SEQUIM — The new mayor of Sequim promises “no politics.”
“Use your common sense and no political games,” said former Deputy Mayor Tom Ferrell, who was selected by other council members as the city’s mayor on Monday night.
“I’ve had enough of it.”
Ferrell, a retired aerospace businessman and U.S. Air Force B-52 flight officer/reservist, was elected by a mostly new council after he was nominated by council members Kathy Downer and Lowell Rathbun.
He succeeds William Armacost, a Sequim salon owner who also sought to retain the position after being elected mayor in 2020.
Ferrell received four votes, Brandon Janisse two and Armacost one.
Ferrell will serve in the mayor’s role through Dec. 31, 2023, when he and Armacost’s current terms end.
Janisse was elected deputy mayor over Downer.
Ferrell, who moved to Sequim in 2016 and served on the Sequim Planning Commission from March 2018 to December 2019, said he wants people to trust him and city staff, too.
As for his other goals, Ferrell said he wants to see maximum participation by council members, including in agenda meetings, and that he wants “council and staff to enjoy the heck out of their job.”
“That’s part of the attitude going forward, and trust is a big part of that,” he said.
Ferrell was elected to the council in 2019 and previously sought appointment to Pam Leonard-Ray’s vacant seat in 2018. It went to Armacost, who was re-elected in 2019.
Ferrell was nominated for mayor in 2020 but declined it. Armacost won 5-2 for mayor over former mayor Dennis Smith, who had served in that role for two terms from 2016-2017 and 2018-2019; Smith resigned in early January 2021 for personal reasons.
A long year
Being mayor generally had largely meant serving as a face for photo-ops and steering meetings. The role, however, came under a proverbial microscope late into Smith’s mayoral term for various reasons, including community contention over the application process for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic.
Armacost came into local and national focus at multiple points in his tenure, largely starting after he encouraged listeners to listen to a video about QAnon during the “Coffee With the Mayor” broadcast on KSQM 91.5 FM on Aug. 27, 2020.
QAnon was a wide-ranging, completely unfounded theory that said former President Donald Trump was waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping pedophiles in government, business and the media, according to the BBC.
The controversy drew CNN to interview Armacost in January 2021. He told the CNN reporter that he never endorsed nor said he supported QAnon.
The group Sequim Good Governance League, which endorsed candidates who became new members of the council, was formed after Armacost and three former city council members called for the resignation of former city manager Charlie Bush on Jan. 11, 2021.
Some community members said the reason of “philosophical differences” given in a press release was too vague. Armacost later said the phrasing was coined by Bush and that they couldn’t openly discuss items from executive sessions. Bush resigned that February and received a severance package.
In May last year, Armacost garnered more attention after wearing a T-shirt in public that read: “This is the USA – We Eat Meat – We Drink Beer – We Own Guns – We Speak English – We Love Freedom – If you do not like that get the f-ck out.”
Armacost later said he regretted wearing the shirt.
After the November general election, newly elected city council members said during canvassing that residents cited concerns about Armacost, Bush’s resignation and a council resolution opposing a county health mandate requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to sit indoors in restaurants and bars.
“They’re tired of the focus on nationalists’ ideas,” said new council member Vicki Lowe. “They wanted to focus on Sequim and talked about sidewalks, streets and those kinds of things.
“It was about Sequim being Sequim again.”
During council discussions, Ferrell thanked Armacost for his service.
“I had a lot of agreements and disagreements with Mr. Armacost; all things aside, I thank him for his public service,” Ferrell said. “This is not an easy job being on council.”
Armacost thanked Ferrell.
While advocating to remain mayor on Monday, Armacost said he served the people while following the Constitution. He said he led the council through the COVID-19 pandemic and that they were “successful as a council to meet the needs of the people.”
Armacost highlighted two rounds of Sequim’s COVID-19 Small Business Rapid Relief Program, a $500,000 total, going to local in-need businesses as a success, and that he’s anxious to distribute another previously approved $250,000.
“We’re still in the thick of this challenge and need to move forward with these,” Armacost said.
Armacost listed other accomplishments, such as being a part of approving utility discounts for senior citizens, the Fir Street rehabilitation project, and stopping proposed utility increases in 2021 and 2022.
He also listed his time as a liaison to the Sequim Health & Housing Collaborative as an accomplishment as it was honored by the International City/County Management Association for its work.
“I have the pulse of the community,” he said, “My goal is to keep Sequim safe and a beautiful place to live.”
Sequim City Council next has a virtual meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24.
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].