With Primary Election ballots arriving this week, the Bellevue Reporter reached out to candidates in several races to share who they are and what they value. For Bellevue’s City Council Position 3, the candidates are Jeremy Barksdale, Stephanie Walter and Kya Michael Aatai.
Q: Tell us about who you are:
Jeremy Barksdale: I’ve lived a life of serving my community. As a youth, I grew up down the road from what used to be a college prep boarding school for blacks in the early 1900s during the segregated era. By the time I was born, it had closed and became the first museum in NC to honor a woman and an African American. My grandmother taught at the school and later volunteered at the museum to share stories about what life was like at the school. Spending time with my grandmother often meant spending time at the museum—lending a hand wherever needed. Since then, I’ve served wherever I’ve lived. Upon moving to Bellevue, I looked for opportunities and was appointed to the Planning Commission, which provided a lens into the needs of our community. I am running because I want to make a deeper impact in our community and believe my experience and skills align with our current needs.
Stephanie Walter: Stephanie Walter is a longtime Bellevue resident who is passionate about our city, its residents and businesses and our future. She is a finance professional at Overlake Medical Center where she has worked for over 15 years. She has a track record of success with experience in accounting, budget and analysis.
Stephanie was unanimously appointed by city council to the Bellevue Planning Commission in 2014 where she most recently served as chair. She was elected to the East Bellevue Community Council where she is in her second year as vice chair. Stephanie volunteers on the board of the Lake Hills Neighborhood Association, the board of Eastside Baby Corner and on the Endowment Committee at her church.
Stephanie earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Puget Sound with emphasis on finance and economics and later studied accounting at Seattle University. She is a graduate of Bellevue Essentials.
Stephanie is dedicated to growing intentionally, leveraging our assets, using technology to improve the lives of in Bellevue.
Kya Michael Aatai: I was born in Seattle and raised on the Eastside. I have lived in Bellevue over 20 years. I am a commercial real estate developer by profession. I live in the Bridle Trails neighborhood. I love our city and think it’s well run and managed. I’ve worked with and volunteered for many area nonprofits and charities.
Q: What do you feel is the most important issue for Bellevue? How would you address this as a councilmember?
Barksdale: Our most important issue is making Bellevue affordable for people across all income groups and for micro-businesses (aka mom and pop shops). Affordability is such a pervasive issue for our community because it impacts those across age groups/life stages — youth in our school system who are experiencing homelessness, those who serve our community (police, fire, retail), those early in their career or trade, and our aging population who are getting priced out of their homes. As the cost of leasing commercial space increases, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for micro-businesses that add to the character of our community to sustain.
Building on our current focus on affordable housing and transportation, I would like to identify ways to reduce the cost of living for individuals and micro-businesses. I would also like to identify ways to help people earn more and become more economically mobile.
Walter: Stephanie sees the top issue for Bellevue as sensible and intentional growth. There are significant benefits to growth if it is well planned by leaders who represent the interests of their constituents. Benefits such as economic stability, increased funding for infrastructure and thriving neighborhoods. The designated growth corridor has capacity for 100 years of commercial and mixed use development which will preserve our unique neighborhoods. There are serious negative impacts if growth is handled poorly. Choosing to act based on speed alone has unintended consequences. The negatives of poorly executed development are unstable housing, traffic jams and neighborhood dissatisfaction.
Stephanie is honored to have been endorsed by former Bellevue mayors, current and past city councilmembers, every Planning Commission chair with whom she served. She is also endorsed by the Affordable Housing Council, the Seattle King County Realtors, the Rental Housing Association of Washington and more endorsements are coming.
The endorsement Stephanie now seeks is yours. Please send her to represent you on the Bellevue City Council. “What matters to you matters to her.”
Aatai: Two words: Housing affordability. I’m running for city council to help bring neighborhood defined, sustainable, growth policies to Bellevue, and also I’m very focused on safety and crime issues in our neighborhood and downtown areas. Being a second-generation developer and working locally my entire career I have a unique background that offers a lot of insight into planning and zoning issues, and how we can try to keep Bellevue affordable both for longtime residents and new members of the community.
We have an area here in the greater Seattle region that has grown exponentially in the last 40 years. Bellevue especially has seen rapid growth. Some of that growth has been planned for with good intentions but not great real world results. We need to look at zoning and planning issues holistically but also stay attuned to differences in residential neighborhoods vs commercial/mixed use and downtown areas. I’ve seen what has (and hasn’t) worked for other cities and jurisdictions and how we can implement increased public input into our zoning and planning policies.
We need more input from the general public into the decision making at every stage of the process. I also think the city has to provide more in the way of infrastructure. We need to account for the issues that growth brings — whether its roads, public/alternative transportation, schools, parks, all these need to be planned for as a groundwork for change and not just as a response to it.