On an unusually crowded ballot for voters in Mount Vernon, 10 candidates are competing for five seats on the City Council.
The ballot has five incumbents running against five challengers. The council has seven members.
Council member Richard Brocksmith, another one-term incumbent, is running against Larry Carpenter.
Brocksmith said housing availability and affordability is the single largest issue the city faces, and while the council has made strides here there is much work to be done.
“The lack of housing increases our residents’ expenses, reduces their discretionary spending, increases homelessness, increases overcrowding, and decreases public health and security,” he said.
If re-elected, Brocksmith said he will continue to be a voice for higher-density housing, allowing and incentivizing housing developers to build apartments and other multifamily buildings specifically in downtown and along College Way.
He said he will continue to build relationships with housing developers, nonprofits and those who may fund such projects, with the goal of creating a pipeline of quality housing that’s affordable to those who live and work here.
Further, he said his four years of experience on the council taught him about how a city government runs, saying he believes he can be even more effective in a second term.
Carpenter did not respond to requests for comment.
According to information he submitted to the Skagit County Elections Department for its voters guide, Carpenter worked in the marine industry, and before retiring had been a small-business owner for 42 years.
He said his business skill set makes him prepared to handle the financial aspect of the position, and his management experience taught him to find consensus.
Ward 1, Position 1
Juan Morales, the city’s newest council member, is running against Navor Tercero.
Morales was appointed to this seat in December, replacing a council member who resigned. The winner of this election will serve the two years remaining on the initial term.
With the possibility of a federal infrastructure bill bringing investment into cities nationwide, Morales said he hopes the city can capitalize. Investment in infrastructure will create jobs and pave the way for more housing development, he said.
He proposed the city also work on a strategic plan for recovering from the pandemic. He said it’s clear the impacts have hit the most vulnerable the hardest.
Tercero said he was motivated to run after seeing activists in other cities advocate for defunding the police, and he wants to ensure the city wouldn’t slash the police department’s budget.
“I believe that safety and security are the first responsibility of city government,” he said. “It is counterproductive to undercut the resources of law enforcement.”
Tercero said he’s worked on economic development in the Latino community at both the state and local levels, and wants to bring this focus to city politics. He proposed the city partner on a small-business incubator to help residents learn how to get their ideas off the ground.
WARD 1, POSITION 2
Daniel Downs had filed to run against incumbent Iris Carias, but moved outside the ward and is no longer eligible to serve, he said.
Carias, who has served one term, said she wants to continue to be a voice for the city’s undocumented families. The diversity they bring to the community teaches all residents to be more empathetic and compassionate, she said.
Families of all backgrounds struggle with affordable housing, and Carias said she hopes to continue the city’s progress on this issue through collaboration.
“If all of us work together, we can get to a day where there is a roof over every child,” she said. “It’s something that is needed and it’s our responsibility to fight to make it happen.”
WARD 2, POSITION 2
Longtime council member Gary Molenaar is squaring off against challenger Garrett Martin.
Molenaar has served 12 years, and in that time has worked to bring a number of improvements to the city, he said.
He highlighted the Riverwalk Park and floodwall projects, the widening of College Way under Interstate 5, the new bike park at Little Mountain Park and ordinances incentivizing developers to build higher-density, affordable housing.
Two new projects — the Library Commons building and a 70-unit homeless housing facility — are on track to break ground in the next year, and he said he wants to be on the council to help bring them to fruition.
Martin said the issue of homelessness is what propelled him to run, and if elected he wants to work to help people get off the street.
The city should explore addiction treatment, mental health care and jobs programs for those struggling with homelessness, he said.
Martin said his campaign platform is “take less but give more,” and he believes the council can provide new and better government services without raising taxes.
By being as accommodating as possible to growth, the city can attract new residents and businesses, and rely on new tax revenue they bring in to support improved services, he said.
WARD 3, POSITION 2
Council member Melissa Beaton is running for her second term against Christopher Sadler.
Beaton said the issues facing the city are numerous, but that the council needs to focus on homelessness.
The city recently approved — with Beaton’s vote — a sales tax increase that will generate about $870,000 annually for affordable housing and related services.
During her time on the council, the city and Skagit County collaborated to embed a social worker in the city police department, and Beaton said she supports adding more social services providers to the department.
“Voters should choose me because of my unwavering commitment to the city and because of my ability to work collaboratively and sensibly to find solutions to critical issues,” she said.
Sadler did not respond to requests for comment.
In information submitted to the Skagit County Elections Department for its voters guide, Sadler said he wants to serve on the council to be a voice for those who may feel unheard.
“This opportunity to represent the very people who have made me feel so welcomed and to lift their voices will allow me to become a better listener, motivator, and implementer,” he said.
Sadler has been active in a number of local LGBTQ support organizations, including Skagit PFLAG, Skagit Valley College Rainbow Alliance and Skagit Queer.