After 44 ballots, Luke Distelhorst appointed to vacant Edmonds City Council seat

After five rounds of nominations and 44 ballots, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night voted to appoint Luke Distelhorst from among 12 applicants to fill the vacant Position 2 seat on the Edmonds City Council.

A public information specialist for Community Transit, the 35-year-old Distelhorst is the former president of the Friends of the Edmonds Library board and now serves on the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation Board. He has lived in Edmonds for nearly six years with his wife Ariunaa and 13-year-old daughter Lily, an eighth grader at College Place Middle School. He also has a stepdaughter attending Western Washington University.

Distelhorst’s name wasn’t introduced until the start of the fifth round and the 35th ballot, when he was nominated by Councilmember Susan Paine. Until then, the voting process was dominated by two names, both members of the Edmonds Planning Board and both candidates who ran for council but lost in the November general election. Alicia Crank had the unwavering support of Councilmembers Paine and Laura Johnson and Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas through numerous ballots, and Nathan Monroe received several rounds of votes from Councilmembers Vivian Olson, Diane Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson.

In nominating Crank, Fraley-Monillas pointed to Crank’s tireless volunteer work in the city as well as the fact she lives in — and can represent — the Highway 99 area of Edmonds. “Lastly, as a member of the Diversity Commission, I certainly understand that Edmonds needs to…move forward and elect a person of color to this council,” Fraley-Monillas said of Crank, who is African American.

Olson initially nominated Edmonds Housing Commissioner Will Chen, a 10-year Edmonds resident and CPA who drew significant support from the city’s Asian community. In early rounds of voting, Olson was joined by Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson in nominating and casting votes not only for Chen but for other candidates, including Planning Board members Matt Cheung and Carreen Rubenkonig, Salary Commission Chair Jay Grant, and Climate Protection Committee member Jenna Nand. But the three councilmembers supporting Crank didn’t break ranks until the third round of nominations, when Fraley-Monillas and Paine nominated former Councilmember Lora Petso.

By ballot 24 in the third round, the group of three that had supported Crank had shifted their support to Petso and the other group of three was back to voting for Monroe. That led to the third deadlock (occurring when the council votes the same way three times) and to a fourth round of nominations that again included Crank, Monroe, Chen and Petso. Votes were cast in various combinations for those four candidates, with no four-vote majority reached. And by ballot 32, the council was back to a 3-3 deadlock between Monroe and Crank.

After a brief council break, the voting resumed and two new names were nominated — Distelhorst and Roger Pence, also a member of the Planning Board — along with return nominations for Cheung, Crank and Petso. Crank continued to receive votes until ballot 41, when the votes were split among Cheung, Distelhorst and Pence. Then, on ballot 44, City Clerk Scott Passey declared that Distelhorst had received four votes — from Buckshnis, Fraley-Monillas, Paine and Laura Johnson.

Distelhorst was immediately sworn in by Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson and took his place on the dais with the other councilmembers. Distelhorst will fill the remaining two years of the Position 2 seat left vacant when Nelson was elected mayor in November. To retain the position, he would have to run for election in 2021.

The full seven-member city council after Distelhorst’s appointment, plus student representative Zachary Bauder and City Attorney Jeff Taraday at the far left.

In his application for the council vacancy, Distelhorst said his priorities were increasing public engagement in city projects, ensuring affordable housing for residents, and focusing on health, safety and environmental issues. He took to Twitter later in the evening, stating: “Absolutely humbled. We have a lot of work to do, #Edmonds. I’m looking forward to serving everyone in our community.”

At the end of the meeting, Fraley-Monillas thanked all the candidates for applying — and in particular those who had sat through the entire voting process Tuesday night awaiting the outcome. “Don’t think because you weren’t chosen that you aren’t really good people, because each and every one of you are really good people. Stay involved in our city. Two years from now, come on and run for office.”

Councilmember Laura Johnson agreed, noting that the council “had stellar applications” for the open seat.

— Story and photos by Teresa Wippel






10 Replies to “After 44 ballots, Luke Distelhorst appointed to vacant Edmonds City Council seat”

  1. In 2018 Luke worked to get the Sno-Isle library levy passed, a levy that was financially unfavorable for Edmonds taxpayers . The levy failed in Snohomish County, but his work helped to get enough votes that when combined with the big favorable majority in Island County the levy passed. Now that he’s a city council member I hope that he works as diligently on issues that are in the best interests of our city.


    1. Ron is right to point out that the facts about the Sno-Isle Library levy. The library levy is based on property values as is School Levies and Bonds. Edmonds has a higher average home value than other parts of the Sno-Isle area and definitely this is also true for ESD area. For example ESD has an assessed value of $32B with 1/3 of that in Edmonds, $11B. We are a net exporter of tax dollars for some of the services we have. The way we pay for Fire Services for example is different. We contract for those services and while the revenues to pay the bill come from our property taxes. We pay less per $1000 of value than our nearby neighbors.

      I recall the Library levy set an upper limit on that tax rate and we are currently below that rate. If I understand the process correctly the tax for the library can go up without any additional voter approval.

      Thanks Ron for helping us understand how our taxes work and how Edmonds can and does export our tax dollars to others.


  2. Yes, Edmonds pays more than neighboring cities for library resources. Edmonds residents voted to join the Sno-Isle Library district. Voters value the library. Neighboring Woodway has never joined Sno-Isle. So their citizens can visit the library but not get a card or take out books. It’s a choice.
    Edmonds received more hours and established a fund to help pay for repairs to somewhat compensate for the additional tax burden.


  3. City of Edmonds is not a place for People of Color. It saddens my heart that this city refuses to elect People of Color into leadership, Crank and Nand are excellent candidates. We have rights to have our voices heard and represented, I am disappointed with the city council regarding this outcome and sadden that this city is still lacking diversity in leadership.


    1. Will Chen and Matt Cheung would have been excellent choices as well. Interestingly, Matt had four votes from four different council members, just not at the same time.


    2. Nathan Monroe was also an excellent candidate – I am impressed with his humble reply here. I appreciate that the article explains how the process prevailed, and that our Council began in support of the popular candidates.

      If there is a concern about equality in representation on the Council, there should be more men than just one. Justice is supposed to be blind (supported by a majority of voters who rejected the state’s affirmative action measure on the last ballot). I trust each councilmember recognizes their responsibility to the community, not their individual interest.


    3. I applaud the city council for their process in appointing a “person” to fill the vacant council seat. There will always be those that will blame the city for not appointing “their” choice, and blame it on racism. When in fact, it is they who are racists. Nobody should ever be appointed or denied appointment to a public position because of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, or sexual orientation. We have voted, our elected representatives did their very best to make it a fair process. To make charges otherwise is sour grapes and profoundly unjust.


  4. Surely we could find a more simple and less dramatic way to accomplish this task which seems to be a totally predictable and relatively frequent event with our current city government system. That said, I too congratulate the council on their choice for the position and the Mayor, for choosing not to be a tie breaker in the interest of efficiency or perhaps getting someone he might view as a political friend on the council. I have good feelings about this mostly new group of Edmonds officials.


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