Top (L-R): Bill Wheeler Jr., Demi Chatters; Bottom (L-R): Brian Hennessy, Scott Bader

Top (L-R): Bill Wheeler Jr., Demi Chatters; Bottom (L-R): Brian Hennessy, Scott Bader

Everett at-large council race hosts crowded field for Position 6

A former council member, a past candidate, a first-time candidate and a former bikini barista stand owner make up the field.

EVERETT — For the first time in 20 years, an election for Everett City Council’s position 6 won’t have an incumbent.

Brenda Stonecipher’s name won’t be on ballots after the longtime council member announced earlier this year she wouldn’t seek re-election to a sixth term. Her pending departure has opened the doors to one of only two at-large positions chosen by voters citywide in the August primary.

Former council member Scott Bader, past council candidate Demi Chatters, first-time candidate Brian Hennessy, and former bikini barista stand owner Bill Wheeler Jr., who was convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor, are seeking the position 6 seat.

Judy Tuohy, Stonecipher’s fellow at-large council member since 2014, is facing challenges from Judith Martinez and Bryce Nickel, both new to seeking public office, for position 7.

The at-large seats are four-year terms and come with a $30,132 annual salary. The council enacts policies and laws, and has approval powerover the budget.

Voters will narrow the fields for each position to two candidates for the November general election. Primary ballots are due Aug. 1.

Homelessness, housing and public safety emerged as common concerns for candidates, though their positions on how to address those issues differed.


Bill Wheeler Jr.

Bill Wheeler Jr.

Wheeler, 40, was convicted in 2014 of sexually exploiting a 16-year-old barista who exposed her breasts for tips. He was sentenced to three years in prison and was allowed out on bail until an appeal failed in 2016.

Throughout the trial Wheeler maintained he was innocent, a statement he recently echoed to The Daily Herald.

“I don’t feel it was justified that I was gone after the way that they did,” Wheeler said.

During his incarceration, he said he “reflected” on how he could advocate for what he believes in and improve as a person.

There is no state law prohibiting Wheeler or others with a similar felony conviction from holding an elected office, a Secretary of State spokesperson confirmed.

Once out of prison, Wheeler pursued degrees in business administration and sustainability. Today he works as a heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technician, as well as in facilities maintenance.

Prior to joining his father’s bikini barista business, Wheeler served in the Air Force as a security officer.

His experience on “both sides” of the law give him a unique perspective that he said could benefit the council.

“If you want somebody that will advocate for you and push back where a lot of people are feeling like they’re being pushed right now, I’m the guy to do it,” Wheeler said.

Police officers should be held accountable for enforcing laws already enacted, he said. Misdemeanor offenses such as indecency, public exposure and public intoxication are not adequately policed now, he said.

Wheeler, who lives in the Riverside neighborhood, also disagrees with seeing expanded housing density in Everett.

“I don’t think plowing down homes and putting up hundreds of apartments is the right thing,” he said. “If the city’s infrastructure is tapped out, it’s OK to say you can’t handle it.”


Brian Hennessy

Brian Hennessy

Hennessy, 40, retired from a career in the U.S. Coast Guard and is a stay-at-home dad in the Northwest neighborhood. He occassionally works as an emergency substitute teacher.

His pitch to voters is he supports the direction of city laws and policies already in place, especially around homelessness, and said he would continue that trajectory.

Everett should keep responding to the intertwined crises of drug abuse, mental health and homelessness with both accountability through jail time and compassion, Hennessy said. He reiterated a figure cited by Mayor Cassie Franklin that, since a state court decision about drug possession, not one person had accepted an offer for services when contacted by the city’s paired police officer and social worker unit.

“We have a duty to help the drug users,” he said. “We have a duty to help people on the streets. Everybody deserves to be housed.”

He acknowledged the concern of people getting a criminal record and the effect it can have on employment, which then cascades to housing, health and other issues. But Hennessy would like to see policies that can instead incentivize sobriety through clearing criminal fines or tying the fines to income.

Everett has some jail diversion programs for low-level offenses that are tied to behavioral and mental health treatment.

The city also should identify suitable locations for more services and shelters, Hennessy said. Everett’s leaders must convince residents why having a day shelter is beneficial to them, he said. Clear and early communication to the potential neighborhoods could have avoided the shock that residents experienced near the now-scrapped proposed shelter at Hope Church near 45th Street SE and Evergreen Way, Hennessy said.

As the county seat and largest city in Snohomish County, Everett has a responsibility to become more densely populated, Hennessy said. That can be done through rezoning properties to build more apartments, duplexes and triplexes that can alleviate the supply crunch, he said.

“We’re a city,” Hennessy said. “We’re not Arlington, we’re not Monroe. This is not the suburbs anymore.”


Demi Chatters

Demi Chatters

Chatters, 47, last sought election in 2021 for the then-new District 5 position that Ben Zarlingo won and holds now. She lives in the Pinehurst-Beverly Park neighborhood with her family.

“I feel it is very important that families like mine, which I really feel represent the average working folks of Everett, we deserve to have that good representation that deliberately centers the needs of families like mine,” Chatters said.

Chatters works as operations director at a small law firm, is the chair of the Everett Planning Commission and is a member of the Snohomish County Human Rights Commission.

One of her ideas for public safety is to improve response times for emergency medical services, firefighters and police. A specific goal is to work with hospitals to improve the change of custody for someone police bring to an emergency room, so officers can respond to the flood of 911 calls they get. Another aim is to bolster the options of where someone contacted by emergency responders can go beyond just the hospital or jail, Chatters said.

Addressing homelessness requires a coordinated regional response because “there are no walls around the City of Everett,” she said.

Chatters said she understands people have valid concerns about wanting to avoid seeing the trauma of homelessness in their neighborhoods. But it’s also important to help people avoid that first-hand trauma of living on the streets, and the city can win over some skeptics through additional outreach about housing programs, she said.

Bolstering the available housing is critical for homelessness and overall affordability, she said. On the planning commission, she said working on the long-range planning document called the 2044 Comprehensive Plan gave her insight into the problem that there are about 49,000 housing units in Everett today. By 2044, the city needs another 37,000. Putting accessory dwelling units in back yards here and there won’t meet that target, she said.

“We’ve got to have a council that is going to be proactive about that and is not going to impede our ability to make space for the future,” Chatters said.

Making the city more dense can address part of the problem of climate change by reducing transportation emissions, she said. Incentives for “green” construction also can reduce the impact.

Chatters also said she wants to preserve Everett’s legacy as a “union town” after Franklin vetoed a project labor agreement ordinance that narrowly passed in December. If elected, she would work to see a similar ordinance considered by the council.


Scott Bader

Scott Bader

Bader, 58, was on the City Council for nine years until he opted against seeking re-election in 2021 in a crowded race for the newly created District 1.

He is the parish finance director for the Catholic Church Archdiocese of Seattle and lives in the Riverside neighborhood, where he has been an active member of the neighborhood association. In 2022, Franklin appointed him to the city’s redistricting commission that largely kept the initial council districts intact.

Bader, who believes the council is on the edge of tilting more liberal, said he wanted to bring a moderate focus. He cited close votes on issues such as the expansion of “no sit, no lie” zones, which he championed while in office, as well as his early support for the city pursuing a federal grant to pay for police officers.

“I want to make sure the status quo isn’t in jeopardy,” Bader said.

To address drug abuse and homelessness, he said treatment must be available and consequences enforced for refusing those services. One program he’d like to see implemented is a jail diversion program that offers public service, such as removing litter, in lieu of jail time.

As a longtime former council member, Bader said he knows the city’s budget needs a major shift, either with an influx of revenue or further offloading of some city services. Either way, he said voters should decide if they want higher taxes for fire protection, parks and transit.

“We can’t keep putting this off,” Bader said.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037;; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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