Norwegian born artist Inger Hutton became a U.S. Citizen last month after living about three decades in Everett. She decided it was time she became a voter. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Norwegian born artist Inger Hutton became a U.S. Citizen last month after living about three decades in Everett. She decided it was time she became a voter. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

After decades in Everett, it was time to be a U.S. citizen

Artist Inger Hutton, who once co-owned local farmers market, looks forward to casting her first vote.

To Inger Hutton’s right was a man from Uzbekistan. On her left, she said, “a lady from Ukraine.” Born in Norway and a naturalized Canadian for much of her life, the longtime Everett woman is now an American citizen.

After taking the Oath of Allegiance on Sept. 17, Hutton said her immediate reaction was a feeling “kind of like — well finally.”

Why now, after living here for three decades?

Hutton, 71, said her aim in becoming a U.S. citizen is “very, very specific:” to gain the right to vote. “I can’t sit back anymore,” she said Monday.

Just two days after taking the citizenship oath, she posted on Facebook “Registered to vote! I don’t want to miss any opportunity.”

Back in May, she had already joined the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County and attended her first meeting in Edmonds. The League is holding three candidate forums later this month.

Along with voting herself, Hutton said, “my goal is to get people registered, getting people to vote.”

She had just turned 4 when her family moved from Norway to Canada.

She and her American husband, Tone Hutton — they met on the dance floor at Seattle Center — were married in 1996. For a decade, 2002 to 2012, they co-owned the Everett Farmers Market.

Previously married to a Canadian, she first came to the Puget Sound area from Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1971. She went back to Canada in 1979, but returned to this area to stay in 1986.

Initially in the United States on a visitor visa, Hutton for years had a permanent resident card. Granted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, it’s commonly called a green card.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, people become permanent residents in several ways: being sponsored by family members or employers in the United States, through refugee or asylum-seeking status, being granted asylum, or other humanitarian programs.

Hutton, a mother and grandmother, is a visual artist. She and three other artists share studio space on the upper level of a building that houses Harbor Marine, a boating supply business near Everett’s 10th Street Boat Launch.

In 2010, she was featured in this column when her work was part of “A Celebration of the Natural World,” an exhibit at the Burke Museum on the UW campus in Seattle. She had completed a Natural Science Illustration certificate program at the University of Washington. Like many U.S. workers, Hutton navigated a career change. She lost her job with Safeco Insurance more than a decade ago when it became part of Liberty Mutual Insurance.

On the studio walls Monday were her detailed wildlife images, and painted scenes including some of her grandchildren. A painting of a peacock’s colorful plumage was a six-month labor of love.

Fresh in her mind is Sept. 17, the day she became an American at Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Tukwila. About 120 people were sworn in, one by one. First, Hutton gave verbal answers to a required civics test.

The questions, she said, were no problem. Asked to name the president of the United States, Hutton said she answered deliberately — Donald John Trump.

No fan of the current White House occupant, Hutton sees irony in Trump mentioning her ancestral homeland in a positive light. In January 2018, as he was briefed on an immigration bill, Trump was reported to have used a vulgar description of Haiti and African countries while saying “We should have more people from Norway.”

Distressed by news of children separated from parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, Hutton said, “What are we doing?” She mentioned the many Hispanic families she worked with while running the Everett Farmers Market. “They were farmers,” she said. “They’re precious.”

Another reason she sought citizenship when she did, Hutton said, was a worry over any future changes in U.S. immigration policy. Her green card was set to expire in 2021. “Not being a citizen, I wouldn’t know when my rights would be taken away,” Hutton said.

It was time to take that oath, part of which says “that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Perhaps it’s time for all of our nation’s leaders to read that oath, and understand it.

“I always felt left out,” said Hutton, who can’t wait to cast her first vote.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Try the test

A practice test of questions to be answered by those seeking U.S. citizenship is online at: https://my.uscis.gov/en/prep/test/civics/view

Candidate forums

The League of Women Voters of Snohomish County has scheduled several candidate forums:

6-8 p.m. Monday, candidates for Snohomish County Council Positions 2 and 3, and for county auditor, sheriff and treasurer. Snohomish County campus, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett. Co-sponsored by Snohomish County Elections.

6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, candidates for Lynnwood City Council and Edmonds School District. Black Box Theatre, 20310 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood.

6-8 p.m. Oct. 17, candidates for Edmonds Mayor and Edmonds City Council. Black Box Theatre, 20310 68th Ave. W., Lynnwood. Black Box Theatre events co-sponsored by Edmonds Community College, AAUW Edmonds SnoKing Branch, NAACP, Sno-Isle Libraries and Snohomish County Elections.

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