Lacey City Council appoints business owner Rachel Young to vacant council seat

After interviewing nine candidates, the Lacey City Council on Monday appointed Rachel Young, owner of Miss Moffett’s Mystical Cupcakes, to the vacant council seat previously held by Jeff Gadman. Gadman was appointed Thurston County treasurer.

Eleven people applied for the council vacancy, but Richard Bokofsky could not attend and Carolyn St. Claire withdrew from the process, City Manager Scott Spence said.

The nine who were interviewed were Robert Motzer, an Army veteran; Brady Olson, a North Thurston High School social studies teacher; Kevin Hochhalter, a local attorney; Ken Balsley, a blogger and podcaster; Carolyn Cox, chairwoman of the Lacey Planning Commission; Mark Morgan, a Lacey Planning Commission member; Sean Smith, an Army veteran; Rick Nelsen, owner of Ricardo’s Kitchen and Bar; and Young.

All of the applicants stayed for the entire meeting, except for Young, who went home to be with her three children and watch the rest of the meeting online, she said. That’s when she learned she had won the appointment.

She will be sworn in before the council work session on Thursday.

“I’m really, really excited because I care so much about Lacey,” Young said. “I just want to be a catalyst for improving the quality of life for Lacey residents.”

Young said she plans to run for the seat in November, but she has not yet filed.

After the interviews were complete, the council nominated six applicants for consideration: Balsley, Nelsen, Young, Olson, Morgan and Cox.

Council members talked up the various qualifications of the nominees, including that Balsley, who serves on the city’s parks board and has worked closely with the city’s 50th anniversary committee, probably could fill the seat with the most ease. Others said Olson had the best interview, while Morgan and Cox bring relevant experience, and Nelsen operates a well-known business in Lacey.

Deputy Mayor Cynthia Pratt said Young would bring a different perspective from the other candidates.

“She brings a youthful perspective, and I think that’s important,” Pratt said.

When it came time to vote, Young got four votes, Balsley got three votes, and Nelsen got two votes. Voting for Young were council members Michael Steadman, Jason Hearn, Mayor Andy Ryder and Deputy Mayor Pratt.

Balsley, Bokofsky and Motzer already have applied to run for seats on the council. The other applicants are expected to apply.

Each council member asked a question during the interviews, including this one from Councilman Lenny Greenstein: What do you see as the biggest issue facing Lacey in the next couple of years? Here’s how the candidates responded, in order of their interviews:

▪ Motzer: “Personally, for my kids, adding sidewalks to the Hicks Lake neighborhood. There’s a sidewalk on Ruddell Road, but there’s nothing connecting any of the side streets off Ruddell Road to Lacey Elementary, where my kids attend school.”

▪ Olson: “I think growth is obviously going to be a huge issue, and when we’re talking about annexation and increasing in population, we need to be pragmatic about how we grow and how transportation and our schools grow.”

▪ Hochhalter: “A big issue is affordable housing. But by making it easier for development to happen, we increase the supply of housing, and by increasing the supply, we keep the costs down so that people can afford a place to live.”

▪ Balsley: “We need to begin the process of annexing those urban growth areas and determine what we can do and what we can’t do.”

▪ Young: “Growth is a big issue, and we need to plan accordingly. We need smart growth planning, and we need to be very strategic about it.”

▪ Cox: “Growth and how we plan for it, steer it and accommodate it. It’s going to take lots of careful planning.”

▪ Morgan: “Growth and making sure we are prepared for it.”

▪ Smith: “Definitely transportation. There’s a lot of traffic going up and down Martin Way, with more vehicles and public transportation. I really believe that’s something that needs to be addressed.”

▪ Nelsen: “Keeping small businesses thriving, healthy and getting more here. Anything we can do to make it easier for small business to expand, thrive and stay here.”