Bradley Huson is fiery. He garnered 163 votes – the most last election among the four candidates standing for two open seats on Ruston’s town council – and says he has mandate from the voters to change the status quo.
Nor does he pull any punches or hesitate to use the tools at his disposal to get what he wants. At the last town council meeting, he proposed (and the council approved with a 3-1 vote) a set of rule changes that limited public input. The changes followed public outbursts at a previous meeting – and were followed by outbursts when he proposed them. But they were necessary, he said, and he’s unapologetic.
"We’re not going to have any more outbursts like that because I have had it with the (bull)," he said. "Somebody has got to take control of that meeting and run it in a businesslike fashion. I deal with rich, crazy people all day, and I’m not going to deal with crazy people all night. There’s nothing in it for me. The only reason I ran for this office is to get something done. I’m not going to sit with a bunch of psychos in the evening under fluorescent lights and has over crap that makes the meetings five times longer than it should be. It’s ridiculous. … I feel that we have given everyone every opportunity to conduct themselves as human beings. These people are crazy, and I’m just not going to stand for it anymore."
I asked him if he understands why some would be upset. Sure, he said:
"They’re like caged animals. They have no political power. They’re scared and they’re like caged animals. When you throw a bunch of animals in a cage and scare them, that’s how they behave: like the town council meeting. That’s what the problem is. The Karen Picketts, the Torbets, those people have lived in town forever. This is the first time in the history of this town that they have absolutely no power. They have no voice. The only voice they have is the mayor – and he’s not going to be behind them 100 percent of the time. They’re a frightened group of people because they don’t have any real power. They’re frightened, but they’re also not that bright. Don’t antagonize the people who have to make the decisions on your behalf. Don’t (tick) people off. Even the stupidest child knows that if you (tick) off your parents, you won’t get great Christmas presents. So don’t (tick) off your parents. Be nice to them. Be nice to the people who have control over the things you would like to happen. It doesn’t make any sense."
And there are no plans to drop the rule changes anytime soon.
"Until I’m satisfied we’re getting the business done that needs to get done, and everybody behaves themselves, I’m all for keeping them permanent," he said. "That’s how a lot of other jurisdictions do business. They don’t allow a free-for-all of public comments about what color of toilet paper they have in the men’s room at the police department – which is really what it comes down to at our public meetings. … The whole ramped-up, steam of consciousness BS at council meetings is over. It’s over. I don’t have the time to sit through it. I don’t have the patience to sit through that kind of thing."
Many folks in Ruston I’ve talked to can’t remember a time when the politics were so bitter. Huson quickly offers one.
"It was far worse when we had Ken Wheeler as his mayor and three of his lackeys were on the town council doing what he wanted them to do," he said. "They were so brainless, they never should have been on the town council in the first place."
But he acknowledges things are testy now. He said it’s because change can be tough sometimes.
"I think we have a strong town council and a mayor who’s being called to the carpet by the strong town council," he said. "We want to move forward, and we want him to more forward with us. We want him to not drag his feet and actually make some proactive choices to move Ruston ahead."
The debate over the Commencement – a high-rise condo building being built near the school – was the flashpoint, and things are still simmering from it.
"I think people have a really bad taste in their mouths because of the Commencement," he said. "Before the Commencement, the town council meetings started 45 minutes, and they were attended by two or three people. The whole Commencement thing was the beginning of the galvanization of residents in Ruston. They banned together because they hated the Commencement that much. That galvanization is still around to an extent."
The bickering sometimes descends into personal attacks, but Huson stressed any criticism of Mayor Michael Transue is professional, not personal.
"I really like Michael as a person," he said. "He’s my neighbor and he rented one of my houses while he was remodeling his. I like him. I like his family. I just think he’s a terrible mayor."
He’s pushing for a change to a city-manager system of government with fundamental changes to the town on the horizon."
"Ruston cannot be run the way it is run right now," he said. "Especially for the next 5-10 years, when we’re going to be going through this growth. Ruston has had a lackadaisical style of government for its entire 100-year history. I don’t know if anyone in town has a job description, any kind of review process, or any kind of schedule provided by anyone to anyone to do anything. … Because of the mayor doesn’t have the time to do any footwork on his own, we’re paying an attorney $165 an hour to make sure that every possible complicated decision is right. It’s expensive – not only for the people in town, but for the people who want to do business with the town. It’s a complicated situation that can not be run by somebody who is sort of pecking away at it. "
Some were unhappy with the process of appointing Councilman Dan Albertson to fill a vacant position. It was a no-brainer to Huson.
"Dan was the natural person to take that seat," he said. "He lost the election by eight votes. Eight votes. That’s not very many. It seemed like a logical decision. That’s the kind of decision people are going to have to get used to us making. We could have blown that whole thing up and taken six weeks to appoint Dan Albertson, basically. Why would we do that?"
And it’s easy to portray a complex situation in simple terms. Huson said it’s not like that.
"I hope that when the TV writers’ strike is over, the town council meetings get smaller because people will go back to their television sets," he laughed. "There’s so much going on in Ruston, and there’s so much potential, and there are so many different points of view. There are so many different issues, and I think that a lot of people have different opinions about the best outcomes. There are many people who would like to be part of Tacoma, based on the amount of people I talked to during the election. In fact, if I had to distill my campaign to the most-asked question, it would be, ‘Why aren’t we part of Tacoma?’ That was the most frequently asked question."
He doesn’t believe people want to continue like this.
"Most people want to get along and live in peace," he said. "And that’s what people told me when I was running for election. They want to move ahead with as little strife as possible."