The Enumclaw City Council is gearing up to appoint two new people to its ranks.
But the choice is a tough one — 17 people ended up applying for the two open positions, and the Feb. 22 meeting was nearly four hours long as the council interviewed each and every one.
Each candidate was asked a handful of questions, ranging from whether or not they plan to file for election to naming something the council did in the past year that they supported.
Most applicants said they planned to file for election, whether or not they land a council seat, promising an exciting election season.
And most, if not all, candidates agreed that the best thing the city council did in 2020 was quickly rally behind local shops and businesses, especially along Cole Street.
“I’m really proud of how this city — leadership, business owners, citizens — rallied in 2020, in a year when we certainly could have become a failed community,” said Julie Johnson, whose application boasted extensive experience working as a public relations contractor with various tourism boards and organizations. “This momentum was there, and folks came together and worked together to create something what I consider special.”
“I really have to acknowledge the council and the mayor for acting quickly to support small businesses in town,” said Nolan McSheridan III, who is the co-owner of the Plateau Athletic Club, a small local gym. “The tents outside, the outdoor dining — we really were one of the first cities to adopt that.”
“From an outward appearance, it seemed like that the council did everything it could to [support] the people and businesses of this town through a really tumultuous year,” said Charles Martinez, co-owner of Take Back Your Life, a local fitness and lifestyle business. “I really like and appreciate how things have been handled.”
Where candidates really diverged, though, was when they were asked to name something the council did last year that they disagreed with.
Lauren Lilly, a local photographer and mental health advocate, brought up the Maxey property, a 20-acre parcel of land at Anderson Riverview Park that’s been vacant since 2011. A local ministry group recently proposed turning the house that remains on the property into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, but plans were scrapped after fierce public outcry.
The original plan for the land was to keep it in a natural state and be used for recreational purposes by the public, but the city has yet to put money into improving the grounds for general use.
“I’m just wondering why nothing was done with that in prior years,” Lilly said. “That was kind of an opportunity.”
Lilly wasn’t the only one with questions about the Maxey property.
“Generally, I haven’t seen anything that I disliked from the council. I do have some questions, though, like the one that came up over the last couple of months on the Maxey property — what is the city’s intent to do with that?” said Ed Storton, who has decades of experience with project management and budget oversight. “It’s not that I have an opinion one way or another, I’m just wondering what is going on there.”
Leah-Cherri Day knocked the council for a lack of communication with the public during the early days of the pandemic.
“With the exception of Councilmember [Anthony] Wright, I think it was pretty quiet as far as updates to the early COVID-19 response and the statistics and the data,” said the local businesswoman, who owns (or co-owns) both Rogue Roots Hot Yoga and Modern Fire Protection. “I felt like as a community, everyone was waiting to figure out where the city stood… I think that a little more communication on that end would have been beneficial.”
Bordeaux Wine Bar owner Thomas Sauvageau also thought the council could have communicated more with the public.
“Through 2020 and through COVID, all the things we’ve been going through, communication about where things are progressing — I would’ve, to be honest, enjoyed seeing a little more of that from the city,” he said. “I think the only real communication I’ve seen on social media was from Councilmember Wright, who’s done a really good job posting on Facebook.”
The council plans to deliberate on their choices for council and make their final picks during the March 8 meeting, and swear in the new council members on March 22.