Edmonds City Council candidate Will Chen says he’s running for Position 2

Will Chen
Luke Distelhorst
Janelle Cass

The race for Edmonds City Council Position 2 has just become more crowded, as council candidate Will Chen says he has decided to seek that seat.

Chen announced his candidacy in January but at the time had not chosen which position to file for.

Chen — who runs a CPA firm just off Edmonds’ Highway 99, will face Luke Distelhorst, who was appointed to fill out the remainder of Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson’s Position 2 term and is running to retain the seat. Also running for the position is small businesses owner Janelle Cass.

Chen sais his decision to run for Position 2 is motivated by a desire and commitment to add diversity, passion and practical experience to the council at a time when communities and businesses across the nation are struggling to address social and systemic inequities, and are hurting financially from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Edmonds is a culturally rich community and more ethnically diverse than folks might realize,” said Chen, who was born and raised in China but came to the U.S. for college and graduate school. “While our diversity is a strength, the truth is, we have neighbors who need help to access city services, secure housing and address food insecurity and be engaged in the civic process. I believe I am uniquely qualified to represent these issues and act as a voice for those who often get overlooked.”

If elected, Chen — who is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin — would become a first in Edmonds: a first-generation Chinese-American sitting on the city council. Chen is a current member of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce Board and the Edmonds Rotary Club and served as an Edmonds Citizens Housing Commissioner.

Three of the council’s seven seats — Positions 1, 2 and 3 — are up for election this year. Kristiana Johnson, who holds Position 1, is a retired transportation planner who has been on the council since 2012. Position 3 is held by three-term Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, a retired state government manager who was first elected to the council in 2009. Neither Johnson nor Fraley-Monillas has said whether they are planning to run for re-election.

Edmonds Planning Board member Alicia Crank has already announced she is seeking Position 1. Former City Councilmember Neil Tibbott also said he is running but has not yet decided which position to file for.

The “Friends of Will” campaign will be hosting a campaign kickoff event on Thursday, March 4, at 7 p.m. Registration is available at https://tinyurl.com/friendsofwill. 

  1. Good! Luke Distelhorst is probably a fine man and may in his own way care for the people he represents. He did not have the courage to reject Mr. Nelson’s shameful push for Sherman Pruitt and voted with Adrienne Fraley-Monillas to select a new Chief of Police based on color instead of capability. Perhaps Luke was bullied by Mrs. Fraley-Monillas; perhaps Luke thinks that race is more important than ability; in any case, Luke does not have the best interests of Edmonds foremost in his heart and should be replaced.

    I hope that Will Chen and Janelle Cass compete well against Mr. Distelhorst. I hope that they cherish law and order and care for Edmonds as we all do; a lovely community by the sea and a place that is safe for us and for our children. Good luck to you both and may the best candidate win!

    1. Luke is very nice. I dont think it occured to him at the time, but three people of color where nominated for the city council position he secured. Chen, Nand, Crank all got beat by Distelhorst in a town that has BLM in every other window. This makes the Chief appointment fiasco especially embarrassing. We need some introspection.

  2. This will be a great race. Luke, Janelle and Will are all high quality people. On balance, I believe Will brings superior financial expertise to the table, and as an immigrant from China who came to this country to earn an education, became a citizen and started an accounting business along the Highway 99 corridor, he will bring a unique and beneficial perspective to Council. Will has my full support!

  3. Could someone explain to me what these so called “Positions” really mean? They don’t represent any sort of geographical area except the whole city of Edmonds. So, in the end this is pretty much just a personality or popularity contest for the positions that are just one each of the seven place holders. We always end up with this little game of coyness about who will run and who will be easiest to defeat. Right now Luke and Adrianne appear to be the easiest to “knock off” to get a seat at the table so there is a tendency to want to run against them. With the system we have, why don’t we just let anyone run who wants to (without announcing for a totally meaningless position number), and if there are three positions open, the top three vote receivers win a position. Maybe this would get rid of some of the silliness about skin color, ethnicity, political affiliation and all that, which shouldn’t have much to do with how a relatively small city is run. Maybe we would get more people who are for “something” and not just “against someone.”

  4. I don’t think it is fair to assume that Luke was chosen because of his race. Unless we know that for sure, we can determine that Luke was chosen because he was the most qualified candidate. The same is true for Sherman Pruitt.

    I really hope we can stop talking about a candidate’s race and start looking at their qualifications. Assuming someone was chosen or rejected due to their race, is racism at it’s core and is beyond insulting to humanity.

  5. Luke’s passions appear to be more in human services and he would suit the county or non profit sector better.

    Will Chen comes across as an independent thinker, yet also is amenable to citizens concerns and advice. Mr. Chen is well rounded in his interactions with Edmonds.

    Is there still time for Janelle Cass to refile for position three? She would do greater good challenging position 3 than spreading the votes for position 2. Ms. Cass appears to be a strong candidate.

    The election tempts me back to Edmonds.

  6. Will Chen was gracious enough to take the time to share his life experience with me. It’s a compelling story. While growing up in Communist China during the Cultural Revolution, Will would seek into the woods to listen the Voice of America and dream of coming to America. He was able to be a crew member on a container ship to the US. Determined to fulfill his dream and make a life here, he disembarked and worked his way to Iowa, where he worked 12 hour days as a dishwasher in a Chinese restaurant. He went to Community College there, learned English and earned his Associate degree. Then he worked his way through the University of Iowa, achieving a degree in Accounting. He moved to Washington and earned 2 Degrees at Western, a Master’s in Business Administration and his CPA. He became an auditor for Kimberly Clark, which sent him to Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Germany and Italy. He now has a lovely wife and family here in Edmonds, and owns a successful CPA firm. Will is intelligent, grounded, hard working, financially literate, an experienced business man, and loves this community. His is an inspiring story of American success if there ever was one. I’ll be proud to have him the Edmonds City Council.

  7. The only real qualifications for Edmonds city council should be that you are in fact a person with a permanent residence in the city and you can read, write and think for yourself. You don’t (or at least shouldn’t) represent any other constituency than all the people in Edmonds. So that’s the qualification question, “can you really say you will represent all the people and their interests in the entire city on a totally equal and unbiased basis?” Any other “qualifications” seem to be quite subjective in my opinion. That one true qualification is a pretty tall order to fill, but that’s what’s required under our current city government system. I suspect that it’s an impossible order for anyone to fill in reality but some will do it better than others.

  8. I agree, Clinton. It seems intuitively obvious that someone representing their own neighborhood in a council position would make the most sense. But…………common sense isn’t so common anymore!

    As I stated previously on here, the city of Everett was successful at achieving council districts for their councilmembers. See: https://districtsnow.org/

    One of the proponents of this was a captain of the Everett Police Department, Greg Lineberry. Is there anyone from Edmonds PD who would be willing to step out and spearhead this movement in Edmonds?

    1. Just a reality check here. Edmonds is a “non-charter code city”, and as such has to follow state law on matters like shaping our city council. And that state law says we can only have district voting in primary elections. At the November general election, all city council positions must be voted on city-wide. See RCW 35A.12.180.

  9. Perhaps a fresh thread/LTE topic on creating a referendum or whatever procedure is the most legally appropriate manner to vote by district or option 2, vote by popular vote, option 3, keep voting by challenging individual candidates.

    In Edmonds, there are neighborhoods that are not receiving anywhere close to the resources committed to the downtown, Bowl, and Water abutting properties. There are needs for beautification, economic development, infrastructure improvements, etc.

    In many ways, Edmonds, as such a small city, could take responsibility for the entire city. Edmonds behaves as if it is the citizens, who live there, fault.

    It reminds me of third world countries who choose to ignore their own, unseen, population. Enjoy the resort; “sorry you have to drive through and see that part; they are poor, lazy, on drugs, you know all cities have them. We are working on moving them further out. We will be there shortly.”

    The true character and culture of Edmonds would show itself, by giving the citizens an opportunity to choose the process for voting. Do citizens want gentrification? Give Edmonds Citizens the opportunity to choose how they select candidates.

    Kindly begin a LTE on the subject.

  10. I recently tried to unscramble the differences between charter cities and non-charter cities, 1st class, 2nd class and all that. I found the entire task beyond my feeble old brain, resulting in a giant migraine. What I gather is that based on some laws that come down from on high somewhere we are required to be a seven member council with all members voted on at large. End of story.

    It appears that we are simply doomed to have this back and forth somewhat ideology based system where the best approach is usually to be pals with the rather powerful mayor, or have some sort of in with someone at city hall to actually be heard and get what you think you need or just plain want from the city. It all just begs for political alliances between the mayor and blocks of council persons to wax and wain over time.

    Our one thin hope is to elect a few council members who actually know how to think for themselves and challenge the mayor when he/she needs to be challenged. You also have to hope that at least one or two council persons care about what’s actually going on in your neck of the woods. Good luck with that.

    And no, I will never buy a permit to put in or take out a tree on my own property. Allowing hundreds of people to take out forest type trees for decades to build homes (with and without views) and then suddenly halting this practice for the last few developers standing is comical at best and totally hypocritical at worst. This will achieve nothing but higher taxes, more unwanted government intervention and more expensive housing.

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