"Fundamentally, the first thing I need to do is change the culture of our city government,” Jim Merritt said.
It's a phrase the Democrat has echoed throughout his campaign. We asked him what that change would look like if he were in the Mayor's seat.
"You change the culture, you get people to believe in the city. We then start getting jobs, and then our tax base will grow,” said Merritt.
The Tacoma architect is squaring off with Democrat and former City Councilmember Victoria Woodards, who is positioning herself as the candidate with “more experience.”
KING 5 sat down with the candidates and talked to them about some of the top issues in Tacoma.
On addressing the city’s homeless crisis, Merritt says the $3.4 million recently invested by the city to build a homeless camp serving roughly 90 people could have been used differently.
"What if we would've taken that and given $500,000 to 10 agencies and help figure out how we can work together. We may have been more efficient with things and helping more people," he said.
Woodards says in addressing homelessness city leaders should address root causes.
"When we talk about homelessness in our community, mental health plays a really big role," she said.
Woodards says she supports a new behavioral health hospital that broke ground last month but says there needs to be more.
"Washington ranks 48th out of 50 states as it relates to having enough beds – psychiatric beds – and Pierce County is even lower than the national average, so we've got work to do," Woodards said.
Both candidates would agree one of the top issues for Tacoma is bringing jobs to the area.
"We have to get those people to believe in this town and stay here,” said Merritt.
"I want to be the mayor that makes sure that we have opportunities in this community so everyone can fulfill their destiny here in the place they call the city of destiny," said Woodard.