Four seats on the Monroe City Council are up for grabs in the general election. Only three of the incumbents running for reelection have competition.
The six candidates in the contested races were given a chance to speak during the annual Monroe Chamber of Commerce candidate forum last Tuesday at the Rock Church.
Councilmember Patsy Cudaback, who is the executive director at the Monroe Family YMCA, did not go up on stage. She is running unopposed for Council Position No. 2. She has filled the seat for two four-year terms, and will start her third this winter. She and Councilmember Kevin Hanford would have been ineligible to run in the general election had the council not repealed term limits for elected officials earlier this year, which was policy she proposed last fall.
Each of the city council candidates used their time allotted for opening comments to introduce themselves. Hanford was up first.
Council Position No. 1
The incumbent and his wife have lived in Monroe for more than two decades. Hanford started out working in town for a small automotive business, and then was hired on at Boeing in Renton.
Together the couple has raised three biological children and adopted four. All have attended the Monroe School District.
“I like to joke I funded the school district, because at one point I had seven in there,” he said.
Hanford and his wife are active in the foster and adoptive community. In 2015, they started The Treasure Chest, a nonprofit that provides clothing donations to families like his own. This spring he will be completing his bachelor’s degree in organizational management, he said.
Hanford was elected six years ago during a tumultuous time for the city. He said the atmosphere has evolved since then. There are still improvements to be made, such as addressing the lack of affordable housing, but much has already changed for the better.
Hanford is up against Todd Fredrickson, who works at the Monroe Correctional Complex, and is a novelist. Fredrickson said he was raised in Snohomish, and he and his wife went through the Snohomish School District.
They moved to Monroe about 18 years ago, after living in Stanwood. They have a daughter and a son together.
“They are successful adults in part because of their parents, I hope, and in part because of the community they were raised in,” he said.
Fredrickson said he has good ideas for Monroe. He said he would bring an outside-of-the-box perspective to the council if elected. When asked about what his vision is for the historic downtown corridor during the forum, he said he would like to see businesses fill the street level, with housing for residents above.
Council Position No. 3
Incumbent Jeff Rasmussen is running against a much younger candidate, but one who says he is as equally established in the Monroe community. Jacob Walker, 20, said he has actually lived in Monroe longer than his opposition.
“Since I was a kid, I have always had a passion for representing people, whether that be in school or clubs in high school, or speaking for my siblings to our parents that we want to go on vacations,” he said.
Walker said he helped found the debate club at Monroe High School and is well known by many residents, including community leaders and their sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. He grew up in the Woods Creek neighborhood. He attended Salem Woods Elementary School and Monroe Middle School.
“When thinking about leadership and government, to me it is a lot more than a job application,” he said. “So, when I was thinking about whether or not I should run for this position, I thought it’s about relationships, especially in a local setting.”
Walker currently works for eChurch, a Redmond-based company that develops smartphone apps for churches. He said he hopes to be a channel and voice for the community if elected.
When asked about how the diversity of residents is represented in Monroe during the forum, he said he believes more inclusive events and activities should become a part of the community’s fabric as the population continues to grow.
When answering the same question, Rasmussen said he wanted to be a part of a community that “welcomes you no matter who you are or what you do.” He said he believes Monroe “hits that spot-on, starting with the schools and community organizations.”
The incumbent has served on the city council since 2014. He has been the director of the Monroe Boys and Girls Club for three years, following a 15-year career in banking and financial management.
His household is a busy one, raising two young sons with his wife. The couple married about 14 years ago, and moved to Monroe in 2006. He said his passion for community service was instilled in him by his grandfather.
“If you want the community to support you, you need to support your community,” his grandfather would say to him.
Rasmussen said he is very proud of the efforts he has been involved in, including serving on the Housing Hope’s East Snohomish County Board of Directors. He also works with the Monroe Kiwanis and Rotary clubs.
Council Position No. 7
Kirk Scarboro and Kevin McDowell are in the race for the previously 2-year, recently turned 4-year, at-large seat. McDowell refers to himself as a transplant. He serves on the Monroe Family YMCA Board of Directors.
He and his wife moved their family from North Carolina to Washington nearly two decades ago. He has three children who attended the Monroe School District, while he worked for Microsoft for the past 19 years. He said his strengths are in the field of technology.
McDowell said his family chose not to try out other communities because Monroe has had it all — a good school system, real estate is more affordable, it has a great commercial district and opportunities to recreate.
If elected, McDowell said he hopes to focus on improving the already impressive city parks system. He said he wants to keep businesses coming in and tackle issues like homelessness. He said he would also like to see the city council address addiction by providing more options for treatment to residents.
Scarboro called himself the junior guy on the city council. He has been there for two years, and hopes to use that experience for another term.
The incumbent is a retired U.S. Navy Seal and transportation supervisor for the school district. Scarboro and his wife moved to the city in 1994. He said he is looking forward to continuing to work on issues like transportation, homelessness and revitalizing downtown Monroe.
Scarboro also addressed the issue of diversity in Monroe at the forum. He said the best approach to listening to people is to turn their backs on them — in the sense that it offers the chance to take them for what they say and not what they look like. He said usually what separates people is their culture, not the color of their skin.
In his closing statements, Scarboro said he would like voters to consider what kind of team they would like to build for Monroe. What do people want to see when they look back at what was done for the city, “it is not about I or me, it was about us,” he said.Photos by Kelly Sullivan: Monroe City Councilmember Kirk Scarboro talks about why he’s running for reelection during the chamber’s candidate forum at Rock Church on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Jacob Walker is running for Position 3 against incumbent Jeff Rasmussen.Kevin Hanford is also running for reelection.
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