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Editorial: Elect Ngezaho to Lake Stevens city council seat

He and Kymm Shipman are well qualified, but Ngezaho would offer a counterpoint to the council.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Lake Stevens voters will find just one contested city race on their ballots; Mayor Brett Gailey and city council members Ryan Donoghue and Anji Jorstad are running unopposed in a city of more than 40,000 residents.

The decision by current council member Mary Dickinson not to seek reelection after one term to her Position 4 seat, opened the race to two candidates: Kymm Shipman, who owns and operates a Lake Stevens child care and early learning center; and Gloria Ngezaho, formerly employed in management positions in human resources, equity and employee development for Shoreline Community College and King County.

Ngezaho, who emigrated from Africa as a young man, has a master’s degree in conflict resolution, a doctorate in education from Montreal’s Concordia University and a post-doctorate certification in leadership management from Harvard. A Lake Stevens resident for five years, he serves as c0-chair of the Snohomish County Human Rights Commission, a member of the county’s Regional Law and Justice Council and is board chair for the Snohomish County Community Foundation. He also has volunteered with the senior center and the local food bank.

Ngezaho has previously held elected office for a public school board in Oregon’s Multnomah County and ran for Oregon’s legislature in 2017. He has also authored four books, including a guide for immigrants and refugees.

Shipman attended Everett Community College, earning certification in early learning education. Shipman has not served in elected office before, but has served on the city council’s citizens sub-committee and as a volunteer for Lake Stevens’ Aquafest and the Lake Stevens School District for 10 years, including its suicide awareness run and as a team parent for school athletic teams. Shipman, who grew up in the county, has lived in Lake Stevens for about 30 years.

The candidates were interviewed jointly by the editorial board.

Shipman, who has spoken frequently at council meetings — sometimes approving of council actions, sometimes not — says she is well-versed in how the council works and wants to serve as a voice for the community and for small businesses on the council.

Ngezaho, on the various boards and administration on which he has served, has dealt with issues of governance, transportation, health care, housing accessibility and more; and now seeks to continue that service for Lake Stevens to deliver transparency and accountability.

Ngezaho said he is concerned about a lack of full transparency regarding council decisions on the mayor’s salary, development, and a lack of affordable housing and sidewalks within the city. He also cited concerns for the city’s crowded senior center and a need for more park space.

Shipman said her main concern for the city was public safety, in particular for children, families and for the city’s businesses, emphasizing support for investments in the city’s police department. Shipman said she’s also heard support from residents regarding investments in parks, but she believes the city is making progress in other areas, including adoption of a tax increase to help fund sidewalk improvements as well as meeting compliance with federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Regarding issues of housing with Lake Stevens’ finite supply of buildable lots, Shipman said she supports recent state legislation to increase density, and believes more incentives could be found to encourage more opportunities for affordable housing.

Ngezaho said he supports greater local effort on affordable housing, noting the number of houses that are out of reach for many of the city’s residents or those working in the city and wanting to live there. City government, he said, has a role to play in removing any stigma from affordable housing and encouraging incentives for its construction within the city.

Both also spoke to the issue of the city’s LGBTQ+ community and the decision this year not to adopt a resolution to mark Pride Week in the city, as it has done in the past.

Ngezaho noted that the city did adopt a resolution celebrating Juneteenth, the national holiday that celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation, but the lack of Pride Week proclamation speaks to a disconnect and a failure to represent all of the city’s residents.

Shipman said she was also puzzled by the decision not to adopt a Pride Week proclamation, and said there should have been a discussion among council members regarding that failure, though she believes the responsibility rested with the mayor.

While Lake Steven voters have only one contested race on their ballot, the choice is not an easy one. Both candidates are well qualified and have proved their commitment to the Lake Stevens and larger community with their records of public service. Both also presented themselves as knowledgeable and thoughtful on a range of issues. Each, as well, showed a willingness and ability to listen and represent their constituents.

The tie-breaker here is in what each is likely to bring to the council and its discussion of the issues that come before it.

Shipman, having lived and operated a business in the city for a number of years, clearly knows her community and understands the needs of residents and the city’s small businesses.

Ngezaho with past elected experience on a school board has developed representative skills and offers an impressive education and work resume in interpersonal relationships. As well, he appears well attuned to the needs of the city’s under-represented communities.

While Shipman, with her comments during past council meetings has shown she would be no rubber-stamp for the rest of the council, Ngezaho seems up to the task of challenging his fellow council members when necessary, but doing so in a way that provokes thought and consensus and not conflict.

Voters should elect Ngezaho.

Nov. 7 Election

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. More information on the election, ballot drop box locations and registering to vote is available at tinyurl.com/SnoCoVote23.

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