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A Note From Your Mayor

Mar 03

Mayor’s Update - March 3, 2021

Posted on March 3, 2021 at 1:53 PM by Joshua Stecker

Good day, Gig Harbor –


I hope each of you are healthy and happy. We’ve had our big snow for the winter and our operations staff was successful with their large-scale snow clearing effort.  Kudos to the crew for working 12-hour shifts (noon to midnight and midnight to noon) throughout the storm! I think we’re all glad that Spring is right around the corner.


We’re trending down on new COVID cases, and vaccines distribution is picking up. These are good signs, but we’re still not out of the woods. Gig Harbor lost seven people over the last month to COVID. An important point to remember - once vaccinated, you can still pass the virus to unvaccinated parties. Future vaccination events from the Department of Emergency Management and the Health Department. The Health Department has some great options for people who have limited mobility.


Back in September, Council adopted Resolution 1198 which recognized “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” and “Native American Heritage Month” and shared the City’s intent to honor the ancestral and traditional lands of the sxwebabc (“swift water people”) band of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. I formed an ad hoc committee of councilmembers, tribal representatives, and others to talk about renaming a City park in honor of the sxwebabc.


After a long series of meetings, the ad hoc committee and Parks Commission sent their recommendations to Council. On February 22, Council adopted Resolution 1199 which changes the name of Austin Estuary Park to Austin Park and establishes the designation for the txwaalqel (or “place where there is game” Estuary. The Mayor is authorize, in consultation with the Puyallup Tribe and other entities that support the tribe, to develop and install interpretive signage on city-owned property within the txwaalqel
Estuary Area, and to provide educational information on the city’s website and other avenues.


On a similar note, the Peninsula School District board meeting the board voted 5-0 to name elementary school number nine Swift Water Elementary, which is the English translation for the sxwebabc band. I’m very proud that they did this, and it’s a step in the right direction on providing recognition to the full history of our community.


Council has authorized the City to pursue a Pierce County Conservation Futures Grant, which we’d use to fund the purchase of an 11.5-acre wooded parcel just north of the Gig Harbor Wastewater Treatment Plant.


Right now, this land is undeveloped. It has a healthy forest that Donkey Creek passes through, and is a critical Salmon habitat with historical and cultural significance to the Puyallup Tribe and our community. This specific parcel recently had a development pre-application that showed a plan for 34 homes. A housing development would mean degrading a healthy salmon habitat, losing of a great number of trees and a drastic change to this corner of our downtown view basin.


The Puyallup Tribe has agreed to provide $50,000 to meet the minimum of 10% in matching funds. The City has agreed to put up another $20,000 and accept the property into our park system, where it will be preserved with the potential for future low-impact trails to give the public access to it. Pierce County will review grant applications later this summer and, if we’re successful, the property purchase would occur next year. There’s a lot of moving parts and this is not a done deal yet,


We celebrated Black History Month here in the City of Gig Harbor last month. In recognition, I invited local resident Maurice Hanks to come and speak to Council at our February 8 Council meeting. He shared a powerful presentation showing us many ways that Black History is American History. I encourage you to go and watch our video of the presentation and hear his words for yourself.


Council and I also worked together to pass ordinances to keep people safe. These ordinances ban motorized foot scooters from sidewalks, on the Cushman Trail, Harborview Drive, North Harborview Drive, and Olympic Drive (outside of the existing bicycle lanes) or on any roadway with a posted speed limit of greater than 35 MPH. This doesn’t apply to ADA devices.


On February 22, Council approved the docket of amendments for our Planning staff to work on for our Comprehensive Plan in 2021 these include:


·      Adding a Culture and Arts Element to embrace and encourage the arts in building community and the economy.

·      Conducting a required update to our Shoreline Master Program

·      Creating a public art exception in our Shoreline Master Program to allow to install public art within the shoreline jurisdiction

·      Revisions to our Land Use and Housing elements to allow us to complete some of our 2021 Budget objectives.


And, on February 23, we officially opened the new playground at Kenneth Leo Marvin Veterans Memorial Park. This new $250,000 playground is ADA inclusive and a great addition to the neighborhood and our City parks system and was part of the park’s original master plan when created back in 2008. The playground design was a true community effort, students at Discovery Elementary School contributed to the design by learning about what goes into park planning and surveying their school to make the final choice on what structure was installed. We know this will bring joy to those young and young at heart for years to come.


We’re also offering a second round of our Lodging Tax grants, which are now open.  These grants are designed to help underwrite events and attractions that bring tourism to Gig Harbor. They’re designed to be utilized by non-profits for operation and marketing of events, or operation of tourism-focused structures. If you know of a group or event that would qualify, check out the application and requirements on our website. You can also email for details


For more frequent updates, tune in to our live Q&A sessions every other Friday on our Facebook page, and, on the radio, tune in to KHGP on Wednesdays at 1:00pm. As always, be safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.





Feb 04

Mayor’s Update - February 4, 2021

Posted on February 4, 2021 at 4:14 PM by Joshua Stecker

Good Day Gig Harbor,


I hope you are well and happy. During some of these rainy winter days, I think it’s important to think about what’s in store for us in 2021 - things are starting to look up. Soon days will start to get longer, more stores and businesses will open and more people will get vaccinated.


Last Saturday’s drive-thru vaccine clinic event at Chapel Hill filled up in record time – 700 spots were taken in less than 19 minutes. That’s typical right now of the vaccine clinics. Please rest assured, there are more vaccination events in the pipeline. Another one is coming this Saturday February 6th – and it was filled in 9 minutes. We are working with the county health department and other public agencies to provide drive-thru vaccination clinics that are coordinated within our community.


Gig Harbor continues to still see more COVID-19 cases, our area has surpassed 1,000 overall and we have now lost 14 members of our community to the virus. This past year has taken a heavy toll on all of us, but we are very encouraged about the future with the vaccine roll-out picking up speed.

Governor Jay Inslee announced last week that Pierce County was one of the counties moving into Phase Two of the “Healthy Washington” Recovery Plan. Beginning February 1st, restrictions on social gatherings and some businesses were relaxed here in Pierce County. Here’s a quick look at the new relaxed restrictions:


  • Restaurants, fitness centers and entertainment establishments (theaters, museums and bowling alleys) can open at 25% capacity with an 11:00 PM curfew.
  • All other indoor activities, including religious and faith-based services, are capped at a 25 percent capacity limit, or 50 people - whichever is less.
  • Indoor and outdoor sports can hold league games and competitions again.
  • You can entertain outdoors with groups up to 15 from two households, and an overall maximum capacity of 75 people per venue.
  • Wedding and funeral ceremonies and indoor receptions can happen following the appropriate venue requirements.


To remain in Phase 2, our region has to meet at least three of the following categories:


  1. A decreasing or flat trend in the two-week rate of cases per 100,000
  2. A decreasing or flat trend in two-week rate of new COVID hospital admission rates per 100,000
  3. An ICU occupancy total of less than 90%— that includes COVID and non-COVID beds
  4. A COVID test positivity rate of less than 10%.


In order to keep moving forward towards more openings and better phases and keep our transmission low, please wear face coverings, maintaining a six foot physical distance, staying home when you’re sick and get tested if you experience symptoms.


Though the Civic Center is closed to the public, employees are teleworking or are here working to maintain the services you have grown to expect.  Our Public Works and Wastewater Treatment Plant crew are doing a fantastic job. Our Planning and Building Department is 33% busier than normal and working hard to keep up. Our Police Department is out there providing a safe environment for our citizens.  Our Court is providing virtual hearings. Our HR Department is busy recruiting personnel and keeping up with changes with COVID. Finance is paying the bills and providing the detail that keeps our city in good shape. And our administration department is moving forward with our 2021 budget and future years agenda.


With our 2021 Budget adopted we are continuing work on several projects for the year. Council, myself and our senior staff just held our annual retreat where we talked about our long-term plans for the City.  We will also be bringing in a strategic planning specialist to assist us plan for long term goals that we want to accomplish.


One of our projects that is nearing completion is the native landscaping at the stormwater pond and hillside near the roundabout at Burnham Drive.  This is something we have been working towards to beautify the area.


On January 14, we held a study session meeting with Council and several stakeholders to discuss the completed feasibility study on the Fishermen’s Homeport at Ancich Waterfront Park. The study concluded the linear dock alternative was the best route to take with this project based upon cost, mitigation, traffic, water safety, historical design, the ability to raft and potential to expand. We had input from the fishermen and neighbors in the area to hear what they think will work best. Staff is considering the fishermen’s proposed dock layout from 2014 and developing for Council consideration a hybrid dock layout that is similar to the fishermen’s proposal but also meets the fishermen’s criteria for separation, vessel size, etc. I’m excited to get this project moving forward.


The sxw?babs Recognition Ad-Hoc Committee, made up of councilmembers, historians, tribal leaders and I have worked for almost a year to identify an appropriate way to recognize Gig Harbor’s rich Native American history. We have worked hard to find ways to honor our native Americans. It has been a journey. By listening to many interested parties, we feel we’ve come upon a culturally appropriate solution that truly recognizes our community’s interest in acknowledging the whole history of our lands and waters.


Although the sxw?babs people lived throughout this region, the heart and soul of the sxw?babs community was our waterfront area and the primary village site was located where Harbor History Museum, Donkey Creek Park and Austin Estuary Park are today.  The sxw?babs civilization is a rich part of our community’s story, yet it is one that has not been properly recognized and celebrated. We wish to remedy that and will go to Council on February 22 with a Resolution.


  1. Naming of Twalwacut Estuary: 7 acre estuary, including the mouth of Donkey Creek, the Harbor History Museum site, and other lands in and around Donkey Creek Park be named "Twalwacut Estuary" in recognition of the historic sxw?babs village site.  
  2. Changing the name of "Austin Estuary Park" to "Austin Park"
  3. Recognition of Ancestral Homelands of sxw?babs Peoples. This is a historic moment in which our community can be proud.


We’ve developed a recommendation to have Council change the name of “Austin Estuary Park” to “Austin Park” and giving the Donkey Creek and estuary area the title of “Twalwacut Estuary.” We feel that this will honor both the first inhabitants of our lands and the logging families who later came to the area. Along with this proposal, we expect to work with the Harbor History Museum and the Puyallup Tribe to provide the public with educational information on this important area.


On February 3 the Parks Commission voted to support this as does the Austin family, the Historical Society, the Honoring Project Committee and others.


One of our hardest-working teams here at the city is our Wastewater Treatment Plant employees who just received for the 13th time the Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance Award from the Washington State Department of Ecology. Earning this award requires 12 months of continuous 24-hour wastewater treatment plant operation with zero violations. To achieve this, staff must operate and maintain hundreds of pieces of equipment and maintain a laboratory which includes daily, weekly, monthly and annual testing with zero errors or violations. In addition, the treatment plant staff must also maintain 18 lift stations and over 50 miles of sewer lines.  Thank you all for your outstanding performance.


The Gig Harbor Arts Commission has announced the 2021 Creative Endeavor Grants Program to support the work of local individuals and organizations involved in arts and culture. The goal is to increase arts and cultural opportunities available to the people of Gig Harbor. The deadline for applications is February 26.


Another upcoming opportunity is a second round of our Lodging Tax Grants, which are designed to help underwrite events and attractions that bring tourism to Gig Harbor. These are designed to be utilized by non-profits, and we’ll open up our second call for funding on Tuesday, February 16th. We have $50,000 available in grants and encourage non-profits to apply.


I want to caution citizens on the idea of approving a change from our present form of government to a Council-City Manager form where council has increased power. Presently we have a “hybrid system” with checks and balances in place to defend against a monopolized, special interest government. The way it is now the citizens can vote a mayor in or out every four years.


With the Council-Manager form of government the Council decides that for you. They elect the manager and the mayor, not the citizens. Presently, the Mayor cannot appoint a City Administrator without a support vote by council. In Washington, 71% of cities our size use our current form of government and several cities have changed back to our current form after they tried a Council-Manager format.


Also, a majority of Council can decide to vote a manager in or out. This could result in change more often and could cost city taxpayers more as a result and create lots of changes in direction. The other councilmembers opposed to this would not have a say which means it could take years to get the control back to the voters to change back to a Strong Mayor format.


I feel it is best not to rush into changing government without the ability for the public to really understand the whole picture. Having this happen during a pandemic does not seem transparent to our citizens. 


At this time, during the pandemic we are also very concerned about staff needs. We want to be here for them, to be stable and provide reassurance without introducing drastic change during this crisis.


At our last Council meeting, many letters were read from the public stating now is not the time to rush this, during a pandemic. After we get through this crisis, it will allow the public the chance to understand this further. 

Council recently voted this proposal down 4-3, and they will not present it to our community for a vote of the people at this time.


Overall, Gig Harbor has a lot to look forward to in 2021. We’re working hard on your behalf here at the city. You can catch updates from me every other Friday on our Facebook page and Wednesdays on KGHP at 1:00pm. Please be safe out there and remember to be kind to each other.







Jan 12

Recapping Highlights of 2020

Posted on January 12, 2021 at 3:42 PM by Joshua Stecker

Roughly a year ago, January 6, 2020 was the first day for our new City Administrator, Bob Larson. Bob came to us with over 20 years of experience and started right in with getting to know our personnel and their needs as well as the city’s.  We also welcomed new councilmembers Robyn Denson, Tracie Markley and Le Rodenberg, so several months were spent getting them all comfortable with our projects and work plan.

While the pandemic may have slowed the timeline on our planned capital projects in 2020, we nonetheless made significant progress in several areas. COVID-19 hit us hard and the state shut down the way we all normally operate. We found our citizens grasping for information and the need to connect our citizens, businesses, volunteer organizations and community together. We started a live Facebook dialog each week where I was able to inform everyone.  We were also able to let the groups communicate together in the comment page throughout the week and help one another. We were one of the first in the state to do this and we also had various speakers and on location videos with businesses to promote them. Through time we cut this down to every other week along with our weekly radio appearance and the Mayor’s Blog. This helped us be as transparent and informative as possible during a pandemic.

With the shutdown of in-person meetings, we quickly implemented virtual meeting procedures to allow city business to continue as efficiently as possible. In addition, the city was able to use CARES Act funding to distribute $308,000 in Small Business Stabilization Grants.

This year equal rights were on many people’s minds across the nation and our city showed support for all races, nationalities, and equal rights for all.  

There were two important studies underway in 2020 that are looking at the possibility of expanding the Tacoma Narrows Airport to have a longer runway that will allow commercial passenger airlines. The studies are being done by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) and the Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (CACC). Both studies have shown Tacoma Narrows as a site with the potential to expand. No decisions are coming soon, but it was important to be involved in the first steps of the planning process.  Council and I have told the representatives of both studies that we are not interested in having a commercial airport near Gig Harbor and the airport’s sponsor, Pierce County, has now informed them to take us off their list.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) was also conducting a study of new, potential passenger-only ferry service locations around Puget Sound. Gig Harbor was one of the locations under consideration by the study. The ferry style being considered was a 250-passenger ferry. We know that the ferry service would have to be greatly funded and subsidized by our city, thus our taxpayers. We are not excited to tax our citizens to fund this. Our primary concerns include parking, traffic and quality of life. We told them thank you but asked them to take us off their list.

Together with council we adopted a resolution that will permanently recognize October 12th as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and the month of November as Native American Heritage Month here in the City of Gig Harbor. Each year during October and November, we will proudly display the flag of the Puyallup Nation in our Council Chambers.

We also formed an ad hoc committee made up of myself, councilmembers, residents, the Puyallup Tribe, and a Parks Commissioner to discuss restoring the original Native American name to an area in our harbor to honor the sxwebabc (sk-whuh-babsh) band of the Puyallup Tribe. Hopefully in 2021 we will see this happen as well as the dedication of an Honor Symbol at one of our parks. We will be talking about other ways to recognize and honor the first people who lived here as well.

Site preparation work has been completed on our new operations shop. Our Public Works crews have long needed a new home; design and permitting on the Operations Center will proceed in 2021.

Progress was made in 2020 on design and permitting for a number of street-related projects; work is underway on the 38th Avenue improvements, Stinson Avenue pavement overlay and pedestrian improvements, Stinson/Harborview roundabout and improvements, Stinson/Rosedale roundabout, and the Burnham/Harborview roadway improvements. Construction on these projects is projected to proceed in 2021.

Significant public input was received and progress was made on the conceptual design for sewer lift station #6 located at the intersection of Ryan Street and Cascade Avenue.  The public provided vocal input and the City responded by reconsidering options for the design of the lift station to better meet the desires of the neighborhood while still providing a functional lift station.

The City responded quickly after discovering during a scheduled inspection in October that a primary drinking water well (Well #3) was so deteriorated that it had to be taken off-line immediately and replaced.  Staff has assembled a set of contract documents, advertised, and opened bids.  This work should be completed by mid-summer in time for the peak water demand season.

The City made considerable progress on Parks projects as well in 2020:

  • Conceptual design and permitting is underway on the Gig Harbor Sports Complex Phase 1B with continued work towards a final agreement with the YMCA for the two artificial playing fields as part of the Sports Complex Phase 1A site;
  • Selection, approval and construction of a play structure at Kenneth Leo Marvin Veterans’ Memorial Park, part of the park’s master plan envisioned in 2007;
  • Rehabilitation and remodel of historic Eddon residence at Boat Park has commenced;
  • Lease agreement with the Jerkovich families to rebuild part of their dock to include the Ancich Park Public Human-Powered Craft Float (Community Paddlers’ Dock) that is a better solution for cost and open space instead of building a separate dock. We are in the process to build it in 2021
  • Skansie Netshed repairs;
  • Homeport feasibility study completed;
  • Railway Carriages at Eddon Boat Building.
  • Cushman Trail Emergency Locator Signage every 1/8 mile

We began collecting revenue in May 2020 from the Transportation Benefit District “TBD” Proposition #1 that was passed in November 2019 by the voters. The increase in sales tax by two tenths of a percent to 8.7% will help fund our road improvements. This only amounts to 20 cents per $100 and will remain one of the lowest sales taxes within the Puget Sound Region. This will allow our city to raise roughly $16 million over the next 10 years for new construction of roads and traffic improvements. It is not for maintenance, sidewalks or curbs; those will be funded in other ways. The city will also now be in a better position to obtain matching grant opportunities that come our way. This will benefit everyone that enters our city, yet only a small portion will have to be paid for by our citizens.

The lack of attainable housing and growing homelessness are issues that are facing us here in Gig Harbor and all over Pierce County. I’ve been working with a group of Pierce County mayors over the past two years to try to brainstorm ideas for ways the city can help with these issues. This group is now called the South Sound Housing Affordability Partners (SSHAP) and together we hope to make headway in 2021 and the years to come.

In 2020, the Community Development department worked with a nationwide consortium of Cities and Counties to oppose the FCC’s Declaratory Order 6409 regarding 5G/Small Cell deployments.  The City’s primary interest has been to retain local regulatory control through design aesthetics and process.  We continue to work with the consortium and the law firm BB&K.

In direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City Council passed multiple ordinances providing temporary relaxation of Special Use Permit requirements and eliminated Encroachment permit fees.  These actions allowed restaurants and other local businesses to serve customers outdoors, opening up opportunities to keep business flowing while complying with State Health Mandates. 

In 2020 what the Municipal Court has experienced and what has been accomplished is historic.  With teamwork and coordinated efforts, we have navigated an ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has spring-boarded us into change many courts have inched toward for decades. 

Court staff quickly adapted and implemented a completely new way of conducting business to keep the court open and accessible to the public.  Remote processes were launched in April 2020 including electronic signatures, video and phone hearings via Zoom, electronic filing, and virtual remote interpreting.  Since April 1, 602 Zoom hearings have been held.

Gig Harbor Municipal Court was also selected as one of four limited jurisdiction courts in Washington to serve as a pilot court for the new, more modern case management system.  The Odyssey case management system will replace a case processing system built for district and municipal courts in 1987 and will be implemented in about 240 courts across the state.  It will provide judge and court staff better access to statewide case records, will streamline case management, and will provide probation departments with their first shared, statewide system.


In 2020, the Police Department faced significant operational challenges with the arrival of COVID-19.  Our officers had to adjust the way they responded to calls and had to wear additional personal protective gear when doing so.  The inability to book most offenders into jail due to COVID-related restrictions also created some enforcement issues.  This inhibited our usual proactive approach to some community issues as we adjusted to this new work environment, but overall, Gig Harbor remained the safe and pleasant city in which to live and work.

Internal Accomplishments:

  • Recruited and hired two new police officers to augment our current staffing.  One more officer will be added in early 2021.
  • Hired a Police Services Specialist (PSS) to fill the void left by a longtime employee in that position.  The new PSS has assimilated quickly into the department and has brought a lot of outside knowledge to our organization.
  • Upgraded our 20 year old patrol bicycles.
  • Creatively maintained compliance with the state-required 24-hour in-service training requirements for each officer, utilizing distance learning and in-house training sessions.
  • Improved case management processes to more accurately reflect our case clearance rate.
  • Instituted a new evidence packaging and submission method to improve efficiencies in the property room.
  • Implemented a new training database program to more accurately track individual training and certifications.
  • Continued to update and implement new department policies.  We maintained (or exceeded) state and federal requirements in this area.
  • Reimplemented a dash and body camera program throughout the department.  Full activation scheduled for January 2021.

External Accomplishments:

  • The 2019 statewide crime summary (released in June 2020) showed that our crime rate fell by over 10% for the previous year.   The state average crime rate was down 6.1%.
  • Successfully collaborated with several demonstration groups to ensure peaceful First Amendment displays occurred without incident.
  • Obtained a grant to implement a “Bait Car” program to deter vehicle prowls and thefts.  We greatly increased the number of vehicle prowl incidents solved by arrest of the suspect. 
  • Hosted several COVID-19 drive-thru testing events.
  • Our department hiring practices were featured on a Seattle television news series, focusing on our use of emotional intelligence as a factor in choosing police officers.
  • Donated over $2800 to the Carol Milgard Breast Center from funds raised by our officers participating in the Pink Patch Project.  The Milgard Center was pleased to accept these funds, which will go toward providing screening services for women who might not otherwise be able to afford them.
  • Completed the year with zero sustained citizen complaints against our officers.  In fact, our public support remained very high throughout the year.

In our Tourism and Communications Department, we welcomed a new department director in February, and navigated the COVID outbreak through a quick ramp up in our crisis communications outreach. We increased the Gig-A-Byte newsletter frequency from monthly to weekly in order to provide a listing of businesses that were open, and launched a weekly Facebook Live Q&A to combat misinformation and increase communication with the general public. The audience numbers were so successful, we are continuing the live Q&A bi-weekly. The Association of Washington Cities magazine profiled Gig Harbor’s Q&A series as a communications best practice in their monthly magazine, Cityvision.

While Tourism took a blow this year, we actively began modernizing our advertising and marketing program to be data-driven and post measurable return on investment through a shift to targeted digital spend. We worked with the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee to award $75,000 in LTAC Grants for events and programs that drive tourism to Gig Harbor, along with planning for an additional call for applications in Spring 2021. We also shifted our summer concert series into an online fundraiser for local businesses, in partnership with the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. Looking forward, we have streamlined our marketing budget and we’re looking forward to welcoming an assistant position to the department in 2021.

Human Resources has done a great job navigating COVID-19 this year. They’ve had to lead the response to keep our employees safe. We successfully negotiated new collective bargaining agreements with our police and general employee unions and we also implemented a new NEOGOV program to help us recruit new employees better.

We welcomed the following employees this year:

  • City Administrator, Bob Larson
  • Building Inspector, Sean Brady
  • Maintenance Tech, Peter Frontiero 
  • Tourism and Communications Director, Laura Pettitt
  • IT Manager, Keith Smith
  • Associate Planner, Amy Hilland 
  • Police Officers, Mark Burns

Going forward we have a busy schedule for 2021 with many capital projects. We hope to complete them to the best of our ability while not over burdening our city with construction. We look forward to sharing these projects with the public. The projects can be found in our 2021 budget and we will be doing public outreaches to inform our citizens as well.


We are concerned for our staff and community with the roll out of the vaccine and we are in touch with health officials to try to aid our community in every way possible to get through this crisis financially, mentally and healthy.


We wish you a healthy and prosperous year.


Kit Kuhn