LYNNWOOD — Two political newcomers and a former city councilmember are competing for Position 1 on the Lynnwood City Council, a contest in which affordable housing is a focal point.
Shirley Sutton, who served on the council from 2015-19, local business owner Nick Coelho and planning commissioner Chris Eck are vying for the seat now held by current councilmember Christine Frizzell, who passed on re-election to run for mayor.
Sutton, who previously held Position 4, unsuccessfully ran against Councilwoman Shannon Sessions for Position 7 in 2019.
Getting elected would provide an opportunity to address some uncompleted business.
“I find myself right now wanting to return to finish some of the the things I was so passionate about in my first term,” Sutton said.
Sutton, the 2019 NAACP Snohomish County Carl Gipson Lifetime Achievement award winner, said she hopes to continue advocating for all Lynnwood residents to have an equal shot at success.
During her first term, Sutton was a vocal opponent of the license tab fee increase due to the potential burden on low-income residents. In developing the city’s 2017-2018 budget proposal, Sutton was a proponent of infrastructure improvements and reinstating diversity and cultural competency training for city employees.
Sutton said if elected, she hopes to work with local businesses to ensure workers are paid fair wages and advocate for the expansion of available public housing.
“We have an issue in terms of the affordability of housing for those individuals making minimum wage,” Sutton said.
Sutton said she gained leadership and problem-solving experience as the former director of both Adult Basic Education for Yakima Valley Community College and Diversity Affairs at Edmonds Community College. She also served on the governor’s Advisory Council on Homelessness, on the NAACP Black Women’s Coalition and as chair of the Lynnwood Neighborhood Demographics Diversity Commission.
Local business owner Nick Coelho, who unsuccessfully ran for a council seat in 2019, said advocating for affordable housing is among the top issues on his list.
In Coelho’s eyes, affordable housing goes beyond rent, it also includes access to housing within a neighborhood that is both walkable and promotes easy access to parks and other nearby amenities, such as gyms and local businesses.
Coelho said as a renter, he understands the impact of rising rent prices and feels equipped to come up with creative solutions.
“I think we need bold housing reform,” Coelho said. “We have too many ramblers on large plots of land. We have too many, one and two bedroom apartments and not enough three bedroom apartments or studios. We have some townhomes going up but they’re looking really out of place with our single-story ramblers in our community. I tell people all you have to do to recognize how broken our housing system is — how unaffordable it is — is look at what we’re building.”
He has owned and operated Around the Table, a board game pub in Lynnwood, since 2013. He said as a small business owner he’s been able to get hands-on experience in balancing a budget, planning projects and mitigating interpersonal conflicts.
“Government, whether we like it or not, it’s just a bunch of people ,” Coelho said. “Particularly on a council where people have different agendas, having the ability to sort out the important stuff from the noise and create collaborative solutions that work for everyone that’s going to be just very important.”
Through organizing several beer tasting fundraisers, Coelho connected with leaders of nonprofits including the Lynnwood Food Bank and North Central Washington Fire Relief Fund.
“Seeking out those opportunities is something that’s kind of ingrained in my personality,” Coelho said. “That’s just one of those things I want to bring to the city as someone who’s kind of hungry to find that opportunity, who’s hungry to seek those partnerships and really explore a lot of issues.”
Chris Eck, deputy chief operating officer for Volunteers of America Western Washington, is making her first run for office. She is the current chair of the Lynnwood Planning Commission.
During her commission tenure, Eck has helped develop the Lynnwood Housing Action Plan, which lays out the city’s five-year goals and strategies for updating regulations, bolstering nonprofit partnerships and diversifying Lynnwood’s housing options.
“I believe all of those experiences in those sectors definitely gave me different viewpoints and the ability to bring folks together when we don’t agree to try to find common ground and come up with creative solutions that’ll make sense,” Eck said.
Eck, a mother of two, said she has lived in the city for 25 years and witnessed its rapid population and business growth.
Eck said her priorities include promoting and honoring the community’s cultural diversity, supporting local businesses and creating incentives for new businesses. She said she also believes the city should increase the presence of human services staff among first responders and be more intentional about incorporating community input in the city’s growth.
Eck said she sees the creation of new multifamily housing as an opportunity to expand clean energy initiatives through adding solar panels where possible.
“We should actually pause and be intentional about trying to consistently listen to all residents,” Eck said. “Unfortunately, sometimes the growth impacts the most marginalized neighborhoods within our community, and it’s important that not just at election time, but continually, we really find ways to build trust and engage all community members, so that they feel that they have a say in how our city is going to grow and how it’s going to shape and how we will build community.”
The two candidates who receive the most votes will appear on the general election ballot in November. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Aug. 3. Ballot drop boxes and in-person voting are available until 8 p.m. on election day.
Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BredaIsabella
Meet the candidates.
Experience: City Council, 2015-19; Lynnwood Neighborhood Demographics Diversity Commission, chair; Edmonds Community College, executive director of diversity affairs, director of equity and diversity, 2001-2013;
Experience: City Council candidate, 2019; Lynnwood Parks & Recreation Board, chair; South Lynnwood Neighborhood Co-Design Committee, Around the Table Boardgame Pub, co-owner and manager
Experience: Lynnwood Planning Commission, chair; Human Service Executives of Snohomish County, president; Volunteers of America Western Washington, deputy chief operating officer.