By Pat Jenkins
Gordon Bowman, who sees potential for economic growth in Eatonville that includes fast food, and Mike Schaub, who envisions better fiscal health for the town, are three weeks away from voters’ final decision on which of them can try to bring their visions to reality.
Bowman, who’s a Town Councilman, and Schaub, the town’s elected treasurer, made it through the primary election in August and now are in the final stretch of the general election race. Ballots will be mailed by the Pierce County elections department this week to voters, who have until Nov. 5 to send them back in with their choices.
Mayor Ray Harper is giving up the office after one four-year term and is running instead for a seat on the council. That leaves Bowman or Schaub to assume the $16,000-a-year post..
The mayoral candidates have separate ideas for revitalizing the town, but their overarching goals are similar: They want transparent government and a budget that isn’t gasping for dollars.
From Bowman’s perspective, that requires a mayor who isn’t also juggling a full-time occupation outside of Town Hall. The demands of that kind of double duty is cited by Harper, who holds down a job with Boeing, as his reason for not seeking re-election.
“I’m convinced Eatonville can’t afford a part-time mayor,” Bowman said. Schaub “would make a fine mayor,” Bowman added, “but he has a full-time job. I don’t. I’m semi-retired. I can spend all my time on the mayor’s job. There are regional government and other advocacy-type meetings that mayors need to attend. Would Mike have time for them? I would have the time.”
Schaub says his job the past 10 years working with accounting policies and financial reports with the state Office of Financial Management is experience the town can use as it tries to improve its finances, which in recent years have been stretched to the virtual breaking point to meet basic services, including police and fire protection.
“Since everything revolves around the financial side, my background can help us get to where we want to go,” Schaub said. “I can hit the ground running as we work to get our finances in order.”
The candidates have similar ideas on boosting the town’s business base. Schaub wants to look into a possible partnership with Mount Rainier National Park on a shuttle to carry visitors between Eatonville and the park, which would be a way to “put ourselves on the map as a place for people to stop,” he said. A farmers market could also draw people to the town, he suggested.
Bowman would try to attract fast-food restaurants and a private campground, whether a KOA franchise or something similar. He believes Eatonville hasn’t had any fast-food eateries because business regulations require them to be part of a building with more than one tenant instead of a standalone building, as most of them are.
Another new business that Bowman envisions for Eatonville could be senior living facilities, including ones that are “three-tiered” and provide assisted living, independent living and nursing care.
“There are businesses we could recruit, but we have to sell Eatonville to get them to come here. I want to be a salesman for the town,” he said.
Schaub said Eatonville is too small to expect big businesses to locate there, so he suggests that it develop into something like Leavenworth – a town with small businesses and charm that’s a magnet for visitors.
Economic vitality and other issues require “current instead of reactive” thinking and involving the public “as much as possible,” Schaub said. “These are tough questions. There’s no right or wrong answer.”
Before being elected as treasurer, Schaub considered running for mayor but decided against it because he wasn’t sure he could devote enough attention to the job. He said he’s ready for it now, although he doesn’t fully enjoy the spotlight of the campaign.
“I’m an accountant. I can talk numbers,” he said. “But I’ve seen where the town has struggled, and it didn’t have to go through those struggles. That’s where I can help.”
Bowman, a council member the past four years, said he’s running for mayor in order encourage an open-door relationship between Town Hall and the citizenry. He’s willing to meet with townsfolk over coffee to hear their input and ideas, he would work closely with the council, treasurer and town employees, and he would make funding of public safety a top priority.
“I want to help make Eatonville a better place,” he said.