By Hannah Saunders
Mariel Torres Mehdipour, Christiana Matthews, Derek Wyckoff and Michael Vanderlinde are the newly appointed Kenmore Planning Commissioners. The four were selected from a group of eight interviewed for the positions during a special city council meeting on Nov. 30 and will serve the city in that capacity for the next three years.
Mehdipour was the first to be interviewed. Councilmembers asked her to briefly explain why she’s a good fit for the planning commission.
“I have a wealth of experience in working closely with residents within idea-gated communities where we talked about their values and interests in working with community-led efforts involving planning and land use topics,” Mehdipour said. “Strategies included clean water initiatives, built environment projects, designing to improve walkability, housing solutions as well as smart business growth and job development.”
Mehdipour is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants. She moved to the Pacific Northwest over five years ago to raise her daughters in Kenmore and mentioned having a professional career in public health.
The council’s second question focused on important land use and planning issues the city should address in the coming years.
“I touched on climate change,” Mehdipour said. “The emerging extreme weathers that we see present a number of developments that we have been looking into as a community and as a region—such as housing sustainability.”
Wyckoff relayed that he has a personal interest in Kenmore and experience engaging with the planning department. That’s why he felt he’d be a good candidate for planning commissioner.
“I have some experience in dealing with the planning department, and I am familiar with the goings-on and the hoops that one has to jump through. I know how to navigate the system to get from point A to point B to achieve our goals as a business and as a resident,” Wyckoff said. “I felt that maybe I could get involved and volunteer my time and energy to help Kenmore be that much better.”
Wycoff also spoke of the importance of listening to everyone and aiming for balance regarding the planning commission’s controversial issues.
“One of my hopes for the city is to continue getting water access and public access to the water—similar to what’s happening already,” Wyckoff said. “I’d like to see continued use of that and smart use of the little commercial space that we have, and how to make that pedestrian-friendly and to make this less of a drive through town and maybe more of a destination town.”
Vanderlinde, who currently serves as vice chair of the planning commission, was reappointed to serve another three years. He brought up how he has gained interest in land-use planning and has educated himself on understanding Kenmore’s current issues during his work on the planning commission over the past 15 years.
“I think it (land-use planning) comes down, in my mind, to both experience and enthusiasm,” Vanderlinde said. “This is something that I have been very close to while serving on the planning commission. I have a great deal of interest in continuing that work.”
When it comes to the matter of land use, Vanderlinde believes the aging Kenmore Growth Management Act barriers need reassessing.
“I think it’s very clear we need to deal with the issue of density and development within the city,” Vanderlinde said.
Matthews was the last candidate to be interviewed and expressed her love for Kenmore.
“I really, really love the city. I love my neighbors, I love my community and our small businesses,” Matthews said. “I love seeing our community families gather at the Hanger. I feel very passionately about leaving behind a Kenmore that provides all of our existing and future families with opportunities.”
Matthews brought up how she has lived directly next to an extensive development project and hopes to bring that firsthand experience to the commission to ease the city’s growing pains.
“As city projects have many complex moving parts, my experience building a large and successful integrative medical practice from the ground up gives me the attention to detail that is required to handle large projects and goals,” Matthews said.
When asked about her experience with teamwork, Matthews said, “teamwork makes the dream work—I have been a part of a team my entire life.”
Her teamwork experience includes occupational teamwork, familial teamwork and working with school sports teams.
The decision to select the four commissioners among the eight applicants wasn’t easy as all made an impression on the council members.
“What an amazing group of candidates we have to choose from tonight,” Councilmember Corina Pfeil said. “I’m really, really pleased to see the level of interest and a commitment to seeing a bright, beautiful Kenmore for all of our community.”
Mayor Baker emphasized his desire for the applicants who weren’t selected to remain involved in the city of Kenmore.
“Make sure you convey our thank you to everybody and please mention to everybody how impressed we were with all of the candidates,” Baker said. “Please ask if we can keep their names on the list because we do get vacancies.”
The three outgoing commissioners are Nathan Loutsis, Tracy Banaszynski and Dwight Thompson.
The newly appointed commissioners will begin their three-year terms in January of 2022.