Community service runs deep in council member
SNOHOMISH - The City Council gained a new member as a result of the November election, but he is no stranger to public service.
This is Paul Kaftanski’s first try at public office, but his familiarity with government as director of Everett Parks and Recreation should help him learn the ropes quickly.
Kaftanski ran unopposed for council-at-large position No. 3, vacated by longtime Councilwoman Melody Clemans.
He ran because he wanted to contribute to the community he has lived in for the past nine years. Before moving to Washington almost 34 years ago, he was living in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Besides the beauty and “bucolic” nature of the Pacific Northwest, Kaftanski said he was struck by the city’s progressive approach to the future.
“The city has a very good vision for its future with its strategic plan,” he said. “I’d like to be a part of that process to actually achieve the vision that’s set out.”
He said his job on council is to improve the quality of life here, “enhancing it but balancing it out with the need to drive economic development.”
He said he thinks the city should focus on bringing in a diverse range of businesses in the future, “broadening the revenue stream.”
Cities are relying more and more on sales taxes for revenue, which is an unpredictable funding source. In this current economic climate, retail sales have plummeted making it harder to fund city services.
“I’m interested, and so are others, in doing what we can from a policy perspective to make this city more attractive to get industrial, manufacturing and commercial businesses,” he said. “So if there’s a downturn in one type, we have others to buoy us up.”
The city has a lot of challenges ahead of it, including what to do with its sewage treatment plant, Kaftanski said.
“These are important decisions, and they’re multimillion-dollar decisions and I’d like to bring my experience to the table and make good policy decisions to impact citizens for years to come,” he said. He wants to make sure the fees citizens pay are representative of the level of service the city provides.
“We need to be fair and equitable with our rates,” he said.
Kaftanski said he has always strived to serve his community, although in the past he did so in a different role. He coached basketball, soccer and cross country and was active in his children’s schools, serving on the school board and as a speech coach for several years.
“It was really school related, while my children were going through school,” he said.
After they went off to college, he looked for different service opportunities and he joined the Snohomish Parks Foundation board.
“I’m not unlike other people who sit in the audience (at City Council meetings) and think, ‘Boy if I was up there, how would I think,’” he said.
With a public sector employment and an economics background, Kaftanski said his experiences and training will serve him well on the council.
“I told myself that my commitment is to make the best decisions I can and after four years if those decisions create controversy or create angst for me, I may not run again, or I may not get re-elected,” he said. “I just want to do the best I can for the next four years and see what happens.”
Part of doing a good job will be to improve public opinion of policymakers, at least at the city level, he said.
“Given what we have seen occur in politics in the last few years, at the federal level and at the state level, people have a more negative view of public policymaking and those people who are in charge of it, the elected officials,” Kaftanski said.
He said he wants to ensure there is a bond between the people who voted him in and what he’s doing on a daily basis in his council member role, including involving residents in on discussions, he said.
“The council doesn’t have all the answers,” he said. “We need input.”
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published Jan. 18, 2012