By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
The lead positions on the Bellevue City Council are set for the next two years with Lynne Robinson in the mayoral role through a unanimous vote last month.
A largely ceremonial role that pays $33,948 annually, Bellevue’s mayor is not directly elected by the voters like councilmembers.
The mayor and deputy mayor are selected every two years by a majority of seven councilmembers. A city manager is then hired by the city council to run the city as its chief executive officer—it’s called a council/manager form of government.
Robinson told the Northwest Asian Weekly that each councilmember is “at large,” meaning they don’t represent districts like the Seattle City Council and the Bellevue mayor does not have veto power.
Jared Nieuwenhuis was selected to be deputy mayor in a more divided 4-3 vote. He told the Northwest Asian Weekly, “I look forward to continuing to serve our entire diverse community in this new role and working collaboratively to ensure Bellevue continues to be a special place to live, work, and play.”
Jennifer Robertson voted for Nieuwenhuis because he “works well with the entire council and with staff, is extremely knowledgeable, and has the right temperament to serve in a leadership role. Jared is seen by many as a rising star on the Eastside and I am confident that he will perform the duties of deputy mayor with effectiveness and grace.”
The deputy mayor role pays $30,468 and councilmembers make $28,728 annually —“a part-time minimum wage job,” as Robinson described it.
Janice Zahn was one vote short of being named deputy mayor.
“I am very qualified … so the vote was disappointing,” Zahn told the Northwest Asian Weekly.
John Stokes, who voted for Zahn, said, “As a strong believer in living up to our vision motto of ‘Bellevue Welcomes the World, Our Diversity is our Strength,’ including having more women and people of color serving on elected and appointed positions, I preferred Janice. I just felt that she was the person we needed in leadership to provide her perspective, outlook, and skills as we move forward in a rapidly changing time period.”
He also called Zahn “the most qualified and positioned councilmember for the office.”
Incidentally, Conrad Lee did not vote for Zahn, a fellow Chinese immigrant.
Back in 2007, Lee, then eager to be appointed Bellevue mayor, approached the Northwest Asian Weekly expressing his disappointment with the lack of diversity in that role. We agreed and wrote an editorial about the importance of appointing an Asian American mayor.
When asked about this discrepancy, Lee said, “The issues are never the same; they change. The players change. The relationships change. The situations change.
Therefore, what and how I make my choice today would probably not be the same I made last time.”
He went on to say, “Diversity or minority representation is but one of the factors among many that affect my choice. In this case, the person I support, Jared Nieuwenhuis, is the best person for the role. Jared is an immigrant like Janice Zahn… they both are important leaders in Bellevue and I look forward to continued collaboration with them both as well as the council as a whole.”
Jeremy Barksdale, the only other person of color, voted for Zahn.
Robinson said although she and Zahn are both women and both progressive, she voted for Nieuwenhuis for the very reason that he is unlike her.
“Jared has a more conservative viewpoint and I thought it was important to have balance in leadership.”
Zahn called the vote, “A lost opportunity for immigrant women of color (this intersectionality matters) to see themselves reflected in this role.”
She concluded, “With that said, I remain committed to collaborate with my fellow council colleagues. We have a lot to do for affordable housing, transportation choices, economic empowerment and our environment.”
Ruth can be reached at email@example.com.
Glad to hear Zahn does not get the job. I am a Bellevue resident. I went to one of her campaigns pre-election. I was however extremely disappointed. She hang out with people from OTHER cities, those who do NOT live in Bellevue, more than who live in the city, who she serves, and who can actually vote for or against her. If you are spending the time, money, and resources to come up with a campaign event, you better know who your focus should be.
Amen Nick. Zahn appears to be just out for herself and doesn’t care about the people of Bellevue. I don’t understand why the NW Asian Weekly would post this article as it makes her look very bad. Sour grapes.