By STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
posted Nov 5, 2013 at 10:13 PM— updated Nov 6, 2013 at 6:21 PM
It's four more years for Suzette Cooke as Kent mayor.
Cooke is defeating challenger Tim Clark with 55.69 percent (6,093 votes) to Clark's 44.10 percent (4,825), according to King County Election results released Wednesday afternoon.
"I was just so glad that the first results finally came in," Cooke said during a gathering of supporters at Airways Brewery and Tap Room in the north Kent area. "At some point you reach a level where you are ready for the campaigning to end and you can get on with doing the job without the distraction."
Clark, who had hoped voters would think eight years of Cooke was enough, remained optimistic about his chances of winning. He said the votes in Tuesday night's election results were mailed-in ballots from citizens that had made up their minds "weeks ago." He expects the race to "tighten up tomorrow."
"If I lose, I'll have to find some other pathway to help my community," said Clark, who added that he's enjoyed his 23 years of service to helping the city.
Clark served 16 years on the Kent City Council before spending the last four years on the Kent School Board.
Cooke said her role as the incumbent helped.
"The public knows what I produce because I've been in office eight years and I'm a known quantity," Cooke said. "Hopefully, the public appreciated such things as the Neighborhood Councils, truly the crime rate has gone down and the businesses we've attracted for more jobs and some of our residents have gotten those jobs."
During the campaign, Clark claimed Cooke poorly handled the city budget in an effort to get voters to support him.
Cooke said the recession made handling the budget a challenge that included laying off 100 city employees.
"I'm so excited to be mayor when we're not in a recession," Cooke said. "We are on the road to digging ourselves out of the some of the decisions we had to make on cutting back on things."
Clark referenced the success of Kent Station as one of his key council votes in helping to develop the area and said that he hopes that votes in the next week or so will bring him ahead of Cooke. Win or lose, Clark, a retired high school social studies teacher, said that his first act after the race will be to get out of town with his wife for a well-deserved vacation.
"My wife and I have surrendered months and weekends to this campaign," said Clark, whose supporters gathered at the Kent Senior Activity Center.
Should the race turn in Clark's favor, he plans to establish a working relationship with the City Council, which he says has been damaged by Cooke's cavalier attitude toward council decisions.
"The council would make a decision, and then all of a sudden she went off on her own," he said. "We don't have to agree all the time, but we do have to get along because citizens demand it."
Several city department heads joined Cooke at her gathering, including Police Chief Ken Thomas and Tom Brubaker, interim chief administrative officer. Cooke's mother, Virginia Allen, provided support and congratulations at the party as well.
The mayor plans to continue to hit as many community events as possible during her third term just as she has the first eight years.
"Most of all it's my passion of reaching out to the public and with so many new residents making city government their government," Cooke said. "They are the government. I am a servant leader. That's where I get my energy."
The mayor's job is a full-time position that pays $102,000 per year.
Cooke defeated Jim Berrios in 2009 to earn a second term with 68 percent of the vote. She beat Judy Woods in 2005 with 57 percent of the vote.
STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter