The Issaquah City Council welcomed a new member at Monday evening’s meeting when Squak Mountain resident Victoria Hunt stepped up to fill Council Position 3.
Hunt, a four-year resident of Issaquah, is a data analyst for Global Good, a division of Intellectual Ventures that invents technologies to aid developing countries. She has served on the Issaquah Planning Policy Commission since last year, where she contributed to the Affordable Housing Strategy Work Plan that was adopted by the council in September 2017.
Position 3 became vacant when Justin Walsh, who was running unopposed for the seat in the November 2017 election, moved out of Issaquah city limits, rendering him ineligible for the job. Walsh, a local attorney, stated that while he loved Issaquah and planned to continue his legal practice in town, he could not afford to buy a home here.
Thirteen people applied to fill the position.
Deputy Council President Mariah Bettise nominated Hunt at the meeting.
“Victoria has a unique background — it spans ecology, land management and urban planning. … Her thoughts on growth, traffic, affordable housing and open spaces, along with her deep experience with multiple stakeholders’ competing interests, stood out to me,” Bettise said.
She continued, “Her passion to serve in a city that she loves was obvious and genuine. Her current experience serving on the Planning Policy Commission during a heavy workload period and just her overall background speaks to her dedication and commitment.”
Councilmember Bill Ramos and Council President Tola Marts said that they would both support Hunt.
Marts spoke to Hunt’s wish to revise the municipal code to stop the sprawl of single-family home developments, which he said reflected the wishes of a large group of Save Cougar Mountain members who spoke to the council during the comment period earlier in the meeting, requesting that the city stop a housing development from being built on what is known as the Bergsma property.
“I think that her experience and her point of view in both her written and verbal presentation to us … I’m confident that she would do a great job on City Council,” Marts said.
It was the issue that pushed her predecessor Justin Walsh away that played a large role in Hunt’s application; she expressed a passion for making the city an affordable place for all residents.
“The current trend in affordability of housing in Issaquah is completely unsustainable,” Hunt stated in her application. “We aim to be a welcoming city for people of all backgrounds, but our housing stock does not reflect that.”
Hunt holds a PhD in ecology from the University of Illinois, Chicago, a master’s in animal science from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and a bachelor’s in biology from Cornell University.
“I am an excellent listener, and have been trained to work professionally in contentious decision-making circumstances, via my consulting work on federal land-management with the US Fish and Wildlife Service,” she wrote in her application. “Generally, on issues that divide the community, I think we share a common goal of making a bright future for Issaquah, but we differ on the best route to get there. I would first put in the time to understand the rationale on both sides.”
Two other applicants received nominations by council members.
Councilmember Stacy Goodman nominated Jamie Rosen.
“I’m looking for someone with a lot of courage, I’m looking for someone with an independent voice and I’m looking for someone with a truly fresh perspective,” she said, explaining that “Jamie had the courage to stand up at the microphone a few weeks ago and tell us that we, this council, need to do a better job … that we are part of a trust issue among the city and its residents.”
Councilmember Chris Reh seconded Goodman’s endorsement.
“It’s time for some different opinions and different perspectives, that’s what drives growth and change, and I think that we are making a vote tonight to make the City Council a better organization,” Reh said.
Councilmember Paul Winterstein nominated Bryan Weinstein, who ran unsuccessfully against Reh for Position 1 in November.
“I believe, as all matters that come before the council large and small, for the benefit for the City of Issaquah and for the best interests of the City of Issaquah, I feel that Bryan at this time would represent the best addition to this existing council,” Winterstein said.
A majority of council votes — four — was needed for a nominee to attain the position.The first round of votes saw Hunt receive three votes, Rosen receive two and Weinstein receive one.
Council members then proceeded to a second vote, in which Winterstein changed his vote to support Hunt. This gave Hunt the needed majority.
Hunt was immediately sworn in and joined her new colleagues on the council bench.
Mayor Mary Lou Pauly addressed the 12 other applicants, thanking them for their hard work and encouraging them to keep playing an active role in city policy.
“I’ve also sat where you sat twice before as well, and whether you were nominated tonight or not, I understand how emotional it is to sit and hear all of this discussed in public,” Pauly told the applicants. “So, thank you, thank you for applying, thank you for sticking with us through the whole process.”
All of the council members stated that the decision to pick just one person out of 13 qualified and skilled candidates was an extremely difficult one to make.
“This is … probably the strongest slate of applicants that I’ve seen in eight-and-a-half years on council,” Marts said.
“Issaquah is so incredibly fortunate to have such an incredible slate of candidates who have come forward. With the wealth of talent that’s in this room and the amazing diversity of experience, coming up with just one vote and just one was incredibly difficult,” Bettise said, adding, “If you’re not appointed this evening, my hope is that you will continue your involvement with Issaquah and the surrounding region.”