EDMONDS — With three City Council members not seeking re-election and a contentious mayoral election in November, Edmonds City Hall is set for a new look in 2020.
Seven newcomers and one incumbent are vying for four at-large spots.
Each council seat comes with a four-year term and a $13,000 salary, plus benefits.
As voters prepare to select their next slate of elected officials, a divide has appeared among candidates.
On one side, you have Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, regional Democrats and organized labor, who are all backing Councilman Mike Nelson for mayor. For council, Fraley-Monillas and company have endorsed Alicia Crank, Susan Paine and Laura Johnson.
Each of the council candidates is paying for consulting from Blue Wave, a Seattle-based fundraiser and campaign consultant — the same firm working on Nelson’s mayoral run.
Among the three newcomers, Johnson has donated to Crank and Paine, and Paine has contributed to Crank and Johnson.
Councilwoman Kristiana Johnson, who endorsed Nelson after failing to advance in the mayoral primary, has donated to Paine and Crank.
Opposing this group of candidates are Councilman Neil Tibbott, who’s running for mayor, Mayor Dave Earling, former Mayor Gary Haakenson and council members Dave Teitzel and Tom Mesaros, both of whom aren’t seeking re-election. They’ve all either endorsed or donated to Vivian Olson, Diana White and Nathan Monroe for council.
White has given to Olson and Monroe.
Additionally, if Nelson beats Tibbott for mayor, his seat will need to be filled.
The general election is Nov. 5.
Diane Buckshnis is the only council member running for re-election.
She declined to back Tibbott or Nelson, saying she’s happy to work with either of them.
Small business attorney and adjunct Seattle University Professor Jenna Nand is challenging Buckshnis.
Nand said November’s election gives voters a chance to reshape the culture at City Hall.
“There seems to be some kind of civil war going on,” she said.
Buckshnis, 63, said she’s had disagreements with previous mayors and council members, but hasn’t let that cause problems for the city.
“I’ve worked with (Nelson and Tibbott) side by side as a councilmember,” she said. “I don’t see anything changing in that aspect.”
Both candidates said the city needs to focus on more than just the Edmonds Bowl.
Nand, 35, said small businesses and residents along Highway 99, “aren’t being given a voice.”
She doesn’t want to see generic strip malls or expensive housing take over the area, she said.
Buckshnis said she wants to help the areas outside of downtown, “develop their own character.”
Additionally, she said the housing conversations shouldn’t strictly focus on density.
“I think we need to start looking into ways for Edmonds to unfold for mixed housing stock,” she said.
Nand said she wants to change city policies that give developers tax breaks, even when the units they build aren’t affordable. The city needs housing options that allow residents to stay in town.
Both candidates said they support incentives for smaller, environmentally-friendly homes.
YWCA fund raiser Alicia Crank and former government contracting officer Vivian Olson are facing off to replace retiring Councilman Teitzel.
Both candidates touted their backgrounds.
“The entire objective of that field is to spend legally and responsibly,” Olson said. “I know what questions to ask.”
Crank’s job revolves around, “fostering public-private partnerships,” she said.
Additionally, each said the last few years have been trying for city leaders.
Crank, 45, said “we don’t have to hate one to support the other.”
Olson, 52, said a lack of community engagement has frustrated residents.
“Our citizens want to be in charge of our town,” she said. “With every major action, before we do anything else, let’s at least have an open house.”
She’d consider adding a full-time communications position and visiting different areas around town, like sports games or other events to meet people.
Crank said she wants to move council committee meetings to different areas of town.
“We need to start bringing council and their work to the residents, not the other way around,” she said.
Both candidates said the city needs to take more caution when paying for studies.
“We talk about things, get a consultant, pay the consultant then talk about it some more and then nothing happens,” Crank said.
Olson said there are times when a study is required.
“But, there’s never a time where she should have a consultant study without having a citizen study first,” she said.
The race to replace retiring Councilman Mesararos is between past and present Edmonds School Board directors Susan Paine and Diana White.
Both said they’re disappointed in the divisiveness among current council members.
“No matter who the mayor is or who’s on council, it’s a clean slate,” White said.
Paine, 57, said November’s election is “a nice time for council to really get shaken up.”
“Everyone who’s running on the council level is open to good and healthy dialogue,” she said.
Both said they’d do more to get all residents involved.
Mayor Earling’s housing strategy, which was criticized by residents and led to the launch of a citizen housing committee, and a stalling downtown connector project have made residents lose faith in their elected officials, Paine said.
One priority for White, 54, is getting all voices to the table, not just those in the Edmonds Bowl.
“I think we all need to ask ourselves what can we each do individually to make this impending growth happen gracefully,” she said. “Could your neighborhood handle density or paying for parking? We need to be having those conversations amongst all the groups.”
Paine pointed to the Highway 99 corridor and international district as areas for the city to develop. She said lowering the speed limit and adding commercial and residential properties would build the area out and make it safer.
The incoming light rail station in neighboring Mountlake Terrace makes the Highway 99 corridor a great place to add homes and businesses, too, she said.
White said she’s proud of her advocacy for Native American issues.
In March, White led the effort for the school board to start reading a statement before meetings acknowledging the indigenous tribes that previously occupied the area.
White approached city council leaders in April about adopting a similar statement, which they did unanimously in August.
With Councilman Neil Tibbott not seeking re-election, civil engineer Nathan Monroe and small business owner Laura Johnson are vying to replace the mayoral candidate.
As an engineer, Monroe said he wants to be a steward for the city’s facilities.
“We inherited a system of good pipes, good roads and low debt,” Monroe said. “It’s really the legacy we leave for the next generation.”
Johnson’s time on multiple city committees and other community organizations makes her a well-rounded candidate, she said.
As a small business owner, Johnson, 48, said she’s had to be financially responsible and could translate that to her work on council.
“I personally find it very frustrating to waste money,” she said.
Monroe, 38, said he can help shape the city’s work with construction projects and studies.
“I can save us money on that end,” he said.
In regard to the city’s growth, both candidates said the Highway 99 corridor is ripe for development.
Monroe said downtown doesn’t need a major development and other areas of town deserve attention, too.
Safety along the roadway is a priority for Johnson, she said. When her teenage children drive, she asks them to avoid the area entirely.
Johnson said she’s thankful her’s and Monroe’s campaigns have stayed positive.
“We’re running our race the way it should be,” she said. “I greatly appreciate how Nathan is going about it and wish we had more of that.”
Meet the candidates
Occupation: Small business attorney
Experience: Edmonds Climate Protection Committee member, vice chair of the 32nd Legislative District Democrats
Occupation: Retired banking auditor
Experience: Appointed to City Council in 2010, elected in 2011 and 2015
Occupation: Fund raiser for YWCA
Experience: Edmonds Planning Board member, vice chair of Snohomish County Airport Commission, former member of Edmonds Senior Center Board, Chamber of Commerce and Sister City Commission
Occupation: Independent consultant, Mary Kay Cosmetics
Experience: Tree board member, swimming teacher and coach at Harbor Square Athletic Club
Occupation: Retired strategic adviser for city of Seattle
Experience: Member of Alliance of Citizens for Edmonds, Save Our Marsh, Sustainable Edmonds and Former Edmonds School Board director, Tree Board member and Planning Board member
Occupation: Commercial insurance underwriter
Experience: Member of Lynnwood Convention Center Task Force and Former chair of Hazel Miller Foundation, Edmonds Diversity Commission and Civic Park Planning Committee member.
Occupation: Civil engineer
Experience: Edmonds Planning Board member
Occupation: Small business owner
Experience: Chair of Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission, legislative lead for Edmonds Group of Moms Demand Actions for Gun Sense in America, former member of Edmonds School District 2020 Facilities and Bonds Committee