Being a community activist and serving as a city council member can sometimes have overlapping roles.
They include having a passion for the community, being a good listener, forming and articulating a local vision, and brainstorming solutions for problems or issues that residents face on a daily basis. But while an activist can only inform and mobilize, a city council member uses his or her official decision-making authority to help enact the local vision.
This is the basic issue at the heart of the race for Position 1 on the Gig Harbor City Council. Activist Jeni Woock, who came just 25 votes short of earning a spot on the council in 2015 against incumbent Michael Perrow, takes on political newcomer Rick Offner.
Woock, a longtime resident and 30-year small business owner, is co-founder of Citizens for the Preservation of Gig Harbor, co-founder of Meaningful Movies and chair of the Gig Harbor Summer Arts Festival. Her resume of arts-related volunteerism in the community is nearly unparalleled.
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Offner, who moved to Gig Harbor four years ago to be closer to his grandchildren after retiring, has a Ph.D. in rehabilitation psychology and more than 40 years experience as a clinician, researcher, manager and consultant. Currently, he is vice-chair of the Gig Harbor Parks Commission and a member of the Gig Harbor Transportation Advisory Committee. He’s also a member of the Gig Harbor Midday Rotary and Yacht Club.
The Peninsula Gateway Editorial Board endorses Offner as the best candidate for the open Position 1 seat.
Woock might be the most passionate candidate running for Gig Harbor City Council. She has proven successful in uniting residents with similar passions and a desire to hold the line on development. However, she also has frequently criticized and called out the mayor, city staff members and council members while overlooking or ignoring facts or procedures that shaped those people’s decision making.
She does have some good ideas; creating a database allowing citizens to submit their problems with city infrastructure and making a push for electric/hybrid city vehicles top our list. But if she’s elected, her insistence that she’s an activist and not a politician won’t hold water when it comes to meeting with city staff and those who wish to do business with the city.
Offner gives voters an opportunity to be represented by someone who has worked his entire career conducting business with local, state, national and international government agencies. And in his short time living here, he has come to see Gig Harbor as a unique place.
His affiliation with the 4 Gig Harbor political group aligns him with other candidates who are vowing to protect the “history, maritime character and natural beauty” of the area. But he’s also cognizant that growth is inevitable and it’s not a doable proposition to simply close the doors and make it difficult for others to move here.
Most Gig Harbor City Council members in years past have lived in the downtown corridor. But Offner, a Gig Harbor North resident, would provide valuable representation for residents in that part of the city. Despite its rapid growth over the last decade, Gig Harbor North has been largely ignored on policy matters.