Election 2021: Pence, Lowe seek City Council Position 3 seat
Editor’s note: this continues a series of interviews with candidates up for five Sequim city council seats in the Nov. 2 General Election. This week it’s Mike Pence, incumbent, and Vicki L. Lowe up for Position 3. Each candidate answers the same four questions, paraphrased from the Independent Advisory Association’s cancelled forum on Sept. 1. Interviews were done in-person, over the phone and email.
Position 2: Mike Pence, incumbent; Vicki L. Lowe
• What do you like in the City of Sequim and what needs to change?
Pence: “I think what needs to change is we need to go back to the way we were two years ago. Everybody was happy. Everybody was friendly. This lockdown has caused everybody to have a different frame of mind.
“As for the city, it’s still the same. It’s still here. It’s just that you have trouble getting into restaurants. The restaurants are closing slowly but surely, and that’s not good for anybody or anyone. I’m in favor of opening up things. I complied with their two weeks (quarantine) 18 months ago. What happened to the two weeks? I don’t know who to blame.
“(As for what’s going well), we haven’t lost that many businesses. We haven’t let up as a city in development of housing, city parks and things like that, and to keep things moving along in our Capital Improvement Program. The city itself has not let up.
“We slowed down greatly because we couldn’t meet. Now it’s coming around again (closures) and that will destroy us in fact. That will destroy businesses for sure.”
Lowe: “I think (city operations are) going well. I got to know some of the city staff through the race, equity and inclusion (virtual) discussions (in March), and through joining the Planning Commission in April, and they are a knowledgeable staff, and I think they know what they should be doing. They give good advice for city meetings, and are able to expand on things, and are hard working.
“I’m worried that there’s some animosity among some of the city councilors and staff and it shows up at some of the meetings. That impacts all the staff. I want to make sure staff are trusted and respected. They’ve helped the city get through this whole pandemic and are doing pretty well.
“I think we need to treat each other professionally and respectfully.”
• How has your career and personal life prepared you for a role on the Sequim city council?
Pence: “I’ve worked for cities for 33 years, in one form or another from city manager to community development, and that’s all I’ve known my whole life is to work for councils and to make cities better. Before that, my dad was a city manager for 35 years, and after he retired he got to be mayor for 10 more, which is sort of where I’m at, and where I’m from.
Everything i did, was trying to make the city better, more progressive to improve industries, businesses, and housing and do things to make it come out right.”
Lowe: “I’ve lived here all my life. My dad was the first paid fire chief (and served) on the school board. My parents were very involved, and taught us the importance of community. The experiences I’ve gotten the last six years at the state level with agencies working on legislation and learning how the state government runs is something I never paid attention to before. I’ve learned it all connects to what happens in the city through the Revised Code of Washington, and make sure the funds are coming to the city.
“I’m a big problem solver and famous among state entities for not letting them tell us ‘no’ for tribal members having access to healthcare. The answer can’t be ‘no,’ and if there’s a problem, I’ll see what we can do to make it better. If we can find a consensus, I’m really good at that. That is how we have a happy community.”
• What can we learn from the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic controversy?
Pence: “The (Jamestown S’Klallam) Tribe has to be first and foremost forward with us on what they’re planning to do. It’s our city but it’s everyone’s city. In my mind, it was all under-the-table kind of stuff. Nobody knew what was going on until here it is. That’s not the way to be transparent. That’s not the way to do it. They need to be more upfront. I don’t mind working with them, but I won’t work for them. I think that was part of the problem before. Someone thought that was a great idea and ran with it. Now they’ve found out it’s not such a great idea. It caused a split in our city. I hope it recovers, but it’ll take years to recover.”
Lowe: “A lot of people knew what was going on in the community, people who work in behavioral health and they were paying attention, so were providers. So, when working in (healthcare), you assume everyone else knows too. It was a pretty big surprise to see that much push back. A lot of it is based on misinformation, the same with the pandemic.
“A lot of community education is really important, like with the race, equity and inclusion two events (in March). I also think it’s an opportunity to share what is going on in the community with opioid addiction. How can we educate people, remind them we’re all more alike than different?
If we can think that way, then we can figure out how to make solutions to make things better.”
• How do you propose to improve the City of Sequim’s transparency as a city councilor?
Pence: “I don’t think we need to improve transparency. How are we not transparent? In executive sessions, that’s privileged information from that meeting (with calling for former city manager Charlie Bush’s resignation). According to state statutes, we’re within the law. One meeting, that’s not transparency.
“I do answer phone calls. Sometimes I don’t answer my emails quick enough, and that’s just me. I don’t spend my whole day on a computer.
“I don’t think we have a problem. All our meetings are public. I know which groups are against our executive session and I could care less. They don’t know the law.”
Lowe: “I don’t think we should have as many executive sessions. If there’s business, it can be conducted in public. We’re working on behalf of citizens. They should know what we’re talking about. Some things are meant for executive session, but a lot of things go to executive session that don’t need to go in there.
“I do think it’s important for citizens to get a straight answer. I’m a pretty honest person. I think it’s important that if you’re doing things for the right reasons then there’s nothing to hide.”