Laura Belvin, left, and Sheley Anderson. Courtesy photos

Laura Belvin, left, and Sheley Anderson. Courtesy photos

Q&A: Lakehaven Water & Sewer District Board of Commissioners Pos. 4 candidates

Incumbent Laura Belvin faces challenger Sheley Anderson.

The Federal Way Mirror asked Lakehaven Water & Sewer District commissioner candidates a few questions about their priorities and plans if elected. Read the Position 4 candidate responses below. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Sheley Anderson

Brief description of yourself: I believe in the strength of servant leadership. As an attorney of sixteen years, I advocate for those looking to the law in search of justice. I am passionate about building power from the roots up. That requires turning to impacted people on the ground and raising their voices to grass-top policy and decision-makers. As a policy analyst, I advise lawmakers. I work hard to identify problems and present solutions rooted in the life experiences of those directly affected by the decisions of their electeds. I’m a civil rights leader. I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother. Federal Way is home to me and my husband, our children, siblings, nieces, and nephews. It is where we live, play, and work. I am committed to being of service to everyone in our community.

Top three priorities if elected: I will prioritize increased transparency, engagement, and education. For months, I knocked on doors asking, “What is Lakehaven doing well; and what is required to make them better?” I learned that a disconnect exists between Lakehaven commissioners and its consumers. Residents are unaware of meetings that are being held, and decisions that are being made. Moreover, business owners are informed of regulations after conditions are imposed having no input and no community buy-in. As an experienced community organizer of thirty years, I hope to change that. Before increasing service rates, details explaining why prices are rising must be provided, and discussions of where the funding will go must be openly shared. Additionally, Lakehaven must bring more voices to the table from all areas of our community. The diversity of our water district is truly our strength. The best decisions are made when all viewpoints are gathered, considered, and implemented. Lastly, we must work together for sustainable outcomes through education. If the pandemic taught us nothing else, it taught us to “trust the science.” Today, scientists are ringing the Climate Change alarm. Education is the best way to prepare consumers for changes to increased flood waters, droughts, and pollution burdens.

Why are you running for the Lakehaven Water & Sewer District Board of Commissioners?

I am running because water is life, and no matter the zip code, everyone deserves to have quality water and service at an affordable price. I am running to bring home financial resources under the HEAL Act to consumers throughout our water district to prevent our service rates from soaring. I am running to protect our waterways and green spaces in ways that move our communities forward without leaving any of our neighbors behind.

What do you see as the most pressing issue impacting the District, and what do you intend to do about it?

We look with horror at the Flint water crisis, and recall the heartbreaking devastation caused by the broken levies of Hurricane Katrina and we say to ourselves, “that could never happen here.” As a Lakehaven Commissioner, our priority — our duty — must always be to make certain preventable tragedies like those in Michigan and Louisiana never occur in our water district. I intend to use the doctorate that I obtained in the study of law and put it to use in protecting Lakehaven consumers. I will enforce our water quality laws and will ensure that our infrastructures comply with county, state, and federal regulations in ways that are sustainable for generations to come.

How will you work to uphold Lakehaven’s supply of safe and clean water to residents of the district at a reasonable cost?

Until everyone has financially recovered from the economic crisis, Lakehaven cannot afford to balance the budget off the backs of its consumers. During the height of the pandemic, Resolution 2020-1340 was passed to increase service rates. We need leaders that will lift the burden placed upon struggling business owners and residents. Once elected, I will uphold our water quality and safety at a reasonable cost by looking for alternatives aside from rate hikes. Leveraging the financial resources offered under the Healthy Environment for All (HEAL) Act where an estimated $345 million will be used for environmental upgrades, maintenance, and development is a fantastic place to start. Leaders must be able to walk and chew gum at the same time by setting policies that are both economically lean and environmentally green.

What areas of the District’s budget do you believe are unacceptable to face budget cuts and why?

Lakehaven’s budget was adopted pursuant to Resolution No. 2020-1346. The District covers over thirty-five square miles and serves nearly 112,000 people. Cuts that threaten the consistent and thorough testing of our water quality would be reprehensible to our values of protecting human life. Moreover, funding that takes away from Lakehaven’s efforts to properly treat wastewater is dangerous to not only the residents; but, would be devastating to our environment as well. When making financial decisions surrounding the budget, commissioners must carry the weight and commitment to always place people over profit.

Laura Belvin (incumbent)

Brief description of yourself: I was appointed to the Lakehaven Board of Commissioners in Jan. 2020. I am passionate about water and the Federal Way community. I bring skills in public administration, engineering, leadership, and community service to the utility. I am a professional engineer with a Master’s of Civil Engineering focusing on hydraulics and hydrology, and a Master’s of Public Administration. I have been a leader in non-profit community organizations for over 30 years. The utility needs strong, qualified leadership from those who understand the industry and the needs of the community. Good engineering and planning are essential for reliable water and sewer service, and I bring that perspective to the board.

Top three priorities if elected: My top priorities as a commissioner have been fiscal responsibility, education, and customer care. I advocate for reliable water and sewer service while maintaining good stewardship of our assets with reasonable rates. The budget process takes a 10 year forward view looking at assets that will need replacement and planning for the engineering, permitting, and construction. Our fiscal policies are thorough and extensive, and have earned the district a AAA rating with Standard and Poor’s. I believe that educated and informed customers are more appreciative and contribute to making the utility better. I work to promote policies to keep our customers safe and informed. I have been active in the Chamber of Commerce meetings and events, government entity meetings, and emergency management sessions, along with other community and school events. During the last two years we have gone to great lengths to provide customer care by offering customer assistance plans and flexible repayment plans. We are in the process of constructing a new headquarters building which has been in the planning stages for years. It will centralize our business interactions that are being housed in four separate buildings presently, and will provide a one stop place for all customer service.

Why are you running for the Lakehaven Water & Sewer District Board of Commissioners?

I enjoy being a commissioner because I am passionate about water and the Federal Way community. Water is the emphasis of my civil engineering degrees, and the focus of my professional engineering work. I am excited to be serving in this field, and to bring an engineering perspective to the board. I value learning and helping others to learn. I teach, have obtained a degree in public administration, and have founded a non-profit education service. I believe that the more people understand about something the more they will appreciate it and contribute to making it better. As a commissioner I have promoted opportunities for learning about the utility through our schools and community gatherings. I have a passion for serving. I’ve been involved serving our community through leading various nonprofit organizations for over thirty years. I have served with Community in Schools, Safe City Neighborhood Partnerships, the Boy Scouts, and have chaired the Federal Way Park’s Commission. I lead the utility as public servant. I love Federal Way, where I have lived and raised six kids over the last 30 years.

What do you see as the most pressing issue impacting the District, and what do you intend to do about it?

As a commissioner I see that top issue that the district is facing is aging infrastructure. Our main treatment plant is over 30 years old, and is in need of expansion to meet the needs of the population over the next 30 years and to meet tightening discharge regulations. The Commissioners and utility leadership have had the foresight to plan and implement solutions for these future needs. I will continue make sure our facilities and assets are ready to meet our water and wastewater demands.

How will you work to uphold Lakehaven’s supply of safe and clean water to residents of the district at a reasonable cost?

Due to good engineering and planning, the District has secured an abundant supply of water for years to come. We have an average use of 9.4 mgd (million gallons per day), and have a system of 25 wells that provide 23.4 mgd which supplied all of our water prior to 2005. Together with neighboring water departments we routed water from the Green River through a 34 mile pipe line, which now provides most of our water supply through run of river flows. Additional water storage behind Howard Hanson Dam will increase the capacity to 18 mgd. We also have an Oasis project which can recharge our aquifers. We have one of the lowest water rates in the region, and it will continue to be so through good engineering and planning.

What areas of the District’s budget do you believe are unacceptable to face budget cuts and why?

The core mission of the water and sewer district is the continued delivery of safe, reliable and high-quality drinking water and environmentally responsible sewer service. All costs associated with providing the core mission will be budgeted for, as it is unacceptable to fail at our core mission. The district has some of the lowest rates in the region, and the board has been fiscally responsible, resulting in a AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s.

Editor’s note: This story was abridged for the print edition.

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