A first-time candidate is challenging a two-term incumbent in the race for Mount Vernon mayor.
Sarah Nuanes, a branch manager at KeyBank in Mount Vernon, was motivated to run after hearing a number of complaints about city government, many coming from housing developers.
“I’ve heard time and time again the frustrations with city hall,” she said.
Mayor Jill Boudreau, who has been in office for eight years, said her experience and track record of leadership set her apart from her opponent.
“The role of mayor is first and foremost a city manager role,” Boudreau said. “When there’s a successful team, I’m not sure replacing the leader would do anything good for an organization.”
Nuanes said affordable housing and homelessness are the biggest issues facing the city, saying that while the city’s efforts on the issue are laudable “we need to focus on a more permanent solution.”
Mount Vernon needs to take cues from its neighbors, she said, citing the Snohomish County Diversion Center, which offers mental health or addiction treatment instead of jail.
At the same time, she said more housing needs to be built, and there should be a focus on higher-density apartment complexes that house more people more affordably while still abiding by neighborhood character.
“The only way we can do it is if we look at density,” she said. “We need to get away from the stigma of what apartment buildings look like.”
Nuanes said she was glad to see city staff and the City Council consider proposed code changes that would increase the number of homes that can be built in much of the city in exchange for promoting units that are mandated as affordable.
Boudreau said Mount Vernon has been active on housing and homelessness, but lacks funding to deal with the issue.
While she’s been in office, the City Council approved a Comprehensive Plan with goals to tackle housing and homelessness, approved a plan to build a 70-unit supportive housing complex with the county, and passed ordinances allowing for churches to set up temporary homeless shelters.
With the completion of the flood wall, she said downtown is ready for improvements, and she wants to continue her work attracting development and business to the city.
Boudreau said there are opportunities here to build things such as housing and hotels — new development that the city has been planning for years.
“I’d love to be able to be around to do it right,” she said.
Some have accused Nuanes of being ineligible to run for mayor, alleging Nuanes hasn’t lived in city limits for the entire year preceding election day as is required by state law.
Nuanes said she did reside outside city limits for part of the past year, but that her campaign team spoke with staff from the Skagit County Auditor’s Office, the state Secretary of State’s Office and three attorneys, and she believes she is not in violation.
“We did our due diligence,” she said. “I would never have put my name in if we hadn’t.”
Regarding the allegation, Boudreau said she would hope prospective leaders in local government would take rules like this seriously, especially in a time that leaders in the federal government seem so dismissive of them.