This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
Change is coming to University Place, with at least two new faces on the City Council and one on the school board after the Nov. 8 election.
The City Council, in fact, has had close to 100 percent turnover now, with only Ken Grassi remaining from the original council elected in 1995. And however the election turns out, it will get its first African-American council member. That diversity is long overdue.
The main issue candidates bring up is, naturally, the painfully slow progress of the Town Center project and the hefty debt it has imposed on the city.
• The race for the open Position 2 seat is a tough call between college administrator Steve Smith and 10-year school board member Kent Keel, who happens also to be black.
Although either man would have a positive impact, we think Smith is the stronger candidate. He co-chaired the successful capital campaign for the new University Place Library and has served as president or chair of such organizations as Rotary, City Club of Tacoma and the Franciscan Health System Foundation.
• In the race for another open seat, Position 5, we endorsed Chris Nye, owner of a real estate marketing company, in the August primary. He was the top vote-getter, followed by Realtor Ken Campbell.
Nye is an excellent candidate. The former Special Forces commander now serves on the city’s Economic Development Commission and its Traffic Impact Fee Committee. He again has our endorsement in the Nov. 8 general election.
• In the Position 7 race, Caroline Belleci is hoping to be elected to the seat that she was appointed to in 2010. She faces retired Merchant Marine captain Howard Lee.
Both are intelligent candidates who obviously care for their community. But Belleci – a contract compliance manager with Pierce County – has a much stronger record of involvement in University Place. Besides spending 15 years on the Planning Commission from 1995 to 2010, she has served on the city’s incorporation committee, the Chambers Bay Master Site Committee and the Pierce County Regional Council.
Voters should keep Belleci on the council.
• Two very good candidates are running for the open Position 3, attorney Annie Fitzsimmons and dentist Nick Tennison. Both are exceptionally good prospects and are knowledgeable about the funding challenges the University Place schools share with virtually every other district in the state during the economic downturn.
We lean toward Fitzsimmons, who has been deeply involved with her children’s schools, doing such in-the-trenches work as serving on the PTA, raising money and tutoring math.
Fitzsimmons will be the kind of school board member who is likely to challenge the status quo and ask tough questions – and every board needs someone like that. If Tennison is not elected, we hope we’ll see him on another ballot in the future.