Letter to the editor: Qualifications and attributes to consider when filling vacant city council seat

The following letter was sent to Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson and members of the Edmonds City Council on Jan. 3, 2020. It is being published here at the letter writers’ request:

Dear Mayor Nelson and Edmonds City Council Members, 

Thank you all for serving and congratulations to those who prevailed in the November election. We the undersigned are writing to you regarding two imminent and critical decisions: (1) Electing a new Council President and (2) Appointing a new City Councilmember. 

We urge you to strive to reach a unanimous vote on both of these critical decisions and also hope you continue to rotate the council president on an annual basis. 

We believe that a healthy and effective council will work together to identify and resolve legislation in a cooperative, fact-based, respectful process based as much on consensus as possible. Differing opinions should be seen as a strength that, when listened to, provides the outcome that is most likely to actually resolve problems than a process that depends strictly on getting a majority of votes. 

An analysis of this election outcome (pg. 6) shows us that while voter turnout was “OK”: 

  • The races had relatively larger margins but none demonstrate any clear mandate. 
  • Forty-three percent of registered Edmonds voters did not vote. 
  • For instance, only 29% of all registered voters chose Mike Nelson and 25% chose Neil Tibbott. 

We do not want to model the division happening at the Federal level but want our Edmonds City Council to model one that works together and with the public and city staff. We don’t know for sure why so many people did not vote, but if we truly want to engage the community, ideally the Council and Mayor will instead, model the behavior we want in our community. 

There is a large pool of applicants for the open position. We believe it is critical to the future of Edmonds to choose someone who has the following qualifications and attributes and ask that you appoint someone who: 

1. Commits to coming to the table with an open mind and willingness to do the homework to identify problems and analyze solutions. 

2. Has the requisite knowledge and experience to augment the abilities of other members of Council, particularly regarding works involving significant expenditures. 

3. Has a track record in Edmonds for working well with others, showing up and getting things done. As with any job applicant, reliable references would be expected. 

4. Has a track record for being civil, accurate and accountable. 

5. Understands that they represent all the people and businesses in Edmonds no matter their race, ethnicity, income, age, sex, sexual orientation or political persuasion. 

Sincerely, 

Rebecca Anderson, Maplewood neighborhood 
Gerald Bernstein, MD,MBA Meadowdale neighborhood 
Joseph Callazo, Edmonds resident, WA State ferries employee 
Ron Clyborne, business owner, US Veteran, long time Edmonds community volunteer 
Patty Farmer, retired career counselor and 9 year resident 
Maggie Fimia, community volunteer, former elected official, avid genealogist 
Julaine Fleetwood, 23 year Edmonds resident, businesswoman, community volunteer 
Rozanne Grunig, north Edmonds 
Darrol Haug, 45 year Edmonds resident 
Erling Hesla, semi-retired professional engineer, 3 yr. Edmonds resident 
Jennifer Higgins,17-year resident, businesswoman, volunteer 
Theresa Hutchinson, Democrat, Hispanic, registered nurse 
Laurie Napa, Edmonds native 
Gary Nelson, former elected office holder, 57 year resident 
Julie Reymore, business person 
Mike Schindler, business owner, US Veteran 
Wendy Shaw, Edmonds resident, Swedish RN 
Karen Shiveley, community advocate 
Darlene Stern-Rapp, retired 
Jim Van Tighem, business person, Westgate neighborhood 
Donald Moe, MD 

8 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Qualifications and attributes to consider when filling vacant city council seat”

  1. If Mayor Nelson and Edmonds City Council Members do strive to reach a unanimous vote, I hope they do so openly and that the related deliberations are conducted in an open public meeting.

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  2. I agree with the qualifications listed in this open letter. I think it will be important for the future of Edmonds to have a council that is working together to reach consensus and open to the opinions and views of the others they work with. I hope the vote will be done so openly so the process is transparent.

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  3. Curious – had the candidates they endorsed won, would this condescending and frankly, hypocritical letter been written?
    Somehow assuming that the newly elected council and mayor do not have the moral and ethical compass to do right by our city is uncalled for and really obnoxious. Give them a chance. They haven’t even been sworn in.

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  4. This is a good letter and I pretty much agree with it in principle, but I totally disagree with this process for selecting the unelected council member. You have three people who played by the election rules, spent their time money and emotions seeking the office and have a true following of citizens who actually voted for them. This flawed system takes the voting citizen out of the equation for this position for two years. Ideally there should be a run off election or even a simple drawing among the three people who actually placed their fate in the hands of the voters in the first place. The system, as it is, just begs for abuse of some sort or another. I see some of the letter signees identified themselves by neighborhood which brings up the other system flaw of unequal representation of the areas of town we actually live in. We’ve had twenty years of promoting downtown, big real estate and the Bowl, spending money on wants (parks, meeting centers, an arts center, bridge on the beach etc.) while treating our infrastructure as a nuisance afterthought. This has to change somewhat I think.

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  5. Since Edmonds had a higher rate of voting than most communities, it seems strange to treat voter turn-out as a problem to be solved.

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  6. I don’t understand the need for a “unanimous vote”. I may be reading it incorrectly. The City Council should select the appointment via a fair, caucus-like process (maybe ranked choice vote).

    The point about the poor voter turn-out is an absolutely great point to make. Taking into account that many eligible voters aren’t registered, on top of the fact that nearly half of those who are registered didn’t vote ,means that minority of people choose our local government. I’d argue that the whole process relies on low-participation.

    Montey Python on the Autonomous Collective:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8bqQ-C1PSE

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  7. There are elements in the letter that could be interpreted that the signers are directing; readers, the City Counsel, and the newly elected Mayor, that their input is necessary . It can be difficult if the person(s) you believe should be the best choice do not win the vote. It is also possible to win by a small margin and still be an effective elected representative. Knowing the elected official personally, does not equate to knowing the capacity of what progress can be derived. Budgets, priority of projects, and common ground will hopefully provide the incentive to achieve success. Elected officials are there for the community and deserve respect and civil discourse.

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  8. This list of attributes is comprehensive however it fails to consider that we elected the new city Council to make decisions for the city. These people should be qualified to choose a replacement for Mike Nelson. If not, we’ve made a mistake. I read this letter as a statement that their candidates didn’t get elected so appoint someone that meets their criteria. We need to share our opinions and suggestions but ultimately we have to trust that this group of citizens who are willing to sacrifice a lot will do the right thing. I have read the applications and have a preference but I’m going to trust the new council.

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