward to working with Monica, Amy and David, as well as the three continuing councilors,” he said. “I expect the new council will share its work more equitably and be more open to public input and citizen contributions.”

Faber was re-elected in Position 7 with 75.6 percent of the vote. His opponent, Tyler Myles Vega, dropped out of the race this fall, but his name remained on the ballot.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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