‘A broader sense of community’: Supporters help Shirley Sutton kick off council re-election campaign

Friends and supporters of Shirley Sutton held an ice cream social on Sunday to show support for her as she seeks re-election to the Lynnwood City Council. Sutton is campaigning for Position 7 on the council.

Mike and Marylou Eckert, long-time supporters of Sutton, hosted the event at their home. Marylou Eckert and her husband have known Sutton for 10 years. Eckert said she is hoping Sutton will continue working to create a “more open government.”

Attending the event in support of Sutton’s re-election were City Councilmember George Hurst and former-State Senator Maralyn Chase.

Elected in 2015, Sutton has since served as the council liaison for the Alliance for Housing Affordability, Human Services Commission and Arts Commission. She has also worked with Snohomish County Tomorrow. In March, Sutton was presented with the Carl Gipson Lifetime Achievement Award by the NAACP Snohomish County.

Currently, Sutton holds Position 4 on the council. However, in a last-minute switch in filings, she decided to run for Position 7 against incumbent Shannon Sessions and business owner Maggie Mae. Sutton said she hopes the decision not to seek re-election for her current position clears the way for other qualified candidates.

“Since I knew that these individuals that apply for my position are very capable — and would make a great addition to the council — I decided to vacate and run for Position 7,” she said.

Six candidates are campaigning for Sutton’s Position 4 seat, including former-Lynnwood City Councilmember Van AuBuchon, who is supporting Sutton’s campaign. However, AuBuchon was unable to attend the Sunday event

Sutton said bringing more representation to the council would help reduce favoritism she said has made them lose sight of their goal, which is to serve the city and its residents.

“I think we need to have a broader concept of our community that elected us to serve them,” she said. “I am elected by the people and they should always be the forefront of my decisions.”

The first topic of discussion for Sutton was how to make Lynnwood a friendlier place for small businesses. She said the council could be doing more to support small businesses which she said better serve the community. Helping small “mom-and-pop” businesses expand would also benefit economic development, she said.

“We need to do that from the city council perspective,” she said. “We need to make that easy for them.”

Growing up in Yakima, Sutton learned from her parents how communities who support small businesses can greatly benefit from them. After her parents were denied bank financing to start a local grocery store, Sutton said the members of their impoverished community donated what they could so her parents could start their business. Never forgetting what their community did for them, Sutton said her parents established store credit for the community’s low-income families.

“If it wasn’t for that particular experience, I don’t think I would be as keen on what small businesses can do for their community,” she said.

Public safety was another issue Sutton said she would prioritize if re-elected. She also said she supports the proposed Lynnwood Civic Justice Center expansion project. The $48 million project would be a partnership with the Community Health Center of Snohomish County that would provide more space to the police department, jail and municipal court. The partnership would also allow the health care center to provide inmates with low-cost medical care.

Concerned about the rise of white nationalism in the country, former-Senator Chase asked Sutton what the city can do to reduce its spread. In her response, Sutton said community outreach is the key.

“We don’t want anyone to feel unsafe here,” she said. “And I think it’s important for all of us to be part of the solution.”

Also, attending the event was Rosamaria Graziani, who is running for Position 5 on the council. The position is currently held by City Council President Ben Goodwin, who will not seek re-election. Graziani is one of three candidates vying for the open seat.

A dedicated volunteer, Graziani has been a community advocate for 25 years. She volunteers 40 hours a week teaching math to low-income children, as well as English and computer skills to adults. She previously served on the city’s diversity commission.

“That’s my signature — working for the community,” she said. “It’s what I breathe.”

While campaigning, Graziani said she enjoys going door-to-door, so she can engage with the community. As of Sunday, she has knocked on 6,000 doors looking for community endorsements, she said. Constant interaction with residents allows her to have her finger on the pulse of the community, she added.

“I love doing this,” she said. “It’s not just a job — it’s a joy.”

–Story and photos by Cody Sexton

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