ARLINGTON — Arlington City Council member Mike Hopson, a lifelong educator and advocate for social justice issues, died Tuesday at the age of 74.
The cause of death was natural, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Hopson was a familiar face in local government before his tenure on council began in 2016. He served as an airport commissioner and would often attend council meetings in the years leading up to his own election.
He described himself as someone who could deal with issues “equitably and even-handedly.”
On the council, he advocated for expanding affordable housing options; connected with Stillaguamish tribal members to draft the city’s first land acknowledgement; and condemned race-based hate.
“He was a fighter for the underdogs,” Janice Hopson said of her husband. “He wanted to help people.”
Most people knew Mike Hopson for championing these issues, his wife said.
Mike Hopson often stood alongside Arlington residents in the wake of racist events.
“Our government, our community, our country, cannot endure permanently when it is full of hate,” he said at a march in 2019. “We need to instead strengthen our communities.”
In October 2021, Mike Hopson introduced the idea of a land acknowledgement to be read at all council meetings, similar to the Arlington School District. He connected with Kerry Lyste of the Stillaguamish Tribe’s cultural resources department to draft the acknowledgement.
“I never expected Arlington to ask to acknowledge the tribe,” said Jeremy Smith, vice chairman of the Stillaguamish Tribe. “So when I heard that they did, I thought it was a great thing.”
Mike Hopson was sometimes a minority opinion on council, often in his efforts to expand housing in Arlington, his wife said. He wasn’t comfortable seeing people who worked multiple jobs still unable to find a place they could afford to live.
He served on the Snohomish County Tomorrow Community Advisory Board, to help guide growth management policies that support affordable housing.
“He was very passionate about the city of Arlington,” Mayor Barb Tolbert told The Daily Herald.
The City Council will hold a special meeting to appoint a person to fill Hopson’s seat.
“You could always count on seeing Mike at community events or the local coffee shop,” City Administrator Paul Ellis said in a statement. “He had a quiet personality and served his community well.”
His desire to push social justice issues and lift people up was probably a result of his own upbringing in a working class family, Janice Hopson said.
Mike Hopson served a few years in the Peace Corps in West Africa before beginning a teaching career of over four decades in Alaska and Hawaii. The Hopsons met as high schoolers.
They would go off to marry (and later divorce) different people, but reconnected in the early ’90s. “It was one of the few good decisions I ever made,” Janice Hopson said.
Then, she was a single parent of a teenager. Mike “knew what a struggle it was for me,” Janice Hopson said. He took her “under his wing.”
Mike Hopson is survived by two grown children, Shana and Damian.
“He was extremely articulate,” Janice Hopson said of her husband. “And like I said, he battles for the underdog.”