To Bernie Talmas, balancing development and open space — "the reason people live here" — is the biggest challenge for Woodinville.
"The biggest issue is how to protect [Woodinville’s] woodland character with open space and still allow development in our downtown core," Talmas said. "There’s always going to be tension between the two."
Talmas was elected to the City Council in 2009 and was chosen by the other members of the Council to serve as mayor (from August 2011 to the present) and deputy mayor (from January 2010 through August 2011.)
He’s running against Brad Walker for reelection to position 7 on the City Council.
In addition to his City Council experience, Talmas has also served on several regional committees dealing with issues such as transportation and growth management.
"In all of these roles, I’m looking out for Woodinville’s interests," he said. "It also gives me a perspective on what other cities are doing and ways cities can cooperate with each other," such as improving transportation to regional tourism easier.
Although Talmas has retired from his career as a lawyer, he still practices law part-time as a litigation consultant, and he said the experience of dealing with all kinds of personal and businesses issues is valuable to him as a member of the City Council.
"I have 35 years of negotiating experience, which I think is necessary to participate in the Council," he explained.
In discussing the events and issues in the city during the past four years, Talmas emphasized the work of the Council and the city staff rather than focusing on his own accomplishments. He also offered his opinions on some contentious issues.
Talmas wants to bring "increased vibrancy" to downtown Woodinville, but he’s adamant about keeping development within the present city limits. He opposes annexing the Sammamish River Valley and wants to prevent "sprawl" there and in residential neighborhoods, he said.
Woodin Creek Village, a mixed-use residential and retail development that will replace Canterbury Mobile Home Park, shows that the Council is "headed in the right direction" in its development plans, he said, since the project complies with the Downtown Master Plan the Council approved.
City Council Ethics
Although "it’s healthy to have discussions on ethical conduct," Talmas said, he believes the Council’s current Code of Ethics and Rules of Procedure are adequate. Councilmembers’ behavior during meetings and in their official capacity is subject to rules, but "you can’t, as a Council, infringe on someone’s freedom of speech rights," he said.
The Council is scheduled to decide in January 2014 whether or not to create procedures to remove the mayor and deputy mayor, but "I don’t think it will be an issue in January," Talmas said.
If the issue does come up, he said, state law stipulates that the mayor is selected for two years and can’t be removed. The law uses different language to describe the deputy mayor’s position, so it might be possible to remove the deputy mayor.
In regards to the anonymous website EthicalWoodinville.com, which has criticized Talmas in its blog posts, automated phone calls and postcards, Talmas said he didn’t want to respond to "anonymous claims."
Wellington Hills County Park
"There’s a wonderful opportunity there, however, Snohomish County has rushed the project," Talmas, who used to serve as the vice president of Concerned Neighbors of Wellington, said of the proposed park where the Wellington Hills Golf Course is located. "I’m proud that we on the City Council have gotten Snohomish County to revisit their plans."
He said there still needs to be a professional study done to determine the best uses for that space.
"Soccer people say it should be soccer, golfers like me want golf," he said, but there’s no professional opinion to answer the question.
"To me, the main purpose of it is public safety," Talmas said of a possible business license fee.
Woodinville needs to know the number of employees, the activities that are taking place, and what chemicals are stored at each business, he said. That information can be vital in situations like a fire last year caused by someone making biofuel in a garage in the industrial area.
The city also needs to track employment growth for the state’s Growth Management Act, Talmas said.
Talmas mentioned that he’s proud of several other accomplishments during the time he’s served on the City Council.
The city is financially stable with "substantial reserves," he said. By turning the operation of the Carol Edwards Center over to the YMCA, Woodinville was able to serve more people and offer more programs while saving $1 million per year.
Woodinville also purchased a Public Works department, which lets public works employees put chains on vehicles indoors. The city spends $1 million per year resurfacing roads, to ensure that all roads in downtown are resurfaced in a 20-year period, and also eliminated flooding in downtown, Talmas said.