MOUNT VERNON — Ken Quam, a two-term Mount Vernon City Council member, is facing two challengers for his seat. Quam is one of two council members representing Ward 1, which encompass northern and western Mount Vernon and is home to 5,136 voters.
Quam’s two challengers are Shelley Acero and Iris Carias.
It has been 18 years since more than two candidates have faced off for a seat on the council. The top two vote-getters in the Aug. 1 primary advance to the Nov. 7 general election.
Acero has been working in city government since 1999, most recently as a risk manager and paralegal with Burlington.
She said her experience with the day-to-day aspects of government will decrease the learning curve most new council members face.
She has also served on the Mount Vernon Planning Commission since 2014, giving her knowledge of some of the bigger issues facing the city, such as land use policy.
Carias works with migrant farmworkers, students and other members of the city’s Latino community. She said she will give a voice to this underrepresented group in city government.
“I work for the community and with the community,” she said. “I am a part of them.”
According to census data, about 34 percent of the city population is Hispanic or Latino, but Carias said they are rarely present in government discussions.
As an incumbent, Quam said he’s already comfortable working within the often complicated City Council process.
“It’s a little more complicated than the public realizes sometimes,” he said.
Acero said she’s spoken with housing developers who say the city’s housing regulations are too restrictive. She said now is the time to think about revising regulations and adjusting impact fees.
“They’ll go somewhere else, or they won’t build,” she said.
Acero said she wants to talk about expanding the police department’s outreach coordinator program to offer more services to the city’s homeless population.
“(The coordinator) is an advocate for them when they don’t feel like they have one,” she said.
If elected, Carias said she would work to build bridges between city government and the Latino community, by bringing them into discussions on housing, homelessness and public safety.
She said she hopes to create more partnerships with local businesses, churches and government groups to think about what the city can do to address homelessness.
The students she works with perform better when they come from a safe home, and she wants to work with the council to make the city more appealing to affordable housing developers.
Quam said that if he’s elected to a third term, he plans to continue working to make the city comfortable for all residents.
From low-income housing to economic development, he said he hopes to take cues from the public to decide what the future of the city will look like.