Pledging to put Edmonds residents first, Distelhorst kicks off campaign to retain city council seat

Luke Distelhorst, running to retain his Position 2 seat on the Edmonds City Council, kicked off his campaign in a virtual event on Monday.

Edmonds City Councilmember Luke Distelhorst launched his election campaign virtually Monday, running to retain his Position 2 seat. The 36-year-old candidate was appointed in January 2020 to fill the unexpired term of former Councilmember and now Mayor Mike Nelson,

He faces competition from three challengers in the Aug. 4 primary election: Janelle Cass, Will Chen and Laura Petso. The top two candidates in the primary vote will advance to the November general election.

A seven-year Edmonds resident, Distelhorst spent three years as president of Friends of the Edmonds Library and was a member of the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation Board. A public information specialist for Community Transit, his educational background includes two years at Western Washington University in East Asia Studies followed by Mongolian Studies at the National University of Mongolia. He also spent a year as a journalist/photographer with Reuters.

According to the candidate’s website, his primary focus since being appointed to city council has been helping those most in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Along these lines, he authored and worked with the council to pass a moratorium on residential evictions. He also supported the launch of a housing and relief fund to support Edmonds residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which distributed $580,000 for housing, food and other life necessities. He currently serves as the council representative on the city’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force.

On hand to show their support Monday evening were State Sen. Marko Liias, a 21st District Democrat; fellow Edmonds City Councilmember Laura Johnson and several others. The event was emceed by Richard Suico.

“I’m proud to support Luke for Edmonds City Council,” began Liias. “We’ve just finished an historic state (legislative) session where we took bold action on housing affordability and a suite of police accountability measures – but we really rely on our local partners to make sure these changes reach our communities. I depend on strong partners like Luke to ensure that change actually reaches the folks it needs to.”

Liias went on to praise how Luke has “spoken up for those in Edmonds who haven’t been represented before,” and how when the pandemic hit, he made sure that families struggling with housing instability got the resources they needed, including grants and great city staff to help them.

“Luke is not focused on just folks who already have things aligned for themselves,” he continued. “Rather he makes it a real priority to address every segment of the community, especially those who don’t always see city government as being on their side.”

State Sen. Marko Liias said he values Distelhorst for his ability to ensure that improvements reach people at the local level.

Pointing out that issues like housing affordability and transportation don’t start and stop at the city line, Liias stressed the critical importance of regional partnerships, building bridges and working collaboratively with our neighbors in the region.

“That’s exactly what Luke has been doing in his short time on city council,” Liias said. “Luke is a fantastic city councilmember, and someone I hope we all will support in November.”

Distelhorst next took the podium to outline and explain his priorities.

“We need to build equity into our decisions and into our city,” he began.  “I mentioned this during my appointment process, and it remains among my top priorities.”

He went on to explain that this includes ensuring that city resources are available to all residents; that parks, open spaces and public art are spread throughout the city; that public engagement efforts involve a range of voices with no barriers to participation; and that public safety and human services center on the needs of those living in Edmonds. Distelhorst also pointed to the importance of legislation to reduce gun violence, and stressed that community resources be mobilized to address systemic racism.

“Going downtown for city services isn’t always an option for some of our residents,” he continued. Citing community courts as an example, he stressed the need to “bring government to where the people are.”

Noting Tuesday’s one-year anniversary of the George Floyd murder, he observed that “we have much to do to address systemic racism in our society and our city,” and pledged to work to ensure appropriate budget allocations to address this.

Moving to transportation, Distelhorst expressed support for a complete streets policy that helps balance the needs of all users – walkers, rollers, bicyclists and motorists – when projects are being planned. He noted that part of this would include incentivizing electric vehicles, and that this also ties into climate action by reducing emissions and pollutants that can harm the salmon recovery efforts currently underway in Edmonds.

Continuing on the subject of climate, he said that “Edmonds has been very forward on setting targets, and we don’t have time to waste in our efforts to implement action items.” This means looking at how the city’s decisions support the Paris Climate Agreement targets, including low-impact development principles, ongoing watershed improvement and salmon recovery work.

“I want to make sure we take a holistic approach to the environment by assessing each action in terms of how it will help us or hurt us in achieving our climate goals,” he said.

Moving on to housing, Distelhorst outlined his priorities to ensure thriving neighborhoods throughout Edmonds.

“This means ensuring that housing supports local businesses, residents and the community,” he began. “Mixed-use neighborhood such as Firdale, Five Corners, Westgate and Perrinville form activity centers with walkable living, housing, local small businesses and public space that help create community.”

Focusing on housing, he pledged to work for diverse housing options to meet community needs that include housing over a range of sizes and prices to support seniors looking to downsize, college students and young professionals, essential workers and first responders, young couples and families – all with the goal of promoting “human-scaled” living that supports walkable neighborhoods and small businesses.

He said that since being appointed to the council, he’s “been lucky” to serve on three groups tackling the housing issue – the Alliance for Housing Affordability Board, the Snohomish County Tomorrow steering committee, and as one of two city council liaisons to the Citizens Housing Commission — and that these have provided an understanding of the range of issues involved.

As an example of his collaborative approach to addressing issues, he cited his work with fellow Councilmember Vivian Olson to forge an interlocal agreement with the Housing Authority of Snohomish County to create more opportunity for income-restricted housing.

“According to a recent regional report, the market does not build this kind of housing on its own,” he noted. “Rather it needs intentional action such as this.”

In closing, Distelhorst acknowledged his endorsements, including fellow councilmembers Paine and Johnson, Mayor Mike Nelson, State Sen. Liias, and State Reps Strom Peterson, Lillian Ortiz-Self, and Cindy Ryu. (Acomplete list is available on his website

Edmonds City Councilmember Laura Johnson said Distelhorst is the “true definition of a public servant.”

Next to speak was Edmonds Councilmember Laura Johnson.

“Over the 16 months I’ve served with Luke, I’ve learned that he is the real thing,” Johnson began. “He doesn’t grandstand. He’s skilled at big-picture thinking. He’s a natural at explaining things. He’s the true definition of a public servant.”

She went on to note how after only two months on council, Distelhorst brought forth the eviction moratorium to ensure that residents hit hardest by the pandemic would not be put out of their homes. She also pointed out how he walks the talk on climate, takes buses and bikes everywhere, and is committed to sustainable transportation and reducing his personal carbon footprint.

“We all benefit by having a millennial voice on the Council,” she concluded. “In short, Edmonds needs Luke!”

Questions and answers, fielded by emcee Suico, began with a query about transportation improvements happening in Edmonds right now.

Distelhorst responded by talking about the new bike lanes that will run along Walnut, Bowdoin, Ninth, and 100th to provide connections between key points for cyclists.

“Our existing bike lanes end abruptly, often leaving cyclists stranded,” he explained.  “This project will provide key north-south and east-west connections and enhance safety.”

Asked about the recent slate of housing commission recommendations, Distelhorst responded that he sees a “pretty deliberative process ahead” as the council looks at these over the coming months — decideing what fits best for both residents and the city in developing housing options.

The next question asked how he works collaboratively with other councilmembers with whom he may not agree.

“One of the great things about serving on council is that we’re all neighbors, we all live here, and we’re all working together to make Edmonds the best possible for our residents,” he explained. “This keeps me grounded – and really helps in consensus building.”

On the subject of zoning, he was asked what he would say to residents who are afraid the council will change housing from single-family zoning in parts of Edmonds.

“Zoning decisions are big and take a long time,” he responded. “Zoning changes go through a long, multi-step process often involving changing the Comprehensive Plan and going through the planning board before council gets to see it. It’s not a decision council could make quickly even if it wanted to.”

The final question asked him to identify his favorite collaborative process to date.

“There are really two,” he said. The first was his work with Council President Susan Paine on how to treat offenders charged with third-degree driving on a suspended license.

“We got a stakeholder group together that included our Muni Court judge, the city prosecutor, public defenders and the police chief,” he explained. “We had a number of meetings over months to develop and make plans to implement a policy, and ended up with a great example of bringing stakeholders together to come up with an effective way to address our citizens who come in contact with the justice system for this offense.”

The second example was his work with Verdant Health, the Edmonds Waterfront Center, the Snohomish Health District, and students from Scriber Lake High School to promote mental health and suicide prevention.

“This was very fulfilling for me and very impactful,” he observed. “And it’s especially significant in that we were able to do it during the pandemic virtually on Zoom.”

In conclusion, Distelhorst thanked his supporters, noting that “when we work together, we can find great long-term positive solutions.”

Interested persons can view the archived stream of this event on Luke Distelhorst’s campaign Facebook Page. Learn more about the candidate at

— By Larry Vogel

  1. No Luke, you have been part of mayor Mike and Adrienne’s “Squad”, no thanks. We need “leaders” not progressive partisan followers. You did not stand up when the Council made a mess of hiring a Police Chief……… bike lanes? Zoning changes? No, you are not the leader that Edmonds needs.

  2. Edmonds first??? Luke puts Edmonds last!!! Still no COP, no compromise with retailers for walkable Main Street, no live council meetings until September, called fellow council member Johnson a racist, wants Bike Lanes over repaired sidewalks . I could go on and on.

    Luke, you don’t put Edmonds first. You put your alliance to our Mayor’a agenda and the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party first. You may be a nice person but you are not fit to be a leader in our community.

    I’m voting for Janelle Cass for Pos 2!!!!

  3. How is it possible for a straight white man of privilege, who believes in Equity, to consistently displace people of color? Luke, make way for a minority.

  4. Luke seems to forget that the city council is supposed to be nonpartisan .His street program doesnt include the disabled. Instead of bike lanes on 100th how about widening the side walk so those in wheel chairs and walkers don’t have to use the streets.

  5. He clearly ducked the question of zoning. Don’t count on him to support the majority of Edmonds residents who want to maintain single-dwelling zoning. It is most likely that he would do exactly the opposite.
    Janelle Cass is the best choice for this position

  6. Luke is so out of touch he thinks having the endorsement of Nelson and Liias is a GOOD thing, haha. Looking forward to voting him out. Janelle Cass for us a well.

  7. Our household is looking forward to the opportunity to vote for Janelle Cass in the upcoming election and believe she is absolutely the right fit for the city council position and to get the City of Edmonds back on track.

  8. I would like to thank Mr. Distelhorst for his
    public service. It doesn’t seem like being on the Edmonds City Council is such a pleasant job…I don’t see why he would want to do it. But I’m sure glad he’s doing it.
    I’ve taken to sitting in on Council meetings , from home, this past year. I have found Mr. Distelhorst to always be well prepared for the meetings. He understands the issues at hand, he reads through the agenda packet before the meeting. He contacts city staff before the meetings to get clarifications and questions answered. He doesn’t grandstand with long rambling monologues during Council meetings. I wish all City Council members would be as efficient as he is during their meetings.
    I appreciate his work on mental and physical health awareness. It has been a very trying year for many.
    I appreciate his work on housing issues and Edmonds partnership with the local housing agency, HASCO.
    I appreciate his worldview…maybe, it was those Mongolian Studies ! He knows that “little ‘ol Edmonds” is part of a bigger more complicated picture. We are not separate from that bigger picture, even though some find that distasteful.
    As far as his political leanings go; his past votes; let the voters decide! A four way race ! What fun !
    But as far as his job prrmormance and commitment to being the best councilperson he can be, he has done an excellent job.
    I, for one, am grateful that he is on our Council.
    Thank you everyone.

  9. This is from a text message exchange to Luke on December 8th BEFORE the Police Chief vote:

    “Thank you for getting back to me. I just sent a letter to the Council and Mayor in regard to the confirmation. Several items have come to light and think at the minimum delay the vote – actually surprised it was accelerated, I was going to personally discuss this with with some of you. But now with the vote tonight that is not possible. If the nomination goes though and the information I found gets out it will not be good, should even cause the nominee to resign before he starts. I only hope you have some of this information that has come of late in hand. I hope you will delay or oppose this nomination. Thank you, Jay”

    Luke’s response:

    “I had a crazy day at my normal job, saw you send me an email this morning, haven’t read it yet. Just wanted you to know I’m not ignoring it or anything.”

    Apparently he did ignore the information because, even with prior knowledge that there was a huge problem with the mayor and Fraley-Monillas’ choice for chief, he still voted to confirm. He has proven to me that he is under the thumb of Nelson and Fraley-Monillas. I want people on the council that can think logically, listen to all sides, and then make decisions based on common sense and what is good for the entire community. In my opinion, that is not Luke Distelhorst.

    1. Annon:

      Thank you for sharing this. It confirms what we all know and suspected. In a LTE in MEN Paine, Distelhorst and Laura Johnson wrote that they had no prior knowledge of this information and basically blamed HR and took no responsibility (see link below). Guess we know that was a lie as well based on the text from Jay to Distelhorst. We need leaders who lead with integrity and vote how they truly feel, not ones that allow themselves to get pressured to vote a certain way by other council members. Distelhorst is a follower not a leader!!

    2. Annon , thank you for your comment, it has made it crystal clear why our community should not support Luke for city council. It is without hesitation that I will never be supporting Luke, Adrienne, Susan, Laura or Mike. Disband the Squad!

    3. Wait… someone please elaborate the where those text was from, context, source. If there are emails, who has that? Luke needs the benefit of doubt here. This is either false (or out of context) or a really big story.

      1. It’s from a public records request to the City Clerk’s office, # R001222-122220 on 12/22/2020 at 9:44 am. There are other requests available as well. It’s a matter of public record.

    1. Thanks Annon. I will check it out. The allegation is that Luke Distelhorst was operating in bad-faith. It would be neat if Terresa’s people could give Luke a chance to respond to this directly.

  10. Read the text documents. Is there a rolling quorum here? Perhaps Ken Reidy can enlighten us. It appears that a lot of council business is being discussed over text.

    1. Thanks for thinking of me Diane. has a solid article on this topic. It starts as follows:

      “The concept of “serial,” “rolling,” or “chain” meetings under the Washington Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) is not new, but the dangers of serial meetings that violate the OPMA have expanded over time with the advent of new forms of communication. This blog article will review the basics of serial meetings and recent developments in case law.”

      “A serial meeting occurs when a majority of members of a governing body have a series of smaller gatherings or communications that results in a majority of the body collectively taking action even if a majority is never part of any one communication. Such a meeting violates the OPMA because it amounts to taking “action” — as defined in RCW 42.30.020(3) — outside an open meeting. Serial meetings can occur with or without technology, but the range of communication options available nowadays to members of a governing body increases the risk.”

      To read the entire article search for: What Constitutes a Serial Meeting under the OPMA?

      In 2014 the Washington State Legislature adopted RCW 42.30.205 which requires Open Public Meetings Act training. This helped but it is reasonable to question whether the required training is adequate.

      The following is very important:

      RCW 42.30.010

      Legislative declaration.

      The legislature finds and declares that all public commissions, boards, councils, committees, subcommittees, departments, divisions, offices, and all other public agencies of this state and subdivisions thereof exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of this chapter that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.

      The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

      1. Thank you Ken for this valuable contribution to the conversation here. Your knowledge and research skills are second to none in this city.

        1. Thanks Roger. Another term for “rolling quorum” is “walking quorum”.

          The following is from the Wisconsin Department of Justice website. The sentence that jumps out at me is: “A walking quorum may produce a predetermined outcome and thus render a publicly-held meeting a mere formality.”

          “A “walking quorum” is a series of gatherings among separate groups of members of a governmental body, each less than quorum size, who agree, tacitly or explicitly, to act uniformly in sufficient number to reach a quorum. A walking quorum may produce a predetermined outcome and thus render a publicly-held meeting a mere formality. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has commented that any attempt to avoid the appearance of a meeting through the use of a walking quorum is subject to prosecution under the open meetings law. Furthermore, the requirements of the open meetings law cannot be circumvented by using an agent or surrogate to poll the members of governmental bodies through a series of individual contacts. The series of gatherings need not be face-to-face. For example, phone calls, email exchanges, and other electronic messaging may suffice.”

          “The essential feature of a “walking quorum” is the element of agreement among members of a body to act uniformly in sufficient numbers to reach a quorum.”

          As a citizen, I do not want city council communicating with each other away from the public eye to produce a predetermined outcome and thus render a publicly-held meeting a mere formality.

          I’ve seen Edmonds City Council text messages that discuss what the vote count will be before the publicly-held meeting took place.

          I appreciate and value the Legislative Declaration to the Washington State Open Public Meetings Act.

          “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know.”

          The Washington Supreme Court has referred to this Legislative Declaration preamble as one of the strongest statements of legislative policy contained in any state statute.

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