Monroe Councilmember Gamble defends seat against downtown business owner

The Monroe City Council has four seats up for reelection this term, three of which are contested.

Two of the three contested races involve political newcomers coming forward to challenge the incumbents. Position No. 6incumbent Jason Gamble is being challenged by downtown Monroe business owner, Patti Gibbons.

Patti Gibbons

Gibbons moved to Monroe five years ago to start her business Heavenly Soap, located in the Savoy building behind State Farm Insurance. The entrance to her shop is located on Blakeley Street, across from the Monroe Post Office. Gibbons handcrafts soaps, lotions, bubble bath, salves and lip balms, all without using harsh chemicals.

She sells her products out of her storefront, online and at farmers markets across the region. She also lives in the Savoy building and serves as the property manager.

"That is one of the reasons that I moved to Monroe, so I could have a store and hopefully live close by,GÇ¥ Gibbons said. "I hit the mother load. You can't get much closer than upstairs.GÇ¥

Gibbons is interested in downtown Monroe revitalization, and if elected, she plans to make the downtown core a priority area. She is supportive of the new Downtown Monroe Association (DMA), and will consider joining as soon as her outdoor market season is over. Gibbons said living and operating a business in Monroe's downtown core gives her a unique perspective in comparison to the other councilmembers. She sees a lot of things that nobody else sees, she said.

"I usually come down to start my soap about 5:30 in the morning, and every once in a while there's a drug addict crawling through the Dumpster looking for food,GÇ¥ Gibbons said.

Gibbons is a newcomer to the political arena, having never previously held office. She became interested in city politics during a series of council meetings related to parking and street renovations in downtown Monroe earlier this year. Several business owners, including Gibbons, were concerned about the city's decision to convert one side of the street to parallel parking, fearing that the loss of parking spaces would not be conducive to enhanced customer service.

"I just didn't feel that the people were being heard by the city council. We elect them, and they should be listening to what we have to say, and I don't feel that's happening,GÇ¥ Gibbons said. "I want to listen to what the people of Monroe have to say.GÇ¥

Gibbons said being a small business owner gives her the ability to provide firsthand information to the rest of the councilmembers regarding how their decisions affect other small business owners. Tough budgeting decisions are a part of being an entrepreneur, and Gibbons said it's a perspective missing from the council that she would bring to the table.

"I believe that I have more invested in Monroe than everybody else on the council because I do make my living here,GÇ¥ Gibbons said.

Gibbons said she's well versed in recent issues, including the east Monroe rezone and the proposed H3O cable wakeboard at Lake Tye.

She has concerns about H3O's ability to follow through on its contract, and said she would have voted against the park. As far as increasing commercially zoned land, as with east Monroe, Gibbons said she wants to preserve Monroe's small-town, and she doesn't feel the east Monroe rezone is in the city's best interest.-á -á

"I think that it's very important that we protect the open space that we have, especially as it relates to water areas and plant life and habitat for birds,GÇ¥ Gibbons said. "We really need to protect that.GÇ¥

Gibbons serves on the Woodinville Farmers Market Board of Directors, and is involved in the Monroe community. She has often donated product to different organizations like the East County Senior Center, Matthew House and the Monroe Gospel Women's Mission. If elected, she plans to work directly with downtown Monroe building owners to encourage new business in the downtown area and better support existing business owners downtown.

"I feel that the downtown core has been severely neglected ' probably since long before I got here,GÇ¥ Gibbons said. "I think that we need to get all the business owners and building owners on board and communicate with them.GÇ¥

Gibbons grew up on Bainbridge Island and is a lifelong Washingtonian. She said she loves Monroe because ' out of all the other places she has lived ' it truly feels like home to her. She sums up her campaign as being about family, community, small business and working together for "One Monroe.GÇ¥-á -á

"I'm passionate about Monroe,GÇ¥ Gibbons said. "I want it to be a great place to raise a family and a great place to own a business; and if we work together, we can do this.GÇ¥

Jason Gamble

Councilmember Jason Gamble has lived in Monroe since 2003. Family is a top priority for Gamble, Gamble said, which is one of the reasons he is seeking reelection; he wants Monroe to remain a great place for his children. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have two; Madeleine, 13, and Aiden, 9, who both attend Monroe Public Schools.

He has served on the board of directors at the Monroe YMCA, serves with the Monroe Public Schools Foundation and volunteers with his kids' sport teams.

Gamble was elected in 2011, beating opponent and current Monroe Planning Commissioner Bridgette Tuttle. He feels the experience he's gained during the last four years will help him be an even more effective councilmember.

Gamble said he appreciates the way the council has functioned recently, particularly in the last two years. They've worked together cohesively, and although they don't always agree, he said there is an underlying mutual respect. This has allowed them to move forward on some innovative ideas, including altering the city's pay structure for nonunion employees.

"We're one of the only cities in the whole state with a pay-for-performance for non-represented employees,GÇ¥ Gamble said. "There's just a lot of things that we got done.GÇ¥

Gamble has consistently voted against the east Monroe rezone, an issue that will be back before the council sometime before Dec. 1. He said he has no plans to change his vote, and still maintains the east Monroe rezone doesn't benefit the city. If plans for a U.S. 2 bypass were imminent, it might make sense to have commercial property available in that area, Gamble said.

But that's not the case. Discussion about a U.S. 2 bypass in Monroe has been ongoing since the 1960s, with minimal forward movement.

"From my perspective, it doesn't make sense,GÇ¥ Gamble said. "Is it incumbent on the city to spend the money that we're spending to appeal and appeal and appeal? For me, that's an easy answer: probably not.GÇ¥

As of late last year, the city had spent more than $195,540 on the east Monroe rezone proposal, including legal fees and staff time. And the opposition team has no plans to discontinue its efforts.-á -á

Gamble said he feels the city is on a positive trajectory, but there is still work left to be accomplished. He zeroed in on the need to increase the city's incoming lodging taxes. Washington is one of the only states without a tourism budget, which means municipalities rely on local funding sources, such as a hotel-motel tax, to promote tourism. The city of Monroe is limited in this area, due to its limited number of hotels.

"We need to attract more lodging,GÇ¥ Gamble said. "There's still a lot of things that need to be done.GÇ¥

One of the ways the city could possibly attract another hotel is by capitalizing on the city's existing parks structure, Gamble said, which he feels is top-notch. He spends a lot of time in Monroe parks with his kids, who are both active in sports. Enhancing the park system is important to him, which is why he's supportive of H3O's proposed cable wakeboard park, although he had some initial concerns about the contract.

A couple things helped reshape his view on the park, he said.

First, Gamble said he appreciated H3O's willingness to make adjustments to the contract based on council concerns. He also had the opportunity to visit a cable wakeboard park in Florida and was surprised by the all-ages demographic.

"The demographics were nothing like I envisioned,GÇ¥ Gamble said. "It was from six year olds to 65 to 75 year olds.GÇ¥

Gamble said a facility like that could really attract lodging, and he would love to see something happen on the south side of U.S. 2, over by the Fryelands.

Gamble said he takes a holistic approach in terms of the economic vitality of the city. While he supports the new Downtown Monroe Association, he said he wants all areas of Monroe to flourish, and one area doesn't necessarily take precedence over another.

Gamble said his priority is to make logical decisions that are not based off of emotion. Originally from Arlington, he said he loves the fact Monroe is far enough out to be considered country, but close enough to Seattle that things like the Seattle Symphony are easily accessible.

"In my opinion, we're at the epicenter of the state right here,GÇ¥ Gamble said. "I'm a little biased.GÇ¥

Jason GamblePatti Gibbons


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