Yen Huynh is the Newest Member of the Olympia City Council.

Olympia Planning Commissioner Yen Huynh was chosen last night to fill the seat left vacant by Jessica Bateman who was elected to the WA State Legislature last November.

Olympia City Councilwoman Yen Huynh

Six council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to name her to the seat after a rigorous four-hour meeting, in which they interviewed all seven finalists and used a new ranked-choice voting system to select the winner.

On her application, Huynh listed her top priorities as:

Public health and safety, citing “concerns raised about police accountability; the wellbeing of our houseless community; and the current COVID-19 pandemic with its heightened impact on low-income communities and communities of color. I believe we can address this by shifting city resources toward proven programs like community policing and increased social worker or minimally armed resource officers for non-violent calls.”

Economic recovery, “as people feel vulnerable and scared about job loss, temporary business closures eviscerating bottom lines, and ability to pay home or business rent/mortgage payments. The city can and should stay vigilant of needs and move quickly on opportunities to leverage state or federal aid programs for Olympians.”

Climate justice. “It was a recurring theme as people reflected on the intersection of the pandemic, the environment, the economy, and climate change. The pandemic is undoubtedly going to continue to have long-term detrimental impacts on our environment, our economy, and our society. In Olympia we must do our small part in the global community to address climate change through environmentally just policies and practices.”

She says she will propose solutions that prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), small businesses, and the arts. “There are so many opportunities to lead with DEI to ensure that all voices are heard and included in decision-making processes … small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we must support them through the course of this pandemic… They are a source of employment for many, enjoyment and convenience for residents, and they help keep money circulating in the community … I am interested in working with our many arts organizations and local artists to explore how art can be more extensively used to bring us together, advance social justice, help heal our community, and achieve creative solutions to community challenges.”  

“I care deeply about the future of our City – the land and its residents. I believe wholeheartedly that government at the local level has the most impact on peoples’ daily lives and I feel a genuine civic responsibility to contribute my skills and experiences to Olympia’s long-term growth and success,” she said on her application. 

The daughter of Vietnamese refugees, she has lived in Olympia for nine years and is a member of the Olympia Planning Commission. She is a supplier diversity program specialist for the state Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises and is a member of the Olympia Area Chinese Association. She has experience in advocacy and equity work with historically marginalized communities.

Council members chimed in after the vote congratulating Huynh and thanking all of those who applied.

“That was the toughest decision I’ve made in a long time. 28 candidates for Olympia city council, narrowed to 7, with a couple friends and long time colleagues as well as all 7 being 100% able to serve and do it really well, Council Member Jim Cooper wrote on social media.

“All the candidates rocked and showed that Olympia has an amazing community that loves our town… Tracey Carlos (an applicant) said it very well tonight when addressing the council in her closing statement. We, the council, couldn’t lose with our decision. Any one of our candidates would make good council members that will serve our community well,” said council member Lisa Parshley, who proposed using the ranked-choice voting system. “It was a very difficult decision, as every one of these people is a valuable voice for Olympia. Congrats Yen, but to all the rest please stay involved and run for office,” Parshley wrote on social media Tuesday night.

Huynh said she plans to run for election to the seat in the fall. Five council seats are up this year. So far, only Parshley and Cooper have indicated they will run for re-election. The other seats up for election this year are held by Clark Gilman and Renata Rollins, who have not publicly announced whether they will seek reelection.

By Rob Richards

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