Two candidates have filed to run in this fall’s election for mayor of Brier.
Current Mayor Dale Kaemingk seeks to retain the position he has held since the Brier City Council appointed him last year to fill the remainder of longtime Mayor Bob Colinas’ term. Kaemingk’s opponent is Hisham “Sham” Othman, a first-time candidate for city office.
Brier’s mayor is a part-time position, with a four-year term, that receives a monthly salary of $1,000.
Kaemingk is a retired structural engineer who has lived in Brier since 1997. He was on the city council for 17 years prior to being appointed mayor in July 2020. During his time as a councilmember, he served in several different liaison positions and also was mayor pro tem.
Being mayor has “been a real interesting learning curve,” Kaemingk said, and has helped him expand his knowledge of the city while also learning more in depth about its policies and priorities, including the process of creating a budget. In addition, Kaemingk said he has had an opportunity to work with city staff and various consultants in ways that differ significantly from when he was on the city council.
Regularly scheduled networking events held with other mayors in Snohomish County have been especially helpful in establishing relationships for talking about ideas and resources available to cities throughout the area, including dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“Budget challenges are something I want to continue to work on, making sure that we’re providing the services that our residents expect in an efficient way,” Kaemingk said. “Obviously we have limited ability to raise increased revenues because of the 1% maximum increase on property tax that the state has, but costs keep going up, so that’s a challenging issue.”
If elected, Kaemingk said he would prioritize “keeping and finding police officers,” and pointed to a new contract agreement the city brokered with union representatives for the Brier Police Department in November 2020 as a step in the right direction. “We had some increases in salaries and benefits to get us up with our comparable cities,” he said, but added that keeping and finding good officers is a struggle – a problem also faced by other entities in the region.
“The fact that we are a small city with our own police department is something that I think the citizens of Brier really like,” Kaemingk said.
The current mayor said he enjoys “serving the community,” adding that “Brier is a unique city with our large lots and we still have lots of construction going on, we have lots of people moving here and lots of new homes going up which is kind of fun to see.” The traditionally bigger properties still have a place in the area because “not everybody wants to have a small lot,” he said.
If elected, Kaemingk said he wants “to understand more about the Department of Ecology requirements that we are treating our surface water, have a good surface water plan and that our vaults and ponds and everything is functioning well.”
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to serve the community in a lot of different ways and I rely on all those experiences to help me,” Kaemingk added. “My previous work as a partner shareholder of an engineering firm has helped as far as managing people, the fact that I was a structural and a civil engineer those skills have served me well and I think my previous experience kind of running the gambit on (city council) liaisons has also been good.”
Othman, who has lived in Brier for 11 years and works as a director of finance with Seattle Colleges, said he is running for mayor to help provide a different perspective.
“As long as I’ve lived here, all of the mayors of Brier have been older, retiree-age and I don’t want to say that as a negative, but I don’t believe they truly reflect the current population of Brier, which is middle-class working families, (with) kids in school, and are kind of at the front line of seeing all the things going on and trying to balance a schedule,” he said. “And I thought that was what made me different.”
He added that “being an outsider with a fresh set of eyes would be a big benefit.” Both the current and previous mayor “have all had previous experience on city council and kind of it’s just the same old, same old and they’ve done things that they’ve always done,” he said, “and I think being the 21st century and all of the technology available to us there are a lot of revamped ways we could tackle current issues or hurdles.”
He pointed to city council meetings lacking an online component before the pandemic, which made it difficult for working families and those with kids to regularly attend meetings. “Just recently with COVID it’s made it a little easier with Zoom, but you know it’s always been a barrier as I saw it,” Othman said. “In addition, while the city does put up minutes from the meetings they’re very bare and minimum and don’t really give you a feel of all the items discussed.” He added that any additional handouts or documents reviewed during items discussed are “not put on the website with those minutes.”
For example, if a new housing development was discussed at a city council meeting, residents can’t “just go on to the website and see the details, you’d have to make a request for it,” he said. “So these things aren’t that difficult and I think it’s time for a new person to step up and say, ‘How can we make things more transparent and more accessible?’”
Othman said he would like to see the city have “a revamped website with regular communications on key issues.” He suggested adding to the website a “Mayor’s Corner” highlighting current issues from residents and how the city is addressing them, “so people can see that their complaints or concerns aren’t falling on deaf ears.”
Othman said he would also push for the city establish a social media presence to enhance communications and make it “easier to connect with those working families.” Additionally, he expressed a desire for more community events and activities, including reestablishing a National Night Out and “others like it where you can just mingle with your neighbors.” Another priority, Othman said, would be “maintaining the lot size and rural feel of Brier — we don’t want it to get overdeveloped — and having a growth management plan.”
If elected, Othman said he would “slowly look at how things are done and see if there’s efficiencies or ways to save funds that can be adopted and just make things more accessible and transparent for residents.”
Both candidates will appear on the Nov. 2 general election ballot. Othman currently has a placeholder website for his candidacy, which promises more details soon. Kaemingk said his campaign’s website is forthcoming.
— By Nathan Blackwell