Former Edmonds City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Neil Tibbott kicked off his campaign to rejoin the city council in a gala Thursday evening bash at the Edmonds Yacht Club. The event took full advantage of Gov. Inslee’s action to roll back most COVID restrictions, with more than 120 mostly unmasked supporters filling the downstairs ballroom, where they enjoyed light snacks, listened to live music and heard remarks from key supporters.
After spending years on the Citizens Transportation Commission and the Planning Board, Tibbott was elected to the city council in 2016, He abandoned his plans to run for re-election in 2020, opting instead to throw his hat in the mayoral ring, where he joined a field of three other candidates – city planner Brad Shipley and fellow councilmembers Kristiana Johnson and Mike Nelson. As the two top vote-getters in the primary, he and Nelson advanced to the November election, where he was defeated, earning 46.7 percent of the vote to Nelson’s 52.9 (the remainder were write-ins).
The current race pits Tibbott against Position 3 incumbent and 11-year councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas. Since they are the only two candidates in the field, both are assured a place on the November ballot. (The final slate of candidates for the remaining council races – Positions 1 and 3 – will be decided in the Aug. 3 primary.)
The evening began with a welcome from former Emdonds Mayor Dave Earling, who wasted no time getting into the key issue in the upcoming election: the need for change in city government.
“Many of you pay attention to what’s going on in our city, and are uncomfortable with the current council and mayor,” he began. “We now have a chance to change this with a good, thoughtful, thorough candidate – Neil Tibbott. I support him wholeheartedly.”
Earling then introduced Jeff Lewis to emcee the event. In addition to being an independent business owner, Lewis has 30 years in the banking industry and – significantly – was Neil Tibbott’s college roommate at the University of Washington. After briefly welcoming attendees, Lewis introduced the first speaker, Edmonds resident, business owner and college basketball star Jordan Monroe. She is also the wife of 2020 city council candidate Nathan Monroe, and as of last month a new mom.
“I want to talk with you about two things tonight — leadership and legacy,” she began. “True leaders keep showing up – they have commitment and compassion – and Neil Tibbott has both.
“To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about legacy until last month,” she laughed. “But with the birth of my son and first child Archer only five weeks ago, I found myself thinking about what kind of legacy this city will leave him when I’m no longer here. Neil and (his wife) Margaret have raised kids here. They know what it’s all about. The future will be safe with them.”
The next speaker was Mike Rohrbach, Tibbott’s neighbor, decades-long friend, Husky linebacker on the championship 1978 Rose Bowl team, 40-year Edmonds resident, and executive director of the youth sports organization Run to Win.
“I’ve had the chance to know and work with a number of great – and some not-so-great – people over the years,” he explained. “Let me assure you — Neil is one of the great people. He’s a neighbor, friend, influencer for change for what is important and good in our society. He’ll provide strong leadership, so let’s get him in office and change our community for the better.”
Next to speak was friend, former mayoral candidate, and 12-year Edmonds City Councilmember Kristiana Johnson.
“I have one simple message for you,” she began. “We need Neil back on City Council!”
Once the enthusiastic applause died down, Johnson continued, saying, “I’ve known and worked with Neil for 14 years. Neil knows about communication, he will talk with you about what you and the community need, he will read his councilmember packet [this remark drew laughs from the audience], he will ask critical questions, and he will talk to his fellow councilmembers. He’s a gentleman, quiet and hard-working.”
Taking a serious tone for a moment, Johnson gave a personal apology stemming from the 2020 mayor’s race.
“I’m here to say I’m sorry,” she said. “After I was eliminated in the primary, I endorsed the wrong candidate – I backed the wrong horse. The current mayor has stopped talking to me entirely. And why should he? He’s got his four votes all lined up. We need Neil back on council for a return to effective checks and balances and good governance. I know he can get the job done. He’s done it before. He needs our support. I’ve already written him a check for $500. He has my full endorsement.
“And with that it is my great pleasure to introduce the man of the hour, Neil Tibbott!”
Taking the podium, Tibbott began by praising Edmonds as an “incredible place to live” and recognizing others in the audience including former Police Chief Al Compaan, former Mayors Earling and Haakenson, current and former councilmembers Kristiana Johnson, Vivian Olson and Ron Wambolt, and former Snohomish County Councilmember Gary Nelson (“that’s no relation to Mike Nelson,” Nelson yelled from the back of the room), Port Commissioners Jim Orvis and Steve Johnston, and current council candidates Janelle Cass and Will Chen.
“We have some important things to talk about,” Tibbott began. “Edmonds is a great place to live, we love being here, we enjoy the city. But we have a problem — the political climate has changed for the worse. Sadly we have some councilmembers who mimic the partisan politics we see in Washington, D.C. and Olympia. They ignore important issues that need to be addressed. There is a lack of civility.”
“We know what the issues are,” he continued. “Protecting our homes, housing and neighborhoods. Supporting police and fire. Improving the environment. Maintaining parks, businesses, schools. These are the issues that rise to the top and bring us together.”
He went on to speak about the situation exemplified by a few councilmembers – “the gang of four” – who he said are more concerned about making political points than doing what’s best for Edmonds.
“It seems like they will do anything to push their partisan agenda,” he explained. “They’ll move up meetings, push back hearings, surprise us with last-minute ordinances that force late-night meetings, all instead of focusing on the priorities in front of them. Transparency is at an all-time low. Will someone please just return their phone calls! Now wouldn’t that be nice. We need to clean up the mess at city hall.
“Therefore, my top campaign priority is this – political climate change for the City of Edmonds,” he stressed. “City hall has become a toxic waste place. It’s time for civility and people to be the priority, not political posturing.”
Taking aim at Fraley-Monillas, Tibbott cited Mayor Nelson’s request in December for enhanced emergency powers. Despite all other councilmembers opposing the measure, Tibbott noted that his opponent continued to argue for giving the mayor more authority.
“This kind of political posturing must end,” he emphasized. “And replacing my opponent holds the key to making that change.”
Moving on to other issues, Tibbott stressed the need to get back to things like stormwater systems (“not a terribly sexy issue, but I’m kinda wonky about it”), and the critical areas ordinance.
He went on to outline his commitments, noting that there will be more as the campaign progresses. These include improving the environment, with particular attention to the Edmonds Marsh (“who ever knew it could take this long”), to leave a lasting legacy for our city.
“I know I don’t have the greatest reputation for supporting the marsh,” he added. “But I’ve turned the corner on this, I apologize for my earlier lack of full commitment, and I look forward to taking an active role.”
Other commitments mentioned by Tibbott include supporting police and protecting neighborhoods and single-family homes.
“I could say a lot about the police chief selection debacle, a sad state of affairs my opponent led us into,” he said. “It’s taken too long and cost too much. I have nothing but respect and praise for the men and women of the Edmonds Police Department who throughout this have done their jobs with professionalism. This is no time to cut funding for police – it’s time to increase their training budget, let them know we have their backs, and give them what they need to do their jobs.”
On housing and housing affordability, Tibbott was clear that this is a regional problem that demands a regional solution, and that Edmonds simply can’t solve it alone.
“I’m willing to go to work with our regional leaders to address this,” he said. “But I’m not willing to sacrifice the livability of our city on this regional problem.”
In conclusion, he returned to his core theme of political climate change for Edmonds.
“We can’t change the mayor in this election cycle, but we can change the makeup of the city council,” he began. “We need to break down the wall of partisan politics that is undermining effective government. We need to restore balance, civility, and respect.
“We are fighting an opponent who is backed by a well-oiled political machine,” he warned. “They are professional, experienced, occasionally ruthless, well-financed, and completely focused on one thing – getting their candidate elected. They will do anything to ensure my opponent’s re-election.
“Our focus is different,” he concluded. “We do what’s best for Edmonds. Remember – you’re not electing me to wield political power. I’m not interested in political power. You’re electing me to support an environment of respect, teamwork, communication, collaboration and finding the best solutions for our city. I’m Neil Tibbott, and I’m asking for your vote.”
Learn more about Neil Tibbott at his campaign website, reelecttibbott.org.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel