Election 2021: City Council Position 2 candidates talk MAT, transparency

All five incumbents seeking reelection on the Sequim city council face challengers in the Nov. 2 General Election.

Every position is contested with Sarah Kincaid, incumbent, and Kathy Downer for Position 2; Mike Pence, incumbent, Vicki L. Lowe, Position 3; Rachel Anderson, incumbent, Daryl Ness, Position 4; Patrick Day, Brandon Janisse, incumbent, Position 5; Keith Larkin, incumbent, Lowell Rathbun, Position 6.

While some meet-and-greets have been held from local groups, not all candidates have been in attendance for those events. Some candidates don’t plan to participate in upcoming forums, held by the League of Women Voters of Clallam County and the Independent Advisory Association (IAA).

For the next several weeks, the Gazette spotlights one of the five city council races, asking each of the 10 candidates the same four questions. The questions are paraphrased versions from the IAA’s previously announced forum queries slated for Sept. 1 but canceled because of COVID concerns. Interviews were done in-person, over the phone and email.

Both the League of Women Voters have forums scheduled for Sept. 29 (virtual) at 6 p.m., see lwvcla.org; and the Independent Advisory Association Hall on Oct. 14 at the Sequim Civic Center, see restoreclallam.com.

Position 2: Sarah Kincaid, Kathy Downer

• What do you like in the City of Sequim and what needs to change?

Kincaid: “I like the small town atmosphere and friendly people. It’s a nice place to just walk, meet people. I’m from California, so when I first moved here it was hard to get used to the friendly people. I love that about Sequim. It’s just a wonderful, friendly place.

“If I was to change anything, of course, the problem with housing. That really needs to be addressed. We really need to look at our fees. I think that’s a drawback for a lot of people in building. There’s a few things we need to look at in our building code so we can accommodate more people since we can’t find people to work in our businesses because there’s no place to house them. We need to look at that.

“Another thing (is), we really desperately need some sort of emergency services. I understand having a rural hospital is not an option. We’re too close to (Olympic Medical Center), but we do need some sort of emergency services so ambulances don’t have to go so far. Sometimes seconds make the difference in a person’s life. I’d like to work on that one.”

Kathy Downer

Kathy Downer

Downer: “I think the city functions really well. I think the city employees take a lot of pride in their work. I didn’t move here to really change things.

“Only change that needs to be made is on the city council. By some happenstance, we ended up with more appointed people than elected and I don’t think some of those people look at the issues. It’s council people who vote how the mayor wants them to vote. I’m not sure how much critical thinking is happening. They’re also not being transparent.”

• How has your career and personal life prepared you for a role on the Sequim city council?

Kincaid: “I’ve had a varied career. I started out working for the California Teachers Association for five years. I learned quite a bit. Then I went on to work for Mervyn’s department store and did private label imports. That was interesting and I learned a lot about government relations. After that I had an interesting job in government doing personnel for the 1990 census (covering multiple counties) where I learned a lot about government.

“As for my family, it’s a large one with a lot of really different personalities. I learned to work with different types of people. We are an eclectic family and I think that prepared me for a lot of things I did in life.

“And for 40 years I showed dogs. And the two things: I learned never show up to lose but always be prepared to lose. And most important: the importance of being a gracious winner is sometimes more important than being a good loser.”

Downer: “I have a lot of life experience. I was a nurse for 43 years, and the day after I retired I was sworn in as a council woman in Ohio (Marietta). I ran for office at age 62. I retired again when I moved here in June 2019, and I officially retired as a council person.

“We brought three of four adult children here with us, and I think it’s wonderful here.

“I’ve also visited national parks in all 50 states, and I have a lot of life experiences that others don’t, like I hosted eight foreign exchange students over the years. We’ve tried to expose our children to new, and different things.”

• What can we learn from the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic controversy?

Kincaid: “I think before something that could profoundly affect our citizens, we need to make sure we hear from our citizens first, and allow them to be part of that negotiation. It’s here and not going away. I certainly hope everything works out well because I love our community.

“A lot of the problem came because people didn’t really know about it until it was already over. Had they been a part of the negotiations or understood what (the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe) were doing, things might have gone a lot of different.”

Downer: “First of all, I don’t know what the controversy is. (The clinic) is zoned for what it was going to be, zoned correctly, and it’s privately owned. The community needs to fight addiction. People are somewhat afraid of people with addiction, but many people addicted (to opioids) are middle, upper class. If they need surgery they can get addicted to painkillers. Not all addicts are homeless people.

“As a nurse in the 1970s, I worked in alcohol and drug addiction. (Patients) need supportive services. It’s not like they’re diseases to get over. Society is already paying a lot of money for addiction. Police calls for petty theft, overdoses. We all pay for it. Children of addicts end up needing special foster care which costs us a lot of money.

“And there’s a revolving door in the emergency room for people without insurance. Society is already paying for this and what we’re doing is not working.”

• How do you propose to improve the City of Sequim’s transparency as a city councilor?

Kincaid: “I think that’s an individual thing. Some people are more open than others. I try to be, although there are some people that would say I’m not always open.

“One thing a lot of people are upset about, we can’t change. Things like being in executive session, we can’t tell you what happened. They ask, ‘What about this or that?’ I cannot tell them. I can’t disclose anything in an executive session as best I can.”

Downer: “You do have to go into executive session for certain things, (such as) real estate, hiring and firings, legal matters. Those things do need to be dealt with. But I’m not sure we don’t have council members discussing issues outside of the meeting, or talking about issues outside of executive session.

“It’s also the way the Charlie Bush (former city manager) situation was handled. They never said it was in the best interest of the city (to call for him to resign). Or that we need to know, but it was implied we didn’t. I wish they just handled the public differently in the decision.”