Two candidates, both concerned about a new transfer station and community connectedness, are vying for position 7 on the Woodinville City Council. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 2.
James Randolph is making his first run for council against the current Mayor Gary Harris.
Harris joined the Woodinville City Council about four years ago. He previously served as deputy mayor for a year before former Mayor Elaine Cook resigned from her position and moved to New Zealand. Harris took over as mayor in January.
Harris has lived in the Woodinville and Bothell area for about 45 years with his wife, he said. As a pharmacist for almost 50 years, he said, he worked mostly in hospitals and retail pharmacies. When he retired, he opened a business called the Hideaway Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Woodinville.
“You don't make it in the pharmacy world for almost 50 years if you're not honest, accurate, accountable and transparent,” he said.
Randolph, who grew up in Mississippi and studied computer science, said his family moved to Washington state about eight years ago for the small-town feel that Woodinville provided. As a Black man and father of elementary-aged twins, he aims to bring a fresh perspective to the council.
According to Randolph, he used the last 18 months at home to reflect on the racial inequities he’s experienced as a person of color. He said he attended the Black Lives Matter march in Woodinville last summer when the George Floyd demonstrations and protests were happening across the U.S.
“I felt so empowered by being around a lot of people who did not look like me, but were fully supporting all my rights,” he said.
Randolph took the stage at the march, he said. He shared a message of hope that his children will never have to experience the same fight for equality as other Black individuals in history.
“Not long after, I realized that I had to be involved in order to make that true,” he said. “That’s when I decided to engage and join the city council.”
Randolph said he thinks the council should focus on connecting the city’s districts by providing different forms of public transportation. If there were other options rather than driving, he said, it would create “synergy” the city seems to be lacking. He wants to see the council establish more public-private partnerships for projects, such as adding more walking paths in town.
Harris is also passionate about mitigating traffic near the trestle bridge in Woodinville, he said. He added that council recently asked the Washington State Legislature to include a $5 million grant request to help remove the trestle.
“Sometimes, it’ll take me three lights to get to 522,” Harris said. “And that just isn’t good for our downtown to have that many cars idling.”
He said the end goal is to widen the road underneath the trestle to have eight lanes instead of five and a half. The 42-mile Eastrail trail, which is currently under construction, would take the place of the bridge, he said.
Randolph and Harris both expressed concerned about the potential Northeast Recycling & Transfer Station in Woodinville, especially since two sites are being considered.
“No one on city council wants that in Woodinville,” Harris said.
He said the current location in Kirkland allows garbage trucks to exit Interstate 405 and dump their waste without driving through the city streets.
“Woodinville is far north of the boundary of the service area so you’d have more miles driven per truck per day, which means you may need more trucks or longer working hours for the drivers to get the same amount of garbage to the transfer site,” Harris said.
Randolph expressed similar opinions about the site. About a year ago, he said, he joined the King County Site Advisory Group to voice his opinion of disapproval toward a new transfer station potentially coming to “his backyard.” According to him, the new site might take away space for more commercial developments and increase costs to taxpayers.
“It shows that I’ve had a level of foresight,” he said. “We have to fight, and fight early, unless we want to deal with the results and outcomes.”
Both candidates also agreed the city needs to continue supporting its residents and businesses while the economy recovers from the last 18 months of COVID-19.
“It’s going to be an uphill climb,” Randolph said. “I think we’re not quite beyond the pandemic yet, but we do need to begin to think ahead.”
Throughout the pandemic, Harris said, the city has already distributed about $577,000 in grants for food insecurity, rent or utility assistant, and adolescent mental health.
“Woodinville is in a very good, very strong financial position,” he said. “We’ve done that without raising property taxes during the time that I've been on council.”
General election ballots will be mailed on Oct. 13.