Promising to ‘put Edmonds first,’ Kristiana Johnson kicks off campaign to retain her council seat

Edmonds City Councilmember Kristiana Johnson addresses attendees with her message of putting Edmonds first, protecting the environment, and building back good government.

A group of more than 50 supporters gathered on Thursday evening at Claire’s Restaurant in Edmonds to help Edmonds City Councilmember Kristiana Johnson kick off her campaign for re-election to Council Position 1.  Johnson’s stint on Council began in 2012 when she was appointed to fill the term of Councilmember Michael Plunkett, who vacated the seat when he moved to Seattle.  She went on win re-election twice, and is now running for a third term.  Johnson is facing two challengers: Edmonds Citizens’ Planning Board Vice Chair and Snohomish County Airport Commission Chair Alicia Crank, and Brian Hartman, Senior Director of Enterprise Technology at Blue Origin.

Supporters in attendance included former Edmonds City Councilmembers Neil Tibbott (also a candidate in this year’s election), Dave Teitzel and Ron Wambolt.  Also present were current Councilmember Vivian Olson, current council candidate Janelle Cass, former Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan, and former Snohomish County Councilmember Gary Nelson.

The first speaker was Johnson’s colleague on city council, first-term councilmember Vivian Olson.

“Kristiana has far and away the best credentials on council,” Olson began. “She has the best education, the best experience, and the longest length of service to our community.  She’s a hometown girl, folksy, down-to-earth, and the smartest person in the room.”

As the applause died down, Olson struck a serious note, referring to last year’s personal attack on Johnson in which the mayor and several of her council colleagues leveled very public accusations of racism against her.

Current Edmonds City Councilmember Vivian Olson address last year’s accusations of racism against Johnson, calling it a “low point” in city government affairs.

She went on to explain that these accusations were based on an “out-of-context sentence” pulled from a letter Johnson had written to Edmonds Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty questioning which Edmonds businesses should receive federal grant money to offset the financial impacts of COVID-19. Among the points she made in that letter, Johnson stated her position that “sales tax revenue [should be used] as a variable in determining which small businesses would get the limited funds,” and not the ethnicity of the business owner. (Read details in the June 25, 2020 My Edmonds News coverage here).

Characterizing this as “one of the lowest points” in council affairs this year, Olson railed at Mayor Nelson for pouncing on this sentence, and pointedly “ambushing and shaming” Johnson with direct accusations of racism in a public council meeting. She reiterated that this was based on that sentence pulled from a letter, which Johnson wrote as part of “doing her job” as a steward of public funds and a responsible representative of Edmonds citizens.

She went on to relate how things got worse the next day, when Councilmembers Distelhorst and Fraley-Monillas “piled on” with letters and social media posts “saying the same thing” and labeling Johnson as a racist.

“Through all this, Kristiana maintained her strength and dignity, and never stopped doing her job,” Olson continued. “She did the work.  She didn’t talk about how horrible it felt.  Kristiana Johnson is not a racist.”

Moving on, Olson listed the three top priorities she looks for in a council candidate:

  1. Good judgment that centers around what is right, kind, sensible, fair and makes sense, adding “What a different year we would have had if we had good judgment [in city government].”
  2. Independence, which entails being open to hearing and basing decisions on facts regardless of who is advocating for them, and putting the community ahead of partisan politics when these are in conflict, adding her observation that, “It’s unequivocal that the community should come first. That hasn’t happened this year.”
  3. Ability to unify, which means bringing people together, inclusion of others and avoiding divisive politics such as one councilmember’s dismissive reference to a group of citizens as “a pack of rich downtown white people.”

“Kristiana is a solid person for our community,” she said in conclusion. “Don’t give up on one of those known voices. Return her to city council.”

More than 50 attendees attended the event at Claire’s Restaurant.

Next to the podium was former councilmember and mayoral candidate Neil Tibbott, who is also running to return to council in this year’s election.

“It’s a privilege to be here to support my friend and colleague Kristiana Johnson,” he began. “She is experienced, committed, and has served as an exemplary councilmember in so many ways.”

Tibbott recalled their 13-years of working together, starting with the Citizens Transportation Committee, where Kristiana interviewed him for the slot – “I was trembling,” Tibbott confessed. “She has this laundry list of education and credentials, and I was just a guy in the community interested in streets.”  The two went on to serve together on the Edmonds Planning Board and City Council.

“And in 2020 we actually ran for mayor together,” he added, referring to the 2019 campaign when they were primary election opponents. “Now that’s some kind of friendship!”

He went on to note Johnson’s education, which includes an undergraduate degree in political science from Washington State University, a master’s in city and regional planning from Rutgers, and advanced coursework in transportation engineering from New York University.

“But she’s also a hometown girl,” he continued. “Born and raised in Edmonds, she rode her horse down our dirt streets, tied them up at grocery stores, and built her own home here. She has deep roots in Edmonds, and is well-known in the community.”

He moved on to highlighting some of the key attributes Johnson brings to the council.

“She is a fiscal conservative,” he began. “That means she goes through every line item in the budget, looks at every opportunity to save money, looks at every dollar that walks out of city hall.

“She works hard for our citizens,” he continued. “She reads her packet, studies issues, takes the necessary time to understand ordinances and contracts, and will follow through until she’s sure she has everything right.

“And she will continue to work with councilmembers even if she doesn’t agree with them,” he concluded.  “She and I have disagreed on things, but she’ll always take the position that ‘I know I don’t agree with you, but let’s go ahead and work on the next thing together.’ How often does that happen these days?”

Tibbott ended his comments by stressing Johnson’s “fierce independence” and how she uses all her talents to get the best deal for the people of Edmonds.

“She doesn’t serve herself,” he concluded.  “She serves the citizens.  When she is on council, the people of Edmonds win.”

Longtime Edmonds resident Joan Longstaff greets Johnson at her campaign kickoff.

Kristiana Johnson then took the podium.

“It’s so great to be here tonight,” she began. “I’m loving seeing all of you, many for the first time since COVID. And I’m really loving all the hugs!”

She then moved on to why she is running.

“It’s really about Edmonds,” she stressed. “Edmonds first – that encapsulates a lot. I want to hear what people are saying, and represent them honestly and fairly. We have a representative form of government – it’s a democracy – that’s the way it should be. And I’m here to be a representative for all of you. We’re not Seattle North and we’re not Europe – we’re Edmonds.”

She went on to express dismay at what she sees happening on the national stage and in state and local governments, including Seattle.

“When I see what’s happening in these places, I don’t take their example and run out to make laws that tear down the police department,” she explained.  “I try to make decisions that put Edmonds first.”

She then explained her priorities for Edmonds.

“I’m focused on protecting three things,” she stated.  “Our neighborhoods, our charming downtown and our environment.”

She went on to detail her belief Edmonds is not best served by a blanket approach to managing our neighborhoods, but rather an approach that treats each neighborhood as a subarea with its own characteristics, needs and best practices.

“Our neighborhoods are the building blocks of our city,” she said. “What’s best for the central business district is not necessarily what’s best for Meadowdale, Highway 99 or Perrinville. We should do things on a neighborhood basis that enhance that neighborhood, not destroy it.”

Calling out as “nonsense” the recent proposals that would take a broad-brush approach to up-zoning the city from single family, she explained that existing regulations that provide for conditional use permits on accessory dwelling units are for the moment sufficient. However, she added that “we need to put more time and attention into this” to avoid repeating the “horror stories” from other communities who rushed in without sufficient study.

“We are so lucky to have our charming downtown,” she continued. “It’s developed over 100 years and contains historic buildings and new development, and it all fits together. But now that the governor has opened up restaurants to 100% capacity, it is time to rethink what we’re doing with Main Street. We need to look at things like the streateries, the 15-minute pickup parking zones, the weekend closures. These made sense before, but do they make sense now that things are changing? It’s clear what the mayor thinks – 27 business owners asked him to limit street closures to Sunday only, but he said no. We need to have serious discussion about this. I’ve asked the council president to put it on the agenda, and while it may not have more than three votes, it really needs to be discussed.”

Moving on to the environment, Johnson noted that Edmonds is a seaside city, but it would be wrong to take the city’s views, water and other local treasures for granted.

“While many environmental issues are being addressed, I’m concerned that sometimes we forget about our streams,” she explained. “There’s big erosion issues on Perrinville Creek and Shell Creek, where there’s also fish barriers. We need to work on these, as well as Willow and Shellabarger Creeks that feed into the (Edmonds) Marsh.”

Other environmental issues she noted include our improving energy efficiency in city government through such things as lighting upgrades and a more efficient fleet.

“I’m most proud of our zero-waste policy that has brought food recycling to festivals and street markets,” she added.

Finally, she addressed the need to get government “back on track,” and talked about the importance of knowing how and when to communicate, noting that our current “willy-nilly” approach leaves a lot of folks in the dark.

“If your voice is heard during public comments, it makes a difference,” she explained. “But if you don’t know in advance what’s on the agenda how can you do this? We keep getting surprised as things get added last minute and pop up for decisions before they’re discussed and investigated. This is the job of the council president – and it’s not an easy job – to have and follow a structure with rules and procedures that everyone understands and can follow. City Clerk Scott Passey has put some of this together, but discussion keeps getting put off. We need to return to good government. We say we’re open and transparent, but does the public know what’s going on? No, they don’t.”

Johnson ended by reiterating her priorities.

“It’s simple really,” she said. “Put Edmonds first; protect the environment; build back good government.”

Port of Edmonds Commissioner David Preston said Johnson is non-partisan and works hard.

The final speaker was another long-time Edmonds resident, Port Commissioner David Preston.

“Once again, Kristiana is the smartest lady on council,” he began. “She’s…dedicated her life to Edmonds. You can trust her to preserve the charm and resist the harm.

“She is non-partisan and works hard,” he continued. “I’ve watched many council meetings with great pain – I almost need hazardous duty pay to sit through them. Staff has to actually read the packet to the councilmembers because they haven’t taken the time to prepare for the meeting and do it themselves. It’s frustrating to sit in council and watch them deliberate when they’re not prepared. This amounts to municipal malpractice. It needs to stop. We need to retain Kristiana Johnson on council.”

Learn more about Kristiana Johnson’s campaign, donate and sign up to volunteer on her website,

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

21 Replies to “Promising to ‘put Edmonds first,’ Kristiana Johnson kicks off campaign to retain her council seat”

  1. It is really important to re-elect Kristiana. Her independent voice is desperately needed on the Council.


  2. Kristiana Johnson consistently prioritizes the voice of Edmonds’ citizens, advocates for fiscal responsibility, is thorough, thoughtful and takes a common sense approach to the issues at hand.
    She has challenged to the lack of transparency and the blatant partisanship of the current City Council and brings much-needed balanced perspective.
    She is fierce and forthright- we must vote for her to hold Position 1.
    I will be casting my vote for Kristiana!!


  3. Quite simply, to quote Matt Richardson, Kristiana Johnson is most definitely the “smartest person in the room”. We need her continued steady hand and mind on Edmonds City Council. Kristiana is indeed a “hometown girl” who puts Edmonds First; I am proud to support this courageous woman. This is a very important election, I urge all voters to get involved and research the positions of all candidates, make an educated choice.


    1. The context is better. I was supporting Brad Shipley for mayor (and still do). Johnson participated in the mayoral debate and beat everyone by a considerable margin. She was so good, that mayor Nelson was even trying to take credit for her accomplishments during the debate and she wasn’t letting him have it. I hear it everywhere now. Buyer’s Remorse is the theme of elections in Edmonds.


      1. Thank you Matt, just like you, the “context is always better”! After attending Kristiana’s kickoff event, it became very apparent to me that people seek you out for your opinion, knowledge and advice. I for one am grateful you are involved and vocal in the Edmonds community. I don’t know how you do it: active family, growing business, and you still always find time to participate in the forums where you add so much thought and perspective on any issue that is brought to your attention. You have changed my mind more than once, not an easy task.


  4. So happy to see people from all political leanings calling out the Main Street closure situation. The community filled out surveys and the business owners presented their reasonable alternative that was fair and compelling… but we are told that the community asked for this so it must be.

    How do we go about seeing the actual results of the survey that they are leaning on to support the full weekend walkable Main Street? Is that a public record we can access? Or was it not really the survey they used to determine the issue but something that was voted on by council, or yet another unilateral decision made in a vacuum by the Mayor?


    1. Christine,

      One of the best ways to follow what is going on within City Government is to monitor the Public Records Archive on the City’s website. The easiest way to find it is to type the following into the search function for any browser:

      That should lead you to the Edmonds, WA Public Records Request Center.

      Once you are there, you can click on “Public Archive”. This takes you to the Public Records Request Archive page, which is searchable. This is where one can see public record requests that have been submitted.

      If you search for “walkable main street” you will be able to see public records that have been provided related to walkable main street and the related survey.


      1. Thank you for sending. That link goes to a different website now and I didn’t see a public archive option so I searched for “walkable main street” there were no results. Then I searched “Edmonds, WA” and the result was this article about some concerns over a history of public records searches that Councilmember Johnson had attempted:

        But just the same, I will keep looking for more info on this topic of the street closure, and how we ended up in the position we are all in right now, because at face value, I just don’t see the merchants or the residents supporting the full weekend shutdown option.


        1. Just tried that link I posted and it doesn’t work unless you copy and past the entire link (as opposed to clicking on it).


        2. Hope you’ll try again as the information in my comment should allow you to quickly access the Public Archive. I believe the information you are looking for is there for you to review.

          The public archive is a great resource and I am thankful it is available.

          Thanks to Annon also for providing a more direct link.

          The city of Edmonds’ organizational chart clearly establishes that the Mayor, Municipal Court and City Council report directly to the citizens of Edmonds. This is a very important concept to fully comprehend. I believe it critical to the proper execution of our representative democracy, known as a republic.

          The current Washington State Open Public Meetings Act, adopted in 1971, contains the following preamble:

          “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.” RCW 42.30.010.

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


      2. Thank you all for the helpful links and for teaching me “how to fish” basically, so o don’t have to bug you for this stuff in the future. We are lucky to have these resources. And thank you to Teresa and MyEdmondsNews for making this forum and dialogue possible.


        1. I so agree. Teresa is great and by golly…she does run a Bi Partisan publication. This shows me she has integrity and and really does care about all in Edmonds. Bravo Teresa. Deb.


  5. Having followed council closely over the last few years, I know that Kristiana really does her best to serve the residents of Edmonds before any of her own personal or political interests.

    At the end of the day she isn’t interested in marching lock step to promote a partisan agenda, but in serving Edmonds. Period. Is she perfect? No. Does she make mistakes? She’s human as we all are. But I believe she will work to better Edmonds with common sense, rational reasoning, poise, politeness and heart. Those are the attributes of a council candidate I can support.


  6. There are innumerable reasons why I strongly support Kristiana, but an anecdote from “In Search of Excellence” by Tom Peters nails it best. Peters visited a factory that experienced a major turnaround following the hiring of a female manager who had been a psychologist. He couldn’t resist asking one of the men on the shop floor just what it was that made their new manager so effective. The response: “There isn’t a phony bone in her body!” I’ve always treasured that powerful story and am certain a large number of Edmonds residents will see how it applies to Kristiana. She’s authentic, her primary concern is making Edmonds a better place – and we can trust her.


  7. The re-election of Kristiana is essential if we wish to right the course of Edmonds government. The current Ship of Fools is steering us to the left bank at every opportunity. Reasonable solutions and legitimate questions are ignored by the gang of four and the Mayor or; worse, those who oppose the gang are ridiculed and name called for virtue signaling purposes. Kristiana has been a strong voice for the people of Edmonds who seek sensible solutions to local problems and needs. She will be critical part of forming a new majority on the Council after the elections. Keep the good and throw out the bad for a better Edmonds.


  8. Email the economic development director mayor has his
    heels dug. So deep that they won’t even open up 5th ave n. on sunday from the fountain to the ally there is nothing going on and the city has
    no answer why it is closed. Just hurts the retailers.


  9. Kristiana is definitely our experienced leader and common sense voice on the city council. We Need to keep her there. I know Kristiana puts Edmonds and our residents first. Thank you Vivian Olson for shedding light on a former comment, I greatly appreciate that.


  10. Vivian Olson’s support for K.J. speaks volumes to me about who I should and will vote for in this race.


  11. Thank you to everyone who was able to attend the kickoff. You were able to hear a powerful endorsement from fellow Council Member Vivian Olson. I was blown away from my speakers including Council candidate Neil Tibbott and Edmonds Port Commissioner David Preston. Also thank you to Claire’s Pantry for their hospitality.

    I appreciate all of the supportive comments from the MYEDMONDSNEWS online community.
    Be sure to attend the Election debate at the Edmonds Center for the Arts Wednesday,July 14 at 6pm. Doors open at 5:30. After the debates there will be a chance to meet the candidates. I hope to see you there.


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