Shawn Oglesbee is challenging current City Councilwoman Carol Benson in the Position No. 4 City Council race in Black Diamond.
Benson, who was appointed to council in 2012 after the seat was vacated, has lived in Black Diamond for 34 years and during her career worked as a chief financial officer with experience in finance and development.
Oglesbee moved to Black Diamond with his family in 2007 and works as a project manager in construction and is an Army veteran.
Benson said that she is running because she wants to help protect the community.
“I feel like I have the background and the education to be able to at least follow what’s going on and protect the city and the environment and work on the budget,” Benson said. “I’ve got the background on that.”
Oglesbee said that he is running because of his passion for the city and desire to help.
“I wanted to run because I am very involved with the city,” Oglesbee said. “I care so much about its history because I never liked history in high school, it was my least favorite subject, but to this day it is my passion and when I walk into that museum, seeing how we came to be and knowing that our future can be just as proud as we are about our past.”
If elected, Benson said that her top three priorities are a sustainable city budget, public safety—specifically maintaining the police force, and making sure the master planned developments of YarrowBay are implemented according to the plans.
“Small cities all struggle with having enough income and because of the change in the economy and the budget through the state there are some funds we aren’t going to have available that were available to us before, especially the liquor taxes aren’t going to be available to us,” Benson said.
She went on to explain that she thinks the city will be able to make it financially for the next few years, in part because the city has been looking ahead.
“We’re looking at five-year budgets now instead of a one-year budget so it’s not like we’re going to make a huge mistake,” Benson said. “We’ve already got it—the budget—planned for five years and I think that’s really what you need to do in budgeting, and just don’t add any new expenses and try not to deplete our reserves…We do have reserves and, you know, unless something terrible happens we should be able to support our city.”
Benson said that maintaining the city’s police department would be a priority for her.
“Whatever we can do to maintain the police force,” Benson said. “Their contract is up next year so we’re going to try to negotiate some of the things, reduce some of their expenses to the city.”
As for her final point, making sure the MPDs are developed according to the plans that have been made, Benson said that making sure YarrowBay follows the rules and that the environment is protected as well as the school agreement are her top concerns.
“I’ve lived here for 34 years and I really didn’t like the idea of what happened with the development,” Benson said. “I think the city is very fragile and the construction could affect, just, everything. So I’m hoping through this process and what we’re doing now that we will be able to make sure that they do everything by law.”
Oglesbee said that his top three issues to focus on would be managing the MPDs, factually educating the public, and supporting the strong-mayor form of government.
“It’s been quite a heated discussion (about YarrowBay) over the years and I think now that it’s kind of mapping its way, with my experience in construction management I think I can certainly manage the projects with authority,” Oglesbee said. He went on to explain that giving residents factual information is of the utmost importance and that he would make every effort to be available to residents.
“Trying to be more publicly out there—as involved in the community as I am, I talk to quite a diverse amount of people, whether it’s scout dads, our Labor Day committee, it’s just communicating with folks who aren’t aware,” Oglesbee said. And he said he believe’s the city’s form of government works and supporting it is important.
“I believe it (the form of government) is true, pure, it’s definitely a signature of our history and I think assuring everyone that is the correct form of government in Black Diamond.”
For Benson, the top two issues she sees Black Diamond facing in the coming years are finances and bringing businesses to the city. Benson said that this year four businesses have left Black Diamond, two of whom she had talked to.
“They both said that it (Black Diamond) is a terrible place to do business because everybody goes through Maple Valley and Covington to get here and so nobody buys anything here—they’ve already bought everything before they move in, before they come home, because it’s more convenient,” Benson said. “So somehow or other we have to attract some more business and I’m not an expert on that.”
One way Benson said she thinks the city can help bring in businesses is by making sure there aren’t surprises for businesses that are seeking to come into the city.
“I think the biggest thing is to make sure the city is doing the right thing and the inspectors are really thorough,” Benson said.
Oglesbee said that the two biggest issues he sees for Black Diamond are the development and retention of businesses, and a loss of friendships and town unity over the MPDs.
He said that he is concerned about the fact that businesses have been leaving Black Diamond and said he would be committed to working on reunifying the town.
“They’ve created, residents have created, two separate special interest groups — Save Black Diamond, Proud — and they both have completely different views and I believe they’re was a lot of good friendships between those two groups prior to the development issue and I would really like to bring that back—the unity and the common sense knowledge that each of us have to entertain because the amount of passion that is within those two groups just says it all, what we are as Black Diamond,” Oglesbee said. “I would just like to bring that respect back to the city so that we can dissolve special interest groups to create one large group that is well-focused on what we’re facing in the future.”