Rachel Anderson, a business college student, wife and mother of three, a nonprofit/low income family advocate and Sequim native, was appointed as the newest City of Sequim councilor Tuesday night.
Anderson, 30, will fill the seat of former mayor/councilor Dennis Smith, who resigned in January.
“I thank everyone for the opportunity,” Anderson said at the end of a virtual special Sequim city council meeting on Feb. 16. “I hope that I can live up to the residents of Sequim’s expectations (and) I hope I can represent them well. I look forward to working with everyone.”
Anderson was one of nine people seeking the vacant seat, including Janine Bocciardi, Cynthia Dinan, Kathy Downer, Vicki Lowe, Daryl Ness, Lowell Rathbun, David Rich and Autumn Wolfgang. Three candidates — Dinan, Ness and Wolfgang — withdrew their nominations prior to city council interviews.
Anderson will serve Smith’s term through the end of 2021.
After a 30-minute executive session, deputy mayor Tom Ferrell nominated Anderson, councilor Keith Larkin nominated Downer, and mayor William Armacost nominated Rich.
At least four city councilors were needed to vote for a nominee to receive the position.
In the first round of votes, Ferrell, councilors Brandon Janisse and Sarah Kincaid voted for Anderson, Larkin and councilor Mike Pence for Downer and Armacost for Rich.
After narrowing choices to two candidates, Anderson won the majority between she and Downer.
“We’re excited to have your youthful energy,” Armacost said.
In reference to the general election in November 2021, Armacost said he “looks forward to a robust season ahead.”
In a Wednesday phone interview, Anderson said she was still in shock from being selected.
“I was really hoping to be appointed, but I was worried they wouldn’t pick me because I’m so young,” she said.
“It’s exciting to have a younger perspective. My main goal is hopefully to represent everybody, and it’s important families are heard.”
In a candidate forum on Feb. 9 hosted by the Sequim Good Governance League, Anderson said she didn’t feel she’d be selected but that if she wasn’t, she would file to run in the November election.
“I’m really excited they are willing to work with someone like me,” Anderson said Wednesday.
Her first meeting will be the Feb. 22 regular city council meeting.
Regarding what led her to the city council, Anderson said she wanted to serve the community.
“I told myself I was going to go for it,” she said. “I didn’t have anything to lose, and even if I wasn’t appointed, it was a great opportunity like a job interview.”
Anderson has been a community volunteer since 2017 with current roles on the Sequim Education Foundation board, Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP) board as a low-income family representative, and chairs its Headstart Policy Council.
Anderson said her intention to stay committed to these assignments along with serving on city council.
She will earn her associate’s in business administration in March, and said she hopes to take the last prerequisite she needs for a bachelor’s degree in applied management at Peninsula College.
Anderson, a Sequim native, graduated from Sequim High School in 2008 and left for about two years before returning to the area in 2011. She and her husband Tristan have three children: Vincent, 9, Terra, 8, and Luna, 2.
Throughout her applications and question-and-answer sessions, Anderson prioritized low income/workforce housing for families.
When asked by councilor Pence about Sequim’s future, Anderson said affordable housing is “hitting a lot of people really hard right now.”
She said, “I’m pretty terrified with the rental moratorium (when/if it’s lifted) to see when they’re kicked out of their houses because they can’t afford rent.”
In a phone interview, Anderson said she hopes the city can partner with developers in some capacity to promote affordable housing, whether it’s tiny homes, apartments, modular homes, duplexes and/or some combination.
“Those could really help the community, and I definitely want to ask staff what our barriers are,” she said.
Across the aisle
Anderson said she wants to “try and help and build trust back with the community” after a negative light was shone on it in national and regional coverage.
“I really just want to bring people back together,” she said Wednesday. “I find it fascinating and detrimental that people are so divided.
“Just because one person is a Democrat and another is Republican doesn’t mean we can’t find a common ground and try our best to make Sequim a better place for everyone.”
When asked by Armacost about dealing with adversity, Anderson said she’d share the truth and that while she and another person may not see eye-to-eye, she still respects them.
“(What they’re saying) may not be the full truth, but I’d still respect their right to speak,” she said.
In another councilor question, Anderson said she understands people may not always get along, but that “it’s important people respect each other.”
Anderson said positions like hers are meant to serve the community and she doesn’t want people to be afraid to ask her questions.
“I really hope everybody can come together to make Sequim better,” she said.
At the Sequim Good Governance League’s Feb. 9 forum, Lowe said if she wasn’t picked she plans to run for a seat in November. Anderson said she likely plans to run as well and has a positive outlook for her time on council this coming year.
Five council seats are up for election this year: Kincaid (pos. 2), Pence (pos. 3), Anderson (pos. 4), Janisse (pos. 5) and Larking (pos. 6).
Anderson is the fourth appointed city councilor in the past year. Larkin, a retired California fire chief, is the second-most-recent appointee, from October last year.
Some community members took issue with his selection process, as Larkin was the only candidate nominated and voted on. This led city staff to host a new nomination process.
Bocciardi, Downer, Lowe and Rathbun sought the same seat as Larkin.