ELMA — Voters in Elma have a choice in two out of the three City Council races this year.
For Position 1, it comes down to two-term incumbent Jim Taylor, a retired firefighter, and Pat Miller, also a retired firefighter and former business owner. In Position 2, the choice is between Councilman David Blackett, a dentist, and former Elma mayor Earl Hari, who is trying to get back into local politics.
Councilman Tom Boling is also up for re-election for Position 3 and is running unopposed.
At an election forum last week hosted by the Elma Chamber of Commerce, Blackett says he’s proud that all of the city’s buildings are paid for with the bond being paid off early for the Elma library. He notes that property taxes will actually be lower because of that move. However, he says the city still is coping with an old police station and fire station that will eventually have to be dealt with.
“I understand we don’t want to pay taxes but, at the same time, I want our city to continue to grow and not fall into the custom mode of keeping it the way it is because, if we do, it’s’ easy for the city to just fall to pieces,” Blackett said.
“The mayor has done a great job doing things to make sure the senior center keeps going,” he added. “We’ve been remodeling City Hall with water and sewer funds rather than doing things with bonds and levies because those don’t pass.”
Hari wasn’t at the forum, but has said previously he thinks he can help the city. Hari served on the City Council before for five of six years in the 1990s. From 2000 to 2004, he served a term as mayor. Today, he works for the Squaxin Island Tribe and has an office at the Little Creek Casino.
Taylor has been on the council for eight years. He retired from CalFire, one of the largest fire agencies in the state of California, where he served as a firefighter and rose through the ranks to become a fire captain.
Taylor says he thinks the cities on the Harbor ought to work more with the chambers of commerce to craft a better marketing plan. While he says he wouldn’t like to see a big-box store in Elma, specifically criticizing Walmart because he says it hurts “main street,” he says he’s a big fan of small businesses.
“If we can revitalize our business community, then we don’t have to tax our people to death,” Taylor said.
Taylor says he sometimes changes his vote on council items because he won’t vote for something until he has all of the information he needs in front of him.
“A lot of times I don’t fully understand the nuances of what’s being placed in front of me,” Taylor said. “A lot of times, I get it on short notice. These things? I don’t like to vote for anything that will create a financial burden on the citizen.”
Miller was a member of the volunteer Elma Fire Department for more than 25 years. He was also a business owner in Elma, operating the Elma Disposal Co.
“I live in this community and I believe the Elma City Council has done a fine job,” Miller said. “They really have. But, as far as I’m concerned, there’s more things that could be done.”
Miller says he served on the city’s parks board for eight years until it was dissolved and thinks the board should be restored.
“We have a real problem in this community with kids being able to play baseball and soccer,” he said. “We don’t have enough parks. That’s something I’d like to try and push for.”
Boling, running unopposed, has worked for the Elma School District for 31 years.
“If we’re going to have Elma grow and have people move in with families that want to stay here and not leave here, we as a city council need to look into the future,” he said. “Sometimes, it feels like I’m beating my head against the wall if you’ve ever read in the paper or seen in the council when we have things going on. We have some members that just want to leave the way things are and you just can’t survive that, in my opinion.”