Top row, Don Vanney, left, Barbra Tolbert, Yvonne Gallardo-Van Ornam. Bottom row: Kenneth Dilbeck, left, Michele Blythe and Gregory Miller.

Top row, Don Vanney, left, Barbra Tolbert, Yvonne Gallardo-Van Ornam. Bottom row: Kenneth Dilbeck, left, Michele Blythe and Gregory Miller.

Arlington mayoral, City Council candidates address growth, safety

Amid a rising population, the city has grappled with questions about infrastructure, traffic, housing — and more.

ARLINGTON — Growth, transportation and lingering tensions around a local Pride event are some of the major issues for candidates for Arlington mayor and City Council.

Arlington’s population has boomed from just over 11,000 to slightly under 20,000 in the past two decades. The county projects it will balloon to 35,000 by 2044. The city’s economy has also grown. Amazon just built a massive, new $355 million facility in the Cascade Industrial Center, which includes over 4,000 acres zoned as “manufacturing and industrial” near the city’s busy airport.

Candidates will also have to work through friction with the city’s LGBTQ+ community. Following questions over drag performers at the event, as well as insurance and security issues, event organizers pushed the event back to July. Hundreds showed up to the Pride event and were met by around 75 protesters.

In the mayoral race, incumbent Barb Tolbert is facing City Council member Don Vanney in a rematch of four years ago. In 2019, Tolbert defeated Vanney by 32 votes.

City Council member Michelle Blythe is facing challenger Kenneth Dilbeck for Position 4. In Position 6, incumbent Yvonne Gallardo-Van Ornam is being challenged by Greg Miller.

Rob Toyer is unopposed for Position 5.

The mayoral position pays $8,257.05 per month. City Council members receive $2,137.06 per month. Both are four-year terms.


Barb Tolbert

Tolbert, 65, the mayor since 2011, is running on her accomplishments. She emphasized three areas in particular: public safety, infrastructure improvements and quality of life.

In regards to public safety, she wrote in an email she would continue to “work with regional service agencies for resources and advocate for State laws that support police officers and deter crime.”

On the county’s housing crunch, Tolbert said she would focus on the “missing middle.”

“We have identified where additional 4,368 housing units can go within our current (urban growth area), they are either in development currently — permitted or built roughly 2,400 — or in development discussions,” Tolbert said.

Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert

Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert

Her goal is for Arlington to have “the full range of housing: single family residences, affordable housing (small houses, townhouses), apartments, and subsidized units. Complying with Snohomish County’s housing allocations keeps Arlington compliant with the Growth Management Act, which in term keeps Arlington eligible for county, state and federal grants.”

Pushing the state for more money to fix roads is at the top of her transportation priority list. Tolbert also mentioned the upcoming Swift Gold line bus route that will serve Arlington as a good thing.

“Arlington is surrounded on all four sides by state highways and I-5,” Tolbert wrote. “Our access to less congested roads is dependent on the State and its timing of improvements to their roads. Specifically, I will continue to hold the State to its commitment to widen 172nd St/Highway 531 in the very near future.”

Moving forward, she said Arlington Pride is “welcome in our city” and pointed to a new ordinance she says will make the permitting process easier.

Last month, City Council approved an update to its special events policy that “streamlines” the process for applicants. The application now includes questions as to whether the event wants to be treated as a First or 14th Amendment event. It also removed fee and insurance requirements for First and 14th Amendment events.

Tolbert had raised over $13,000 in campaign contributions as of Tuesday.

She has received bipartisan endorsements, including Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, State Rep. Carolyn Eslick, Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring, Snohomish Mayor Linda Redmon, and Arlington City Council members Heather Logan and Jan Schuette.

Don Vanney

Vanney, 63, is pushing for more single-family housing. He’s also a supporter of tougher laws in response to the drug crisis and building up infrastructure to handle the city’s growth.

“We just need to step back and look at how we can manage the land better — we don’t have much buildable space in our city yet,” Vanney said in an interview over Zoom. “For the younger generation, the people growing up, they’re just getting out of school, starting careers, starting families, they want to have that opportunity, like all of us did, to buy and own their home. I feel the more we build the apartments, the more we take that opportunity away from them.”

Don Vanney

Don Vanney

Vanney wants to see more varied real estate that locals can buy, including single-family homes and townhomes. He also wants to work proactively to ensure capacity on sewer and water lines will be able to handle growth.

“We need to ensure our infrastructure is able to serve our existing community before we add further High-Density Housing and Development,” Vanney wrote on his campaign website.

He also would push for more police officers in Arlington, which he believes is key to proactive policing. He spoke in favor of Marysville’s new three-strike law targeting repeat drug offenders.

Vanney said he often rides along with officers, which he feels gives him a good sense of issues faced by law enforcement.

“If we can bring on three officers every couple years to increase our department, where we’re at a foothold for where we should be for staffing, that gives the officers a chance to be more proactive than reactive,” Vanney said. “… I think the more they’re out there visible to the public and connected with the public, we’ll get more help for some of these (issues) the homeless and the drugs.”

Vanney said he would support Arlington Pride event coming back next year.

“It boils down to we need to get the right people that don’t just want the hostility and come in and communicate and talk with us at the city,” Vanney said. “I personally would have no problem with the Pride event, I just totally don’t agree with the hostility and stuff, the way it was being handled this year.”

On his campaign website, Vanney wrote one of his goals is to “re-establish Arlington’s existing Mayor Council form of Government — where the Council has the control and the ability to review issues, discuss and vote equally on the issues. The Mayor position is only required to vote on issues when there is a tie vote through the council.”

Vanney had raised over $18,000 in campaign cash, plus $15,000 in independent expenditures from the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.

Vanney has been endorsed by City Council members Marilyn Oertle, Michelle Blythe and Yvonne Gallardo-Van Ornam.

City Council Position 4

Michele Blythe

Crime and safety are the two most important issues for Blythe, 64, who was elected to the City Council in 2020.

“I don’t want to see open drug use, I want to see the police to be able to make contact and take action,” Blythe said. “I think that’s detrimental to our young kids that are watching it.”

Blythe credited work the Arlington Police Department has done with its community outreach team, which pairs a police officer with a social worker. They work with unhoused people to find them housing and, if applicable, substance abuse treatment.

She would like to add more of those units to the force and would look to increase not only officers on foot patrol, but also leadership positions. She feels more sergeants, lieutenants, detectives and social workers would help to prevent crime.

Michele Blythe

Michele Blythe

On housing, she said she hears both sides — those in favor of growth and those who aren’t. She wants people to be able to own their homes.

“We can create smaller homes, so people have a sense of homeownership,” Blythe said. “But no one’s going to be able to afford it unless something changes in our economy.”

Blythe is also passionate about the aging population. She serves as a member of the Council on Aging at both the county and state level. She would push for more senior and community centers to give the elderly a place to go for meals, games and social interaction.

“I think Arlington should fund it at a higher level,” she said.

Kenneth Dilbeck

Dilbeck, 67, the founder of a consulting firm, is running to improve infrastructure, public safety and cooperation between the city and school districts.

Meeting sewer and water needs for a growing city, he said, needs to include more collaboration between government agencies. He also wants to see more telemetry data collection. This would include road data and water data. He sees that collection as critical toward planning for Arlington’s future growth.

Kenneth Dilbeck

Kenneth Dilbeck

He believes homelessness, drug use and mental health are interwoven issues.

“A lot of the drug and mental health issues are related to homelessness, I think those have to be addressed as a single issue,” Dilbeck said. “And homelessness contributes to mental health issues and drug usage. They’re three legs of a stool, so you have to be able to address them all at the same time.”

He said that City Council’s role in response to homelessness is to come up with plans for others to follow.

“I think our role would be to facilitate and create an environment where the communication and consensus can be created amongst the parties that can actually go out and implement,” Dilbeck said.

Position 6

Yvonne Gallardo-Van Ornam

Gallardo-Van Ornam, 45, is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility and smart small business development.

She served nine years in the U.S. Navy and said she developed a passion for volunteering during that time. She has lived in Arlington since 2006 and has been part of a number of social organizations, including the Rotary Club and Kiwanis.

Gallardo-Van Ornam pointed to her time spent learning about the city’s budgeting process since joining the council in 2022.

Arlington has a vibrant downtown, she said, and she would like to see more small businesses.

Yvonne Gallardo-Van Ornam

Yvonne Gallardo-Van Ornam

“I will continue to research, support and advocate for the continuing growth of our local small businesses,” Gallardo-Van Ornam wrote on her campaign website.

Gallardao-Van Ornam said she supported the Pride event.

“In general, an event that brings people together, that causes nothing but love and joy?” she said. “I’m all about it.”

Greg Miller

Miller sees the biggest issues as traffic and homelessness. He hopes to help bridge the gap between City Council and Arlington Pride as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Miller spent 33 years working at Boeing and has lived in Arlington for over 20 years, according to his campaign website.

He supports seeking state help to find traffic solutions. He said roundabouts have made roads a little less congested.

Gregory Miller

Gregory Miller

Traffic is “definitely something that concerns me and I want to focus and keep the pressure on,” Miller said.

He said the police department’s community outreach program is a major positive force in combating homelessness, but acknowledged there “aren’t easy fixes.”

Miller also is looking to help the city and LGBTQ+ groups find common ground.

“I just want to build that bridge, make sure if there’s any concerns, we start early for the next event as soon as possible, so there’s no misunderstandings and everything is addressed,” he said.

Ballots are due Nov. 7.

Jordan Hansen: 425-339-3046;; Twitter: @jordyhansen.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Miners Complex tops 500 acres in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Nine lightning-caused fires force trail closures and warnings 21 miles east of Darrington. No homes are threatened.

FILE — President Joe Biden arrives for a Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, July 3, 2024. Biden abandoned his campaign for a second term under intense pressure from fellow Democrats on Sunday, July 21, upending the race for the White House in a dramatic last-minute bid to find a new candidate who can stop former President Donald Trump from returning to the White House. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Biden drops out of race, endorses vice president Kamala Harris

The president announced the decision on social media Sunday.

Granite Falls ‘10-foot alligator’ is actually a tegu named ‘Tazz’

Anybody who spots the docile lizard, last seen near Granite Falls, is asked to notify 911, so Tazz can be reunited with owner.

Photos by Olivia Vanni / The Herald
Gabby Bullock sits on her bed in a room she shares with another housemate on June 14 in Everett.
‘We don’t have openings’: SnoCo recovery houses struggle with demand

Advocates say the homes are critical for addiction recovery. But home prices make starting a sober living house difficult.

Melinda Grenier serves patrons at her coffee truck called Hay Girl Coffee during the third annual Arlington Pride event in Arlington, Washington on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Food safety team defends its work: it’s a ‘high pressure, thankless’ job

Management tried to set the record straight about long permit delays in Snohomish County.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Global tech outage leaves a mark on Snohomish County

The CrowdStrike software update hit some systems at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and briefly disrupted 911 operations.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.