Editorial: Eck, Dotsch, Paine best choices for Edmonds council

Each has the necessary experience, perspective and demeanor now required on the council.

Christine Eck

Christine Eck

By The Herald Editorial Board

Edmonds voters will spill some ink as they mark ballots for the Nov. 7 general election, with a race for mayor, races for three city council seats and uncontested elections for two council incumbents, seeking to represent the city of about 42,500 residents.

Ballots for Snohomish County voters are scheduled to be mailed on Oct. 19, and must be returned to ballot drop boxes or mailed by 8 p.m. Nov. 7. The county voters guides will be mailed Oct. 18, but are now available online at tinyurl.com/SnoCoVoterGuide23.

Council Position 1: With current incumbent Dave Teitzel not seeking reelection, the race drew candidates with notable experience in local government.

Roger Pence, a former Army communications specialist at the Pentagon, has worked as a transit planner for King County Metro and in community outreach for Sound Transit and has previously served on the city’s planning board.

Chris Eck is the deputy chief operating officer for Volunteers of America, Western Washington, and formerly worked in human resources with Cocoon House. She serves on the county’s planning commission, was a member of Lynnwood’s planning commission and serves on Edmonds’ tree board. Eck previously ran for the Lynnwood City Council in 2021.

In a joint interview with the editorial board, both discussed the city’s response to recent state affordable housing legislation, the tenor of politics among the council, mayor and city administration and a development project along Highway 99.

Pence said he remains opposed to legislation that passed this year to encourage greater density in single-family residential zones by allowing duplexes and other multi-plex housing, believing those decisions should have remained at the local level. The task now, he said, is to adapt the city comprehensive plan with neighborhood participation.

Eck sees the task ahead as working with the state law to discuss with residents what the changes for housing and growth mean and how more housing can be built that still reflects neighborhoods’ current look and feel.

Regarding a 10-acre parcel of land on Highway 99 that the city is exploring for development, Eck approves of the approach the city and its economic development commission is taking to review how the property might be developed, for what purposes. However, she doesn’t see the city taking on the project on its own, but working collaboratively with businesses and others.

Pence, while he sees potential for the site, is wary of the city’s actions thus far and a lack of full disclosure to the council about the costs of its review going forward. Pence said he would prefer to see the discussions shelved until after the election, when a new mayor and council might be in place.

Both expressed concern about reported conflicts among the council, city staff and the mayor’s office. Eck said such interactions require balance, saying she wouldn’t hesitate to express concerns about the administration’s actions, but would defend city employees from inappropriate criticism. Pence said he believes it may take the election of a new mayor to resolve past animosities.

The past experience and general knowledge of issues demonstrated by both candidates would make either a valuable addition to the council, but Eck displays more of a willingness and intention to work with the council and city administration and staff, regardless of its makeup at the start of next year and an eagerness to listen and work with residents. While Eck is a recent resident to Edmonds, her years in neighboring Lynnwood and the issues it shares with Edmonds as well as her work at the county level prepares her well for the Edmonds council. Eck warrants election to the seat.

Council Position 4: Current council member Diane Buckshnis’ decision to run in the primary for the mayor’s office meant she could not seek reelection to her seat.

Two first-time candidates seek the position.

Mackey Guenther, 22, is a Edmonds-Woodway graduate and a current student at Seattle Central College, with plans to transfer to the University of Washington to study neuroscience, urban economics and their potential connections. He is director of the Coalition for an Accessible and Resilient Edmonds. He also worked recently as an intern with the city’s planning department.

Michelle Dotsch, a dentist, most recently ran local family dentistry practices, first with her father and recently with her husband. Her community service includes work as president with the Alliance of Citizens for Edmonds, which promotes voter education on environment and development in the city.

Guenther said he sees a need to address related issues of growth, housing, transportation and development as a region and would encourage that regional outreach on the council.

Dotsch said she sees numerous decisions approaching on those subjects and said it will be important for the council to encourage public discussion on all. Her practice as a dentist, she said, has prepared her for considering all aspects of a situation, then presenting treatment options to a patient to decide on the best course of action.

Dotsch said Edmonds has already done well to provide greater residential density while preserving the city’s character and is prepared to meet state guidelines and address environmental concerns, but it will take honest dialogue and transparency with the community to move those ahead.

Guenther said he remains concerned about Edmonds’ ability to provide housing that’s affordable to the community, but again sees a necessity for a regional approach to solutions. Additionally, Guenther said he’s concerned that none of the recommendations from a city commission on affordable housing have received further attention.

While from different generations, Dotsch and Guenther share a commitment to the community in which they’ve both lived for much of their lives, and both show themselves well-informed on issues confronting the city and the region as well as a commitment to citizen-led solutions. Dotsch, however, with a dentist’s chair-side manner, should be best able to relate to city residents, representing their concerns and explaining an issue’s circumstances to the public. Dotsch deserves election to the council.

Council Position 5: Vivian Olson, seeking re-election to a second term, is running unopposed.

Council Position 6: Incumbent council member Susan Paine is seeking reelection to her second term, after serving on the Edmonds School Board from 2005-11. She is challenged by Kevin Fagerstrom, a former code enforcement director for the city of Everett and sergeant with the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Paine, with a master’s degree in public administration, worked for more than 25 years in municipal and nonprofit settings.

The candidates were interviewed separately

Fagerstrom, an Edmonds resident for 27 years, was studying design at the Cornish School in Seattle when he went on a police ride-along, setting him on his career, he said.

Fagerstrom said he has concerns for the city’s finances, noting the recent increase for the transportation benefit district’s tab fee. He believes the city may need to consider increasing its property tax by 1 percent as allowed by state law.

He also wants to see the city seek out new retail outlets for its stretch of Highway 99, in particular car dealerships. At the same time, however, he is opposed to the city’s continued consideration of development for the 10 acres along the highway, noting the property’s $37 million price tag, believing the financial impact on the city would be too high.

Regarding the state’s density requirements for zoning, Fagerstrom said that issue should have been left to cities, but he believes Edmonds can work with developers to find appropriate locations for multifamily housing, and he thinks the law’s requirement for locations near transit lines can work to Edmonds’ advantage.

Fagerstrom’s past law enforcement and code work informs his concerns about the city and region’s approach to homelessness. He said he believes the county’s purchase of an Edmonds motel for supportive housing will require the city to monitor it closely to protect residents there as well as public safety.

Paine noted that her first term started just as the covid pandemic began, and believes that her past experience in public service in King County and Seattle government prepared her well to help with the city’s response, specifically the work to open the city’s human services program and its decision on allocation of federal covid aid to support the Edmonds Food Bank. The city’s response, she said, meant that all of the downtown businesses are now still open and the city never laid off employees.

Paine agreed that it will be important for the city to assure the needed level of support at the county’s supportive housing site, but also noted the city’s participation in the Lynnwood Neighborhood Center to provide educational and job training and other services in the region.

On affordable housing, Paine supports the state law on density and notes that duplex and triplexes can be accommodated without changing neighborhood character.

As a council incumbent, Paine acknowledges the past conflict and attributes it to a clash of personalities. Quoting a parliamentarian the council has worked with, Paine said city councils should be considered an “arranged marriage, arranged by the community.”

It’s a relationship that requires professionalism, she said, among the council and in its interactions with the city administration and staff.

“I do my very level best — and I know I’m not perfect at it — to understand the motivations and the vision that my colleagues have,” she said.

As with the other two contested races, voters have two experienced and dedicated candidates to consider in Paine and Fagerstrom.

Considering her work in her first term, and her past service on the school board, Paine’s professionalism is a known quantity that has already served the city well. She should be reelected to a second term.

Council Position 7: Jenna Nand, appointed to the council in July 2022, is running for election to her post. She is running unopposed.

Edmonds mayor: Prior to the Aug. 3 primary, the editorial board endorsed incumbent mayor Mike Nelson. He is challenged by Mike Rosen.

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