Ray Harper is getting only half his wish to step down as mayor of Eatonville and return to his previous position as a Town Council member.
Bob Walter, with 55 percent of the votes in early returns, is leading Harper in the general election race to replace Councilman Bob Schaub, who isn’t seeking re-election.
Walter has been active in civic affairs and currently works for the town on a contract basis, providing animal care and licensing-related services.
Harper was a council member for four years before being elected mayor in 2009. After four years in that post, Harper, who has a full-time job with Boeing, decided his professional commitment outside of Town Hall is too pressing for him to keep up with mayoral duties.
Walter stressed economic issues in his campaign. Calling for a reserve fund to help the town through times of unexpected emergencies or spending, he urged looking for ways to cut government costs and strengthen the tax base through business-friendly regulations.
Walter also said the town must address the potential for economic gains from the visitor industry. He noted large numbers of visitors to Mount Rainier National Park pass through Eatonville, and the town needs “a stronger identity and a prettier face.”
Budget issues were emphasized by Harper during the campaign. He said he’s proud that Eatonville’s financial condition, which led to layoffs and other cutbacks of town services, has improved while he’s been mayor. But he foresees hard decisions ahead concerning the police and fire departments, which he expects the town won’t have enough money to operate without a budget deficit after next year. He said the town must find additional funding in order to maintain current staffing of the public safety agencies.
On another budget-related issue, Harper said the town’s water, sewer and electric utilities, while financially stable, need upgraded infrastructure. He also advocated funding for street repairs and improvements..
Besides Walter’s apparent victory over Harper, another council seat is going to Andy Powell, who ran unopposed.