PORT ANGELES — LaTrisha Suggs has been appointed to the Port Angeles City Council.
Suggs, a 49-year-old restoration planner for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, was named Tuesday to serve the remainder of Jim Moran’s term.
Moran died in his sleep last month at the age of 71. He had two years left on his four-year term.
Suggs, a lifelong Port Angeles resident and member of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, will serve until the 2021 general election is certified.
The council voted 4-1 Tuesday to pick Suggs from a field of three candidates who applied for the Position 1 seat. Cherie Kidd voted no, saying she favored fellow council member Michael Merideth for the vacant seat.
“I’m really excited,” Suggs said in an interview after the vote. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a tribal member sit on council.
“We always talk about being inclusive,” Suggs added.
“I think here is a great opportunity where instead of talking about it, it’s an action. I’m just really excited.”
City Manager Nathan West said Wednesday he was unaware of another tribal member who has served on the Port Angeles City Council.
“I want to add that we are very grateful that LaTrisha has stepped up to serve the citizens of Port Angeles,” West said.
“It is not an easy job and we greatly appreciate LaTrisha’s insightful answers reflecting on the promising future of our city.”
Suggs will take the oath of office Jan. 7 along with Navarra Carr, Charlie McCaughan and Brendan Meyer.
Carr, 27, Meyer, 35, and McCaughan, 63, each won contested races in the Nov. 5 election and will serve four-year terms.
The new council majority will join third-year incumbents Mike French, Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin and Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter on the seven-member council.
The other candidates who applied for the vacant Position 1 seat were Matthew Rainwater, U.S. Border Patrol agent and Pennies For Quarters founder and president, and Merideth.
Merideth said he did not seek re-election to his present seat because he plans to move outside of the city limits within the next four years.
“I will be in the city for at least two years,” Merideth said near the conclusion of his interview.
“I’m not moving out of the area, but I may not be within the confines of the city limits, and it would be irresponsible to run for that four years and leave. If selected, I would fulfill that two years.”
The council conducted one-on-one interviews with Merideth, Rainwater and Suggs as part of a 5½ hour meeting Tuesday. Nearly two dozen citizens witnessed the interviews.
“Michael Merideth is ready to do the work and was voted by the people of Port Angeles,” Kidd said during council deliberations.
“There’s a continuity in the stability of hitting the ground running.
“I really like Matthew Rainwater’s commitment to this community and what he does, and how he does it, and why he does it,” Kidd added.
“I think he’s involved and committed to the community for all the right reasons.”
Kidd, who is finishing her third four-year-term on the council, said she was “impressed” with Suggs’ knowledge.
“My concern is she’s never been to any meetings,” Kidd said.
Schromen-Wawrin said he had “hangups” with Merideth’s decision not to run for re-election.
“His reasoning is sound,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“He didn’t think he’d serve a full term. At the same time, I think it’s important for council members to put ourselves up for election, particularly when we’re incumbents.”
During her interview, Suggs said her family had been in Port Angeles for generations and she had a historical knowledge of the area.
She said she worked for the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe for 16 years as an assistant director on the Elwha River restoration project, which included the removal of two fish-blocking dams from 2011 to 2014.
“I managed a multi-million dollar budget working on that project,” Suggs said.
Suggs said she worked on mitigation projects like the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s new fish hatchery and assisted in contract negotiations with the National Park Service.
“I established working relationships at the federal level at the state level,” Suggs said.
“Also at the time we worked with the city of Port Angeles.”
Suggs said water rights will be a long-term issue for the city as the climate changes and Elwha River flows diminish.
When asked how she would vote to spend a potential surplus in the city’s budget, Suggs said: “You always want to save for a rainy day.
“Just because you have additional monies doesn’t mean that you have to spend it right away,” she said.
Suggs said she would support code changes to increase density as a way to address the housing issue.
“I think also income inequality contributes to homelessness,” Suggs said.
“I know these days $17 an hour just doesn’t cut it if you’re trying to pay for a two-bedroom home.
”I don’t think there is one magic wand, or issue, that’s going to solve homelessness,” she added.
Suggs said it is “definitely possible” to balance ecological protection and economic growth.
“I think it’s about smart planning,” she said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at email@example.com.