By The Herald Editorial Board
Voters in Snohomish County should now have their ballots for the Aug. 3 primary election.
During the next two weeks, The Daily Herald Editorial Board will announce endorsements for select races. A roundup of those endorsements will be published online after July 30 and in the Aug. 1 print edition of The Herald.
One of three Snohomish County Council Districts drew three candidates this year, requiring the Aug. 3 primary election to whittle the choice down to two for the Nov. 2 general election.
District 1 of the Snohomish County Council represents residents of Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood and unincorporated north Snohomish County. District 1 County Council member Nate Nehring, a Republican, is challenged in the primary by Democrats Nicole Ng-A-Qui and Richard Yust.
Nehring, the son of Marysville mayor Jon Nehring, was appointed to his council seat in 2017 and won election to a full term that November. Prior to his time on the council, Nehring was a middle school science teacher and served on the Stanwood planning commission. He now lives in Arlington.
Ng-A-Qui, a small business owner for 18 years, is making her first run for public office. The Lakewood resident earned a bachelor’s degree in natural resources management from Colorado State University, with an restoration ecology certificate from the University of Washington. She has served on a policy advisory council for an early childhood education and assistance program and has coached youth basketball.
Ng-A-Qui did not respond to requests for an interview with the editorial board, but in statements for the county voters guide and her campaign website she said she would work for sustainable resource management and development, support of small business, housing affordability and public safety that emphasizes efforts on drug addiction over jail time.
Yust is an Arlington resident who has lived in the county since 1999. His past work experience includes years as a musician, general contractor, restaurant owner and most recently in maintenance at a county golf course. Now semi-retired, Yust said he wants to use his time to give back to his community.
Yust, making his first run for public office, described himself as someone interested in policy and a team player eager to work with others. He found no fault with Nehring’s time in office and said that were he not running he’d likely vote for the incumbent.
Nehring, when first appointed at the age of 21, was the youngest ever to serve on the council. When he ran for election in 2107, opponents attempted, unsuccessfully, to label him as too young and inexperienced for the job. Voters disagreed that year, and Nehring has added to his council resume in the four years since.
Notable among Nehring’s accomplishments has been his leadership regarding trades education and apprenticeships. Nehring was a leader in the effort to create the Regional Apprenticeship Pathways program, which seeks to guide high school students into training and jobs in construction and related trades. The effort brought together local officials, school districts and representatives of labor and industry.
Nehring also has kept his commitment to bipartisanship on the council, which is split 3-2 with a Democratic majority. While there are issues for which that split is present, most matters before the council find unanimous consent. Nehring has worked to preserve that unanimity and has worked particularly closely with fellow council member Democrat Jared Mead, a Democrat, in that regard. Nehring and Mead wrote a commentary together in January, published in The Herald, that spoke to the importance of working together on issues at all levels of government.
Nehring has fostered that bipartisanship while keeping to his personal beliefs. When calls were made last year to cut the county Sheriff’s Department budget by half, Nehring considered the demand a nonstarter, but was clear that, while recognizing the need for law enforcement reforms, he also understood the ample support of public safety didn’t need to come at the expense of funding for social services. The county, with Nehring’s backing, has worked to develop and provide funding for innovations at the county level including embedding social workers with the deputy patrols and city police departments, the Carnegie Resource Center, medication-assisted treatment for addiction and the county’s Diversion Center.
Looking ahead, particularly as the county and its communities work to leave the pandemic behind, Nehring said his focus would be on reforms to promote housing affordability as the county works on its update of its comprehensive plan, such as the council’s recent action to ease rules for “accessory dwelling units,” better known as “mother-in-law apartments” on single-family residential lots. Also at the top of the list for Nehring is a renewed focus on the county’s opioid addiction and homelessness crises.
“We need to double-down and continue to focus on making resources available to folks and looking for ways to get folks who are struggling with these issues off the street and into programs,” Nehring said.
Nehring’s accomplishments, his ability to work with the rest of the council and his commitment to pragmatism, as well as his concern for county residents and stewardship of taxpayer funds during his first full term should provide voters — regardless of party — ample confidence in returning him to his post.
Two other of the council’s five district seats are up for election this year.
In District 4, Mead was appointed to the position in 2020 to fill a vacancy and won election that year for the remainder of the term. He is being challenged in the general election by Republican Brenda Carrington, who ran against Mead in the 2020 election.
In District 5, Republican Sam Low, first won election in 2016 for an unexpired term and then was reelected to a full term in 2017. He is challenged this November by Democrat Brandy Donaghy.
Endorsements by the editorial board for Districts 4 and 5 are planned prior to the general election.
For information on voter registration, a link to the voters guide and ballot drop box locations go to tinyurl.com/SnoCoVote2021.