Six of nine candidates for the vacant Sequim city council seat participated in a forum hosted by the Sequim Good Governance League on Feb. 9. They included, clockwise from top left, Vicki Lowe, Daryl Scott Ness, Janine Bocciardi, Kathy Downer, Rachel Anderson and Lowell Rathbun. David Rich could not participate due to a family obligation, Cynthia Dinan was ill and Autumn Wolfgang could not be reached. Candidates will be interviewed in a special meeting by city councilors Monday.

Six of nine candidates for the vacant Sequim city council seat participated in a forum hosted by the Sequim Good Governance League on Feb. 9. They included, clockwise from top left, Vicki Lowe, Daryl Scott Ness, Janine Bocciardi, Kathy Downer, Rachel Anderson and Lowell Rathbun. David Rich could not participate due to a family obligation, Cynthia Dinan was ill and Autumn Wolfgang could not be reached. Candidates will be interviewed in a special meeting by city councilors Monday.

Sequim City Council applicants talk priorities, views

Second forum moved to Monday night

SEQUIM — Six of the nine candidates seeking to fill a vacant spot on the Sequim City Council detailed their views and qualifications last week during the first of two Meet the Applicants forums organized by the Sequim Good Governance League.

Applicants for the seat vacated by the resignation of Dennis Smith also will speak at 6 p.m. tonight. Zoom links to the Good Governance League meeting are available at tinyurl.com/1q3dxlck as well as the Sequim Good Governance website, www.sequimgood governanceleague.org.

This forum was originally set for Tuesday. The Sequim Good Governance League — a new group with the stated aim of seeking more transparency, respect and reasoned dialogue in local government — changed it after the Sequim City Council changed its date for interviewing the nine applicants, and perhaps naming an appointee, from Feb. 22 to Tuesday at 6 p.m.

The link to hear the Sequim City Council’s special meeting Tuesday is at https://zoom.us/j/912354 64249. People may also join by calling 253-215-8782 and using ID number 912 3546 4249. Written public comment can be sent to [email protected]

During the first League forum Feb. 9, applicants Rachel Anderson, Janine Bocciardi, Kathy Downer, Vicki Lowe, Daryl Scott Ness and Lowell Rathbun were in attendance.

By Saturday, Anderson, Bocciardi, Lowe and Rathbun had confirmed they would participate in tonight’s forum, said Karen Hogan, League communications lead. Cynthia Dinan was ill for the first forum and had not been reached by Saturday about participation in the second. David Rich had family obligations for the first forum and will not be able to attend tonight’s forum, she said, and Downer also won’t be participating in the second forum. Autumn Wolfgang could not be reached.

More than 50 people attended the first online forum, including the applicants. Not all applicants answered every question.

Lowe, executive director of the American Indian Health Commission for Washington State, said health and human service agencies and the people they support need a voice on the council.

“It’s a part of our community that is more marginalized and needs more of a voice,” Lowe said.

Ness, a retired railroad worker, said he felt his management skills could be helpful.

Rathbun, a retired engineer, cited three reasons for seeking appointment: the city should take more action for families and lower-income people, and he wants to increase awareness for human services needs in the city and a return to civil discourse.

Anderson, a board member for Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) and Sequim Education Foundation as well as a full-time student, said she doesn’t feel that “young families and low-income people are truly represented” on council, and, “I’d really like to be a voice for them.”

Downer, a retired nurse, cited her experience as a former city council member in another state and how she served on committees for streets and utilities, working across party lines to get things done.

Bocciardi, an educational database designer and coder, said her political activism began with promoting school bonds and levies in her neighborhood, saying, “Education is paramount to most things including good council work” and that she seeks educational equity.

City manager criteria

Candidates also were asked about their criteria for choosing a city manager following the exit of Charlie Bush.

Downer said the person needs to be experienced and hold a vast background in project management and human resources similar to Bush’s experience.

Ness said they need to look for someone like Bush with experience in finance and development who knows how to bring jobs to the area.

Lowe said the person should have an “eye to equity. … It will be hard to replace (Bush).”

Bocciardi said a city manager must have a good grasp on public policy in the city, county and state.

Anderson said experience and accomplishments are key along with their people skills and ability to work with a team.

Diversity

During a portion of the forum concerning diversity on the council — and a possible mandate to have a minimum number of women — Anderson said she hopes more women would be “brave enough to run as a candidate.”

She added, “Part of the problem is not enough people vote.”

Rathbun urged council members to appoint any of the women to the position, asking why the council would want to “put another old white man on the council.”

Bocciardi said that six women applying for the position is “a great start.”

“We do have a slightly larger demographic of women in this town, (and) it’d be lovely if it represented it,” she said.

One forum listener, Donna MacLean, said she felt current city council members select people of the same mindset and background.

“What’s to prevent them from appointing another one of their applicants?” MacLean asked.

MAT clinic

Lowe said she agrees with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic now under construction within the city limit, adding that she has had a front-row seat to the opioid epidemic. She said that, contrary to rumors, she did not write a grant for the clinic’s funding.

Lowe doesn’t expect to be appointed, citing racism — “I know I won’t be chosen because apparently my Indian blood makes me biased,” she said — but she plans to run for an open seat in November.

Anderson said she sees the clinic as a “healing center.”

She said she worked hard to overcome a family history of alcoholism, and she believes “everybody goes through hardship.”

Anderson said she doesn’t believe she’ll be picked either possibly because of her perceived appearance as Native American.

“I know life isn’t fair (but) it’s important for everyone to be represented,” Anderson said. “It’s not about me looking native. It’s about me wanting to serve my community.”

Anderson said she also will likely run for a city council seat in November if not selected.

Bocciardi said: “My views should have nothing to do with the MAT clinic in Sequim” because the council was not involved in the planning decision.

“How we feel about that shouldn’t even come into bearing,” she said.

Applilants urged the council to reach out to the community and be honest so as to heal the divison in the community.

“You are there to be the go-between with residents,” Downer said, adding that council members should try to get citizens involved at all levels.

Rathbun feels restoring trust is less on the city council and more on the people so that the “city council is not allowed to go off and do weird stuff.”

Lowe said residents and council members “have to be honest we have a problem. … I don’t see our current city council seeing that we have that.

Lowe said she feels Sequim is the way it should be but is a “fixer upper.” She said she wants to give more of a voice to marginalized people and advocate for affordable/workforce housing and family-wage jobs.

Bocciardi said Sequim should focus on evidence-based methodology and data-based reasoning.

Government

Moderator Ken Stringer asked candidates about the pros and cons of Sequim’s current form of government.

Bocciardi said she sees Sequim’s council-manager form of government set up so “the council isn’t taking over and doing things not in the best interest of the city” and that the city manager and staff have the expertise to best run a city.

Downer said she doesn’t have an issue with the current form of council-manager setup so long as the city has “an invaluable city manager like we did with Mr. Bush.”

She added, “We don’t realize how lucky we were when we had him.”

Lowe echoed that Bush was a great manager and prefers the current government system because “we’ve come a long way with this form of government.” Having an elected mayor made more sense when there were less people and issues, she said.

Ness said elected officials should be making the decisions but said he comes from bigger cities. He added that city staff should receive their goals from the city council.

“I kind of like the elected official route, but I wish we had an elected mayor that people had voted in,” he said.

Both Anderson and Rathbun shared sentiment that the City of Sequim’s staff is knowledgeable and superb.

“It’s important that the council is more advisory and that they listen to city staff input … and represent issues constituents might have,” Anderson said.

Rathbun added that the city council “serves as a policy interface between what they want and the policies they’d like to see staff carried out.”

“Politics should stay out of day-to-day operations of the city (and) it should be run on a professional basis,” he said.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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