The Wenatchee city council worked Thursday evening to assign its members to their newly-formed districts and at-large seats.
Wenatchee will now be comprised of five districts and two at-large bids. While candidates for city council will be required in the future to run only in the district they live in, or for an at-large bid, it was necessary to assign some current council members to districts they don’t reside.
District five, which includes much of Wenatchee’s west-central residential neighborhoods, was the first and easiest district to assign as only councilman Mark Kulaas lived within it.
Meanwhile, districts two and three each have three council members residing within them. Council members with the longer remaining term were given priority, which automatically gave Jim Bailey responsibility of district two. However district three, which encapsulates Wenatchee’s western foothills, required a further tie-breaker between Ruth Esparza and Keith Huffaker, so a coin was flipped.
The quarter came up heads, and councilwoman Esparza was assigned the district.
The council then moved to filling districts one and four, neither of which had a council member as a resident. District one, which could be considered the eastern half of south Wenatchee, was assigned to councilwoman Linda Herald, who was not present for the meeting as she is currently representing Wenatchee in Misawa, Japan. Councilman Mike Poirier was given district four, which runs from downtown Wenatchee to Old’s Station. Both districts will become open seats in 2019.
Councilmen Lyle Markhart and Keith Huffaker were then assigned to the city’s two at-large seats. Since councilman Huffaker’s term runs until 2021 while councilman Markhart’s term ends next year, Wenatchee will now have an at-large seat up for election every cycle.
“The other thing that I’m excited about is that you have an at-large seat every two years,” Mayor Frank Kuntz said, “So in 2019 there is an at-large, so anybody in the city that wants to run can run, and in 2021 there is an at-large, and every two years there will be an opportunity for somebody to run city-wide and represent the citizens.”
The Wenatchee city council decided to implement the new district system after the passage of the Washington State Voter Rights Act of 2018 by the state legislature. Although Wenatchee was not in violation of the act, some city officials considered the act vague which caused the city to adopt the new format.