City councils across our region make a lot of important decisions that affect our lives as residents of Cascadia, especially with respect to land use, development, transportation, and public safety. We entrust the essential public services we rely on close to home to their stewardship and management, so it’s important that we pay attention to these critical local races and make our voices heard.
In 2021’s local elections, voters in NPI’s hometown, Redmond, will elect three at-large positions on the seven-member city council: Council Positions #2, #4, and #6. In August, voters eliminated one candidate from the Position #4 race, the only contest that had more than two candidates, leaving two finalists.
Now that we’re in the general election (which serves as the runoff round), voters will make final selections for all three positions. Let’s take a look at each of this year’s races and meet the candidates who are seeking voters’ support.
Position #2: Steve Fields vs. Janet Richards
For Position #2, incumbent Steve Fields is facing off against Janet Richards.
Fields, the owner of Down Pour Coffee in Bride Trails, was first elected to the council in 2017 with 55% of the vote, unseating incumbent Byron Shutz. He also made unsuccessful bids for mayor in 2015 and 2019.
He has garnered the endorsement of several notable progressive figures from across the region, including Shukri Olow and Joe Nguyen.
Fields’ priorities include responsible government, environmental stewardship, careful growth management, and support for local businesses.
Janet Richards is Fields’ opponent, supported by Mayor Angela Birney, who Fields ran against for the city’s top position two years ago.
Richards has nearly three decades of experience working in business management for Microsoft and as a consultant.
She is the only Black candidate in this year’s Redmond elections.
After Council President Padhye retires, the only remaining non-white member of the council will be Varisha Khan unless Richards is elected.
As a volunteer consultant, she led a task force to improve Seattle Children’s Hospital’s security policies to be more equitable. She currently volunteers for the City of Redmond as Human Resources Commissioner, and also has a history of working with Redmond’s police department on community engagement.
Richards is backed by elected officials like Lake Washington School Board member Siri Bliesner and former mayor John Marchione.
Fields has raised $12,842.40 for his reelection campaign.
Richards has raised $22,972.47 for her campaign.
Position #4: Melissa Stuart vs. Dennis Ellis
Current council president Tanika Padhye is leaving elected office. Three candidates filed to run for the open seat Padhye is vacating: Melissa Stuart, Dennis Ellis, and Jackson Fields. Stuart and Ellis advanced through the Top Two election to the general; Fields was eliminated from further consideration.
Melissa Stuart characterizes herself as a “nonprofit leader with deep experience breaking down barriers for youth and families.”
A former Peace Corps youth development volunteer in Moldova, she has worked at a variety of well-established nonprofits serving vulnerable Eastside youth, including the Boys and Girls Club and Youth Eastside Services.
The main theme of her campaign is reducing carbon emissions. A resident of the Overlake neighborhood, where Link light rail will serve in just two years, she sees the dense, mixed-use area as a blueprint for neighborhoods that are more walkable, less car-dependent, and more efficient for families
This is a timely perspective for the city, as ongoing redevelopment in downtown Redmond adds hotels, mixed-use apartment buildings, and modern offices to a once sleepy and spread-out suburban city center.
While council positions are officially nonpartisan, Stuart has successfully courted local Democratic and Democratic-aligned organizations.
Highlights from her lengthy endorsement list include the 45th and 48th Legislative District Democrats, the Sierra Club, and Council President Padhye.
Dennis Ellis is a longtime Redmond resident.
The Seattle native is an Air Force veteran who also spent over twenty-five years working in the construction industry. He now works as an analyst at Boeing.
On the issues, he is more conservative but not doctrinaire. He had staked out a strong position against “allowing the failure of the justice system to prosecute crime” or any other form of criminal justice reform. His website doesn’t mention the climate crisis at all, which is especially disappointing in the wake of the record-shattering June heat wave that killed hundreds across Cascadia.
Ellis suggests he is open to creative solutions to major issues. On housing, he is open to designating smaller parcels and rezoning single-family neighborhoods to allow townhomes to create ownership opportunities for young families.
He also argues that his experience as a small business owner could be helpful as businesses face the twin challenges of the post-pandemic recovery and the influx of large corporate investment into downtown.
Stuart has raised $21,399.01 for her campaign.
Ellis has raised $12,011.75 for his.
Position #6: Jeralee Anderson vs. Tara Van Niman
The field is similarly split for Council Position 6. Incumbent Jeralee Anderson is being challenged by Tara Van Niman.
Van Niman is a career project manager at AT&T and first-time who is well-connected in the Redmond political scene.
She is active on committees that promote school funding levies and has advocated for school funding reform in the wake of McCleary in Olympia.
Van Niman has also worked on local campaigns, like Manka Dhingra’s historic 2017 special election campaign for the Washington State Senate.
She has a long list of endorsers: Mayor Birney, Senator Dhingra, former Mayor Marchione and many others are behind her.
Jeralee Anderson, the current council vice president, has a doctorate from the University of Washington in construction engineering and sustainability.
She runs her own nonprofit, Greenroads International, that collaborates to develop green transportation projects worldwide.
A decorated professional, she has received recognition from the Obama Administration, the State Department, and industry publications.
Her priorities for a second term include climate action, economic justice, community health programs, and sustainable infrastructure.
During her time on the council, she has been very involved on various regional planning boards, including as representative of the Association of Washington Cities on the State Public Works Board.
Anderson has her own long list of endorsers, including State Senator Patty Kuderer (the other state senator representing Redmond), and three Bellevue City Councilmembers: Janice Zahn, Jeremy Barksdale, and John Stokes.
“I choose not to pursue endorsements or contributions from current Redmond elected officials,” Anderson says in a note on her website. “I do not offer my endorsement or contributions in Redmond elections either. I have enjoyed collaborating with all of my Council colleagues in this past term. I welcome the opportunity to work with any newly elected officials in 2022–2025.”
Anderson has raised $16,075.86 for her reelection campaign.
Van Niman has raised $23,604.86 for her campaign.
One week left until Election Day
With the exception of large cities like Seattle (where organizations like NPI have been commissioning electoral public opinion research!), there isn’t usually polling available to suggest how candidates are doing in local elections, so it’s hard to know where these six candidates stand. Their fundraising metrics give us some idea of their campaign’s capacity for reaching voters, but do not tell us whether their campaigns are resonating in the community in the not.
Local election years generally see less than fifty percent turnout, even though the decisions that get made this year will influence how our cities are governed.
Watchers of Redmond city politics are no stranger to close races.
In 2019, Councilmember Varisha Khan defeated Hank Myers by a mere sixty-six votes out of 14,659 cast after a recount. That year, there were also recounts for close city council elections in Bothell and Mercer Island.
Every vote truly does matter! So give some thought to who you’d like to represent you and get your ballots in by next Tuesday, November 2nd.
Ballots can be returned to drop boxes at Redmond City Hall on NE 83rd or the Redmond Community Center next to Marymoor Park. You can also return a ballot through the Redmond Post Office, but it must carry a postmark of November 2nd or earlier. If you’re returning to a drop box, be sure you get there by 8 PM.