Everett City Council, Position 4
The election last November of Cassie Franklin as Everett’s mayor meant a vacancy at the city council seat to which she was elected in 2015.
The council, after considering the applications of 23 city residents and interviews with six finalists, selected longtime city resident Ethel McNeal to serve in the position. State law requires an election for the unexpired term’s remaining year. McNeal and challengers Liz Vogeli and Tyler Rourke filed for the position.
The Aug. 7 primary will determine the top two candidates who will advance to the Nov. 6 General Election.
McNeal, who is retired following careers with the Edmonds School Districts and Scott Paper Co., has served on the council since January. Born in Meridian, Mississippi, McNeal participated as a young woman in the marches and protests of the civil rights era and moved to Everett in the late ’60s. She has volunteered with the Everett School District and with the city’s Office of Neighborhoods, serving with the Silver Lake Neighborhood Association. McNeal also was a participant in last year’s Envision Everett 2037 committee. She has three adult children who graduated from Cascade High School.
Vogeli, a resident of the Westmont neighborhood for the last six years, is a former ombudsman for the U.S. Coast Guard, is married to Coast Guard reservist and is the mother of young children. She is the current chairwoman of the Westmont Neighborhood Association. She also serves as secretary for the 38th Legislative District Democrats.
Rourke, the married father of two young boys, has lived in the Glacier View neighborhood since moving to Everett in 2006. He is employed as a project engineer at Electroimpact, an aerospace supplier in Mukilteo. An avid cyclist, Rourke currently serves as the chairman of the city’s Transportation Advisory Committee. He volunteers with Big Brothers/Big Sisters as a “big” in its schools program.
McNeal, Vogeli and Rourke have each demonstrated a commitment to their neighborhoods and the city, and there appear to be few differences on policy among them. In an interview with the editorial board, all three acknowledged the challenges the city faces from the opioid crisis, homelessness and mental illness and a looming budget shortfall, and displayed a firm understanding of those issues. Yet each also expresses optimism in the city’s ability to address those challenges and help prepare the city for growth and success.
And each offers her or his own strengths and abilities.
McNeal’s selection by the council is not easily dismissed. Council members noted her past civic participation and her work on labor issues as a union official representing Edmonds school employees. She is supportive of the city’s Safe Streets initiatives and advocates for increased attention to mental health services. She has also demonstrated her faith in the power of community effort and her ability to lead by organizing a neighborhood watch for Silver Lake.
McNeal also provides important representation for the city’s communities of color.
On the council, McNeal has engaged fellow council members and city staff with relevant questions and discussion.
Vogeli, a member of Everett Districts Now’s executive board, could offer valuable insight to the council during the transition to council districts, assuming voters approve the measure on the November ballot.
She, too, supports the Safe Streets efforts, and would be an advocate for development of affordable housing in the city and for increased community participation on issues such as gang violence.
Vogeli also would provide the council valuable perspective as a younger parent.
Rourke also would fill that need and has, for example, expressed frustration with having to scan the city’s parks for syringes and other threats before letting his sons play.
Rourke appears to take a tougher line on law enforcement than his opponents, but balances that with compassion for those with addictions, the homeless and those in need of mental health care.
Rourke advocates denser residential urban development that he believes could support more small business and hep alleviate traffic congestion.
His advocacy for cyclist and pedestrian safety and leadership of the transportation advisory committee would be valuable as the city implements its bicycle master plan and makes pedestrian safety improvements. Rourke also has deep knowledge of the needs and capabilities of Everett Transit that will be necessary as the council decides the future of its transit agency and how to deliver those services affordably.
Rourke, who was one of the six finalists considered for the council vacancy, seems most open to some of the tougher choices the council will have to make regarding the support of city services and amenities and how those could best continue.
Rourke impresses with his talent for analysis, leadership and reasoned consideration of issues.
The city will be ably served regardless of who wins later this fall. But it would be best served with Rourke on the council.