Kamuron Gurol has been on the job as Burienâ€™s new city manager for only four months, yet this has afforded him more than enough time to become bullish on the cityâ€™s future.
â€œI feel lucky to be in Burien now. Weâ€™re turning a corner,â€ Gurol told The B-Town Blog in a recent interview. â€œBut we still have work to do.
â€œWith energetic leadership from our city council and support from our citizens and businesses we will take Burien to the next level.â€
Top challenges to realizing this goal, as identified by the city council, include economic development and community engagement, he continued, with a key component of economic development being â€œthe opportunity to better diversify our businesses and jobs.â€
Gurol noted that before he came to Burien â€“ replacing former City Manager Mike Martin, who resigned last year to become city administrator for Lynden â€“ progress already was being accomplished in laying the foundation for local economic advancement.
Improvements to the cityâ€™s Northeast Redevelopment Area (NERA) under the north flight path for Sea-Tac International Airportâ€™s third runway have been made, including installation of â€œan innovative stormwater management system that mimics as best we can the natural hydrology of the area.â€
This system, which â€œutilizes soils with natural infiltration,â€ will help restore Miller Creek â€“ and make land available for â€œnew businesses and jobsâ€ in the redevelopment area.
Elsewhere in the city, both downtown and in neighborhood commercial areas, the city has an opportunity to help business development through signage and parking revisions, he added.
Attract Customers to Burien
Gurol also hopes the council will fund as part of next yearâ€™s budget a branding and marketing initiative â€œto bring more customers to Burien,â€ which would â€œhelp us make progressâ€ in private sector development.
“We’ve been doing a lot of foundational workâ€ for local economic growth, he said. â€œNow we can start doing more building. When you build a house you canâ€™t build the upper floors until youâ€™ve built the foundation and the first floor, and weâ€™ve done that.”
As for the cityâ€™s next steps forward, he thinks there is council â€œinterest in exploring and taking advantage of our proximity to Sea-Tac. Weâ€™re a stoneâ€™s throw from the airport but weâ€™re not tapping that.â€
SeaTac has 5,000 hotel rooms and, Gurol suggested, the city could capitalize on its unique location through the formation of a restaurant district or association that would encourage guests there to eat at Burien restaurants, which are only a couple miles away, and then visit local shops.
Zoning and permitting changes and marketing campaigns could help attract new businesses and other new customers to Burien â€“ as well as facilitate cooperative efforts with the Port of Seattle to develop air logistics support services in NERA.
Beyond local restaurants, â€œthere is a whole array of businesses that are food related in Burien, including both food processing and wholesale, Gurol said.
And â€œmajor car dealers are wonderfully valued members of the community,â€ responsible for bringing to city coffers annually a significant amount of local sales tax revenue.
But on the flip side, Burien still is without a hotel despite the proximity of airport travelers, and there is almost no private office space in the city.
Burien is â€œan unproven marketâ€ for these developments, â€œso we need to figure out a way to get the first few developers in here,â€ Gurol observed.
Public Safety Challenges
Turning his attention to the ever-present issue of public safety, Gurol noted that while half of the city budget is spent annually on law enforcement, jail and court services, â€œwe still have some serious challenges although these are not unique to Burien.â€
Most of them are drug-related burglaries, car prowls and other property crimes. â€œWe are fortunate in that Burien does not have a high rate of violent crime,â€ he said.
Property crimes â€œare tough to deal with,â€ Gurol added. â€œWe are working with the King County Library System,â€ which occupies the first two floors of the library/city hall complex, â€œto increase the level of security here.â€
And Burien Police have initiated a bike patrol to increase the visible presence of uniformed officers downtown.
In addition, â€œwe have asked the police to work with the Public Works and Parks departments to address problems such as graffiti, property damage, and misuse of public property such as camping out overnight in city parks.
â€œDealing with public safety is really an economic development issue,â€ Gurol emphasized, because â€œit is important for us to have a really safe community â€“ and to be perceived as safe â€“ if new businesses and customers are to come to Burien.â€
But the city canâ€™t do this alone and partnerships, including those with churches and the Highline School District and youth recreation programs, are essential to improving public safety.
As are regional partnerships with neighboring cities. â€œWe should be thinking about services we can provide and get from other entitiesâ€ to improve quality and reduce costs.
Local Ethnic Diversity a Benefit
Burienâ€™s ethnic diversity, which presents challenges for the Highline School District, â€œprovides tremendous benefitsâ€ for the community, Gurol also observed.
â€œMost successful cities are not monochrome but polychrome,â€ he said. And â€œwithin a quarter mile in any direction from city hall are four to six, even 10 choices for different ethnic cuisineâ€ â€“ an example of the strong local ethnic diversity.
And another reason why Gurol is â€œdelighted, humbled and excitedâ€ to be Burien’s new city manager. “I love this job,” he said.