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.
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