Citizen Cotton transitions to Councilmember Cotton
By David Pan/Lynnwood Today editor
Ian Cotton has lived 30 out of his 36 years in Lynnwood.
The 1996 Meadowdale High School graduate was born and raised in Lynnwood. But when Cotton and wife Angel purchased a house in the city in September 2012, something was different.
“Life changes all the time but there was a more of a sense of permanency,” Cotton said. “OK, we bought a house in Lynnwood. We’re living in Lynnwood. We’re raising our family in Lynnwood.”
The question was what’s next?
For Cotton the answer was to find out what was going on in Lynnwood.
He said to himself, “Let’s get involved and see what kind of good we can do.”
Cotton started attending City Council meetings on a regular basis in mid-January and then was appointed to the Planning Commission a couple of months later. By that time, he already made the decision that he would seek a seat on the City Council.
In the primary, Cotton finished first ahead of former Councilmember Jim Smith and Diversity Commission Chairwoman Shirley Sutton for Position No. 2. Cotton then defeated Smith in the general election.
Cotton took the oath of office along with Councilmembers M. Christopher Boyer and Ruth Ross and new Mayor Nicola Smith in December. Last week, Cotton attended his first meeting of the New Year, a Monday night work session.
The oath of office ceremony stirred strong emotions.
“The work really starts now,” Cotton said. “It was an incredible honor to be sworn in.”
In his conversations with residents during the campaign, the issue of taxes was on the minds of many. Cotton noted that 38 percent of the city’s revenue is from sales taxes. The city still faces budget issues in spite of increasing revenues.
Cotton sees the issue boiling down to a fundamental issue between residents and their government.
“What I’d like to see the city look at is what residents are asking for as far as services and then have the departments put dollars to the services that the citizens have asked for,” Cotton said. “Then it becomes a very clear dialogue between the city and their government.”
Government then can say to its residents if you want a service, it’s going to cost this much and are you willing to pay for that, Cotton added.
Cotton would like to see more citizens involved in their city government, especially in terms of attending city council meetings.
Even if people are afraid of talking into the microphone, Cotton would urge them to speak up about a traffic problem on their street or any other issues of concern.
“I think local government is where dialogue between citizens and residents and the people in the council and in the mayor’s office all can congregate and exchange ideas and say ‘How can we make this place better?’” Cotton said. “I think community comes out of that, a mutual desire to make where you live better. I think that really is what has a great potential to drive community in our city.”
Cotton went through a deliberate process when he contemplated a run for the city council. With a 5-year-old daughter to raise and a full-time job as a professional engineer, Cotton wanted to know what the time commitment was going to be.
Cotton talked with City Council President Loren Simmonds and Councilmember M. Christopher Boyer. At the time, Cotton was involved in other extracurricular activities including the Center for Wooden Boats, ACE mentoring and Engineers without Borders.
Following an earnest conversation with his wife, Cotton decided to he would stop the other activities and focus on service to his community and city.
In addition to Simmonds and Boyer, Cotton also knows Councilmember Van AuBuchon. AuBuchon’s older son took over Cotton’s paper route. Cotton also has talked with Council Vice-President Sid Roberts on several occasions.
At one of AuBuchon’s informal Saturday public get-togethers, Cotton met former Councilmember Ted Hikel, who later would become a mentor to Cotton as he prepared to run for office.
The City Council is scheduled to meet Monday night for its first business meeting of the year.
Cotton is ready and realizes that he probably has a lot to learn.
“I’m sure I’ll put my foot in my mouth several times before I figure things out,” he said. “Fortunately my shoes are pretty clean.”
Cotton is prepared to roll up his sleeves and get to work.
“I think that the sense that I carry with me is that I don’t know enough and I need to know more,” Cotton said. “As long as I carry that, I’m going to be OK. It gives me a hunger to understand how the city operates and how to make it better.”