By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Bellevue is the fifth-largest city in Washington and, just a few weeks after this month’s election, its city council continues to reflect the 28 percent of citizens who are Asian, the highest share of any city in the state.
Vandana Slatter, a biotechnology professional and community leader, won Position No. 5 after an unsuccessful 2013 run for Position No. 6. She said, “It’s really important that we represent the community as it is.”
Bellevue City Councilmember-Elect Slatter, 51, now awaits the Nov. 24 certification of election results, followed by the swearing-in ceremony on Dec. 14.
“I’m very proud to be an Indian American. I’m very proud to be elected to city council, but I’m also proud to be elected by the whole community,” she said.
Born in Vanderhoof, British Columbia, Slatter carries on her family’s tradition of giving back to the community.
“My grandfather actually, as a young man, worked for Mahatma Gandhi as a student in college,” she said.
Coincidentally, a bronze statue of India’s most famous political and spiritual leader has stood at the Bellevue branch of the King County Library System since 2009.
Both of Slatter’s parents have served their community for the last 50 years. Her father – originally from Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh state in northern India – received his medical degree there before moving to Canada and working as a general practitioner in Prince George, 62 miles east of Vanderhoof and the city where Slatter was raised with her two younger sisters.
“My mom would teach in schools about our culture,” she said.
Slatter received her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from the University of British Columbia. “In ’87, I graduated. In ’88, I got married (to husband Greg),” she said. “And then we moved to Michigan for 10 years. We had our son (Quinn) there.”
Proud to be a “public school parent” who spent six months at home with her infant son, Slatter says the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, caused an epiphany, a life-changing moment.
She said, “It affected my life and my child’s life and their future immediately. And for me, that was really powerful, and I thought, ‘I want to be able to do that.’ ”
She then asked herself, “How can I impact people in my community with good policy that matters?”
In 2005, Slatter sought her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington. “It was an 18-month program. And so, that was my introduction to the public sector, and I did my MPA internship in Senator Maria Cantwell’s office.”
She holds a doctorate degree in pharmacy also from the UW.
With an interest in the public sector, she joined the foundation board of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. While the organization was working on the issue of emergency contraception, she testified in front of the Washington State Board of Pharmacy. Later, she applied to be on the same board.
“Governor Gregoire appointed me to the board in 2007 ’til 2011,” she said.
“They were cross sections of my health-care background and my public service interests. And I learned about politics throughout that time.”
On her campaign website, she said, “I believe everyone in Bellevue deserves a chance to build a future here and enjoy it for a lifetime. That is why I am running for Bellevue City Council.”
“I consider her a very good human being with a passion for public service,” said Debadutta Dash, a friend of hers for the past five years. “The ever-growing South Asian community in the Eastside needed a voice in the Bellevue City Council. She would fulfill that need.”
Slatter’s community leadership includes her current work as a board member of the Overlake Hospital Foundation. She has also served as a trustee for the Children’s Institute for Learning Differences.
“Well, I already sit on three boards and work (as an Amgen senior regional medical liaison). So, I think you have to be very organized. You have to be very energized by that work,” she said.
Having no prior experience serving on a city commission or in elected office, she is determined to get input from Bellevue’s whole community as well as their support “so that I can be the most effective councilmember.”
She added that coming from the biotechnology industry, she does have experience working on teams to solve challenging problems.
“I think some of those skills are useful,” she said.
“And, solving big problems is something I really like.” (end)
Slatter will be honored at the Top Contributors award dinner on Dec. 4 at the House of Hong Restaurant in Seattle from 6–9 p.m.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.