Longtime councilman Malich making late bid for mayor’s post

Posted on October 27th, 2021 By:

For 16 years, Ken Malich served on Gig Harbor’s city council. He retired in 2020 and promised his wife that he was done with politics.

But, like many lifelong residents, he kept an eye on what was taking place at City Hall, even as he and Barb enjoyed traveling throughout the country.

Ken Malich

Ken Malich

When current Mayor Kit Kuhn announced that he wouldn’t seek reelection, friends started pressuring Malich to run. He refused. He and Barb had more travel plans. But this summer’s delta wave of the coronavirus put traveling on hold indefinitely. Still, Malich avoided the nagging urge to pursue public office until — a few days after the election ballots arrived in the mail — he learned that friends were writing in his name for the mayor’s job. And suddenly he knew that he needed to toss his hat into the proverbial ring.

“I asked Barb what she thought and she said, ‘Go for it,’” Malich said. So he immediately filed as a write-in candidate for mayor of Gig Harbor.

Until then, first-term council member Tracie Markley was the only candidate.

Malich is keenly aware of the odds against his election as a last-minute candidate. But he also is aware of the needs of the city and the mayor’s responsibilities, and he’s serious about running for the job.

“There’s a big difference between being on the council and being mayor,” he said in a recent interview. “The council sets policy; the mayor does the day-to-day administrative work and makes executive decisions all the time. But in my 16 years on the council, I served with many different mayors and I’m very familiar with what’s involved in the job.”

Malich added that he thinks the city needs to be managed better, and, although he’s not a businessman (he has a degree in engineering and was a commercial fisherman for many years), he’s sensitive to the needs of city staff and wants the city to be more aware of the desires of the whole community.

“The people give the city their tax dollars and the city needs to give the people their money’s worth,” he said.

He believes that having a strong mayor and a city administrator is the best thing for Gig Harbor, versus having a weak mayor and a city manager.

“It only takes four council members to hire a city manager, which means that four council members can control the whole city,” he said. “With a strong mayor, all seven council members are in play, and that’s better for the city.“

Malich wants to be the people’s connection to their city government.

“It really inspires me when people come up and ask me questions. I like being helpful and connected for the sake of the people,” he said. “One of my goals is to bring back the community events that bring us together. I don’t want us to lose the ‘know-your-neighbors’ feeling. There are lots of new residents in Gig Harbor. I have quite a few new families on my street and I’m really enjoying getting to know them.”

He also has a unique idea for creating launching spots for kayakers and canoeists.

“I’d love to have every public dock be a place for kayak launching. Let’s spread it around along the whole waterfront,” he said.

Malich sees several issues that present challenges to Gig Harbor, including short-term rentals such as VBROs and bed-and-breakfasts.

“There’s a lot of those going on in town and many aren’t permitted. If we’re going to have short-term rentals, there should be some rules,” he said. “What would happen to our town if everyone rented out their homes? What would happen to our voters?”

Controlling development and growth in sensible, thoughtful ways is also important, as are the city’s infrastructure and transportation needs. And parking in the downtown area continues to be a hot button, he said.

Asked why there weren’t more candidates for the mayor’s job, Malich was thoughtful.

“I think you have to do it in the spirit of public service. If you have a ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ attitude and are looking for money, it’s definitely not for you. And you have to be able to separate special interests from what’s good for the whole community,” he said.

He feels that his deep roots in Gig Harbor and his many years of experience as a city council member make him the best candidate for the mayor’s job.

“I think people have confidence in me and feel like they know me and they can talk to me and I’ll listen,” he said.

His No. 1 task, when elected, will be to hire a good city administrator.

“That’s critical to every mayor,” he said.