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Erickson enters Poulsbo mayor's office with humility
POULSBO – Some people can be so literal. Include Poulsbo’s new mayor, Becky Erickson, in that category.
City Councilman Ed Stern couldn’t help but share a story at Wednesday evening’s City Council meeting about a campaign promise Erickson seemingly took to the extreme. Stern visited the mayor’s office Wednesday looking to take advantage of the “open-door policy” she’d spoken of on the campaign trail.
What he found instead was no door at all.
“She’s ripped it clean off the hinges,” he said. “It’s nowhere to be found.”
Welcome to Poulsbo, circa 2010, where there’s a new mayor in town. Erickson, who defeated incumbent Kathryn Quade in the November election, was ceremoniously sworn in Wednesday evening, along with Stern and new Councilman Jim Henry.
“I’m humbled the people of Poulsbo put a huge amount of faith and trust in me,” Erickson said.
Erickson, a self-professed number-crunching, forward-thinking financier, has a long road to travel in the next four years. Items on her agenda are both large and small, and how she accomplishes them all depend on two colors: the black and red of the city’s finances.
She’s taking office with the city in a precarious financial position. By Stern’s report of the city’s finance committee at the city council meeting, the city’s sales taxes are raising red flags. Retail sales receipts are holding steady in comparison to recent years, as are car sales. Construction receipts, however, are below the average so far.
Retail sales for December 2009 are almost unchanged from 2008, Erickson said, up a bit from $134,633 to $137,845
The issue is construction receipts, which plummeted in December 2009 to $18,212 from 2008’s $42,297.
“They fell of a cliff,” Erickson said. “There’s not a lot of construction going on. While these numbers are disappointing, they’re not particularly surprising.”
Regardless of the money flow, Erickson’s first challenge lies ahead. In May, the city’s new $15.8 million home, a daunting structure nesting at Moe and Third in Poulsbo’s downtown, is slated for completion.
During talks last year, Erickson played the role of emergency brake, warning the city could ill afford to spend that much on a single project. Ironically enough, it’s fallen on her to ensure they can do just that.
“I have to make sure the building is completed on time and on budget,” Erickson said. “I ran against City Hall, but the first thing I need to do is make sure it’s completed and we move in.”
Once construction is complete, it will house the departments and employees in the current City Hall on Jensen Way NE.
Erickson’s second order of business is to make sure City Hall is paid for, a fate that lies in the future of real estate. The city’s payment plan for the structure includes taking out a $9.5 million bond — the city takes out a loan that the citizens pay back — and using money from the Harrison Medical Center’s purchase of a piece of property on 10th Avenue, a site once considered for City Hall. The city also intends to sell the current City Hall.
Erickson also has mentioned leasing out some of the office space in the new City Hall to raise money while eyeing operational costs, which are currently an unknown.
Beyond the scope of City Hall, Erickson has pledged to bring and retain businesses to the downtown core. To do this, she’ll have to use and maintain Poulsbo’s natural charm to attract new residents and businesses, she said.
“That’s part of the responsibility of being mayor. I am responsible for this community,” she said.
In her spare time, which will be sparse in the next four years, Erickson spends time with her family — her husband, Jerry, their two children Caty, 17; and Jobe, 14 — and is an avid reader.
She also likes to cheer on her University of Washington Huskies, as she is a third-generation UW graduate. As for her children following in her footsteps, she says it’s not really an issue.
“I would like them to go to U-Dub, but I’m not going to make them,” she said. “U-Dub is the best school in the region. That’s just my humble opinion.”