By Nicholas Johnson

With two incumbents and 12 newcomers competing for four seats on Burien’s City Council, we had questions.

For starters: why are you doing this, what are your qualifications and how have you prepared?

That’s where we’ll start today as we kick off our six-part Burien City Council Candidate Q&A series in the lead up to the Aug. 3 primary election.

The B-Town Blog posed the same six questions to all 14 candidates; 11 of them submitted responses. Each day this week, we will hear from those 11 candidates – in their own words – on one question.

Today’s question is:

What drove you to enter this year’s city council race, generally, and why did you choose to run for the specific seat you are pursuing? What experiences and skills do you believe most qualify you to hold elected office in Burien? And, finally, what have you done more recently to prepare for the role of a councilmember?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each candidate’s name links to their website; click on it if you want to learn more about them.

Position No. 1:

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 1

HUGO GARCIA

I became more politically active in January 2017 after witnessing a racial slur painted on an RV near my home. I reported the hate crime and was made aware of the big disconnect that existed between the city council at the time and their unwillingness to show solidarity with the over 20 percent Latinx population they purport to represent.

Their unwillingness to pass a sanctuary city ordinance was disturbing and set off within me a desire to become more active in the city. This led to countless meetings with other groups organizing in the city and connected me with so many neighbors. Within a year, I began serving on the city’s planning commission and in 2020 had the privilege of serving as chair.

My career background in small-business community banking and finance set me up well for volunteering my time and expertise to the Burien Business and Economic Development Partnership. Without intending to, my last four years of being intimately involved in city-level conversations at Monday council meetings but also other times; showing up and engaging in community events, and serving in these two groups have set me up well in preparing for the work of a Burien city council member.

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 2

MARTIN BARRETT

My family moved to Burien 26 years ago. We came to a city that was safe for young families like us. We were delighted in the diversity. Our kids thrived at Highline and Aviation high schools. But, Burien lacked vibrancy in the downtown core. Then, Danny House opened the Tin Room and the renaissance began.

Over the years, we began to see Burien’s unique personality emerge. A small town with growing ethnic diversity, wonderful homegrown cafés and restaurants with the emergence of a vibrant art community. Conversations and dreams about the idea of Burien becoming the arts and entertainment district of Puget Sound were gaining momentum.

Sadly, that progress has been sidetracked. Our residents and businesses have found themselves victims of escalating crime and property theft. Burien’s small business community, the backbone of our growth, has struggled with the surge in homelessness. Further, the policy decisions of our city council appear beholden to those outside of Burien. It often seems as though Seattle is setting our agenda.

I am running because I believe Burien is destined to be “the Gem of the Sound.” The best place to raise a family, start and grow a small business, enjoy great music and entertainment with friends, a place that celebrates and uses our ethnic diversity to bind us together in honor rather than dividing us in anger.

I want to help unleash a great movement, energized by the pent-up and unheard voices of our residents who brought their families, started their businesses, and built friendships and community. Together we can make Burien “the Gem of the Sound.”

I chose to run for Position No. 1 because I believe the seat deserves a councilor who is vested in our community and will give it the due attention and diligence it deserves.


Position No. 3:

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 3

JIMMY MATTA

Democracy works when the people are heard, and I believe we each have a duty to take part in our civic process. If I want to help make Burien better, then I must be willing to get involved. This is my home, where my family lives, where I have my friends and where my small business is located, which employs local families. So, yes, I am very invested in Burien and its future.

Serving on the city council is a job for citizens who listen to their neighbors, do their best to examine the issues and do the research to then make the best choices possible. I have years of experience as a labor leader who knows how to seek consensus, a successful small-business owner who knows how to make critical decisions, and a local resident who has been involved in public service for four years.

I have been on the council now for four years and that has allowed me to see firsthand and be involved in the critical matters our community is facing, both during the pandemic and as we strive to recover from it. I know the process, and what I do not know, my way of working is to ask a lot of questions, get as many diverse viewpoints as possible and then, seek consensus wherever possible.

Recently, my focus has included supporting our local small-business community, seeking a way forward for the unhoused, and addressing needs among youths and those most disenfranchised in our community as deterrents to crime.

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 4

CHARLES SCHAEFER

I decided to seek office this year because I see the current council majority delaying taking action on issues that are critically important to Burien residents, and I believe such delays harm the ability of the city to address the concerns raised by the community.

I chose to run for this seat because the incumbent voted to delay a decision on the DESC project as well as voting to table discussion on public safety reform, two issues that I am focusing on in my campaign.

I have been involved in the community since serving on the teen council (2004-2007) and, in addition to being active in a number of community groups, my professional experience as an accountant will be helpful as we make difficult decisions about how to allocate our limited revenue for maximum public benefit.

I think the most important thing I am doing to prepare is talking to as many community members as I am able to in order to hear as many perspectives on the issues facing our community as possible.

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 5

MARK DORSEY

I entered this year’s city council race because, as a resident of Burien, I am not happy with the direction of our city. Rather than complain about it, I decided to do something about it and throw my hat in the ring. I chose Position No. 3 because that is where I will have the biggest impact on the city council.

I am a 26-year resident of Burien. I love our town! Aside from that, I am an entrepreneur who has founded two companies from bootstrap to scale. I am also an active executive mentor in a Seattle accelerator program for tech startups, where I mentor founders in all areas of their business.

I’ve negotiated successful partnerships with Google and other tech titans. I am an expert at creating win-win partnerships. I have served as president of the board at the Gregory Seahurst Swim Club for six years. I am familiar with how to lead a board of directors. I have volunteered for Highline Meals on Wheels and also the Seattle Union Gospel Mission for many years, and I have seen firsthand the struggles that the homeless population face each day.

I would never allow an initiative to come through the Burien City Council without fully vetting it to make sure it first and foremost benefited the residents of Burien. Burien needs to have city council members who work on behalf of Burien residents by default.

To prepare, I have learned as much as I can about the challenges and opportunities that Burien has (from many sources) and watched as many city council meetings as I could.


Position No. 5:

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 6

SARAH MOORE

I am running because I am deeply invested and active in Burien, and I want to share my abilities and passion with my city in a more formal and concrete way. On a personal level, with a 19-year-old getting ready to move into the world of adulthood, I find myself with more time and energy to focus on serving my community.

I chose Position No. 5 because I feel that we need strong leadership in Burien on the topic of environmental advocacy and planning, which has been a strength of Nancy Tosta, who currently holds the seat but is not running for re-election. I will make it my mission to be the spokesperson for environmental and climate issues, and for ensuring that environmental decisions are made with an equity lens.

I co-chair ACLU Burien People Power, which has given me experience engaging with city council on issues that matter to me, and also gave me insight into how intimidating a public meeting can be, and how some simple changes could make city government more accessible. I represent Burien at events as a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission. Running for office is also a great way to prepare to hold office. I have been meeting people throughout Burien and hearing their concerns, from the bike rider whose street has suddenly become a main road into West Seattle, to the woman looking for help finding a caregiver for an aging parent, to the downtown businesses impacted by Covid and a rise in property related crime.

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 7

ALEX SIMKUS

I am running for Burien City Council to help ensure we have a vibrant and safe city in the future. As a father and a small-business owner, I’m concerned about the direction our city is taking.

In the last few years, I have learned a lot about our city and, more importantly, the people that live and do business here. I realized that I was not alone in my feeling that Burien was at a dangerous crossroads, and I decided to be an agent of change rather than watch poor policy jeopardize our future.

I believe that my business experience is practical, but more importantly I have been able to meet thousands of people over the years and learn how public policy affects their lives both positively and negatively.

In recent months, I have met with several city officials as well as studied important city documents, plans, budgets and reports to get a bigger picture of how our city operates and what we can do better.

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 8

GEORGETTE REYES

I am running to replace Nancy Tosta on Burien City Council. I have a lot of respect for Nancy, and I know I will have big shoes to fill. I am not a politician, nor did I ever aspire to be. I was driven to run for city council through the encouragement of my peers, who told me that the best politicians are those who do not want the job.

I know that there are many people in Burien who do not have faith in our political process, and it is these people who are often ignored when big decisions are made. I want to give a voice to the unheard in our community and fight for a Burien for everybody.


Position No. 7:

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 9

KRYSTAL MARX

I am running for re-election to the Burien City Council because while we have made a tremendous amount of progress on addressing public safety and adding affordable housing, there is still a lot we need to do.

I have served in this role for almost a full term (three and a half of the four years), and during that time I have helped pass legislation that directly benefits our community.

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 10

JOHN WHITE

My desire to become a city council member is based on many issues. However, one main issue is due to what I see as poor decision-making processes. Too many key decisions are being made without proper notification to our community. New polling technology is not being utilized. In addition, we need to develop a system that uses a stakeholder’s wheel approach and use it to identify the primary and secondary stakeholders in order for them to have a voice. In this way, we can then discover the necessary language a notification needs so that people understand what the decision is. This is only the first step in a stakeholder’s wheel model.

I am not running against anyone. I could have picked any seat. I did not want to run against Jimmy Matta because our community is made up of people that speak Spanish. It is an asset to Burien to have a person on the council that can speak more than just English. Other than this decision as to what seat to run against, I just picked one. I am not running against Krystal Marx, I am running for a seat and that just happened to be the seat I picked.

I have been preparing to run for five years. I have studied the key areas I wish to work on, which are safety and neighborhood strengthening. Addressing safety starts with reading the interlocal agreement between the City of Burien and King County Sheriff’s Office. In addition, I have studied the budget and financial statements. I have hired consultants to help me with regard to everything from Robert’s Rules of Order to navigating the complexities of city government.

Questioning Burien’s City Council Candidates Part 1: 'Why are you doing this?' 11

STEPHANIE MORA

I have watched with alarm for the last four years and especially the last two, at the direction of the Burien City Council. Decisions are being made that are clearly not in the best interest of our city and its residents. For the sake of my children and our community, I knew I could no longer sit on the sidelines. Change is needed.

Position No. 7 was the only seat that didn’t have a Latino candidate. I feel that representation is important. But also, Position No. 7 is currently occupied by someone who appears to have moved to Burien only to run for city council. She is now running for a congressional seat, which will require that person to abandon her council seat and move out of Burien if she wins both. I think the residents of Burien deserve more than that.

I have a unique perspective because I have personally experienced many of the issues we must face in Burien, including homelessness and poverty. My personal experience gives me the background and knowledge to know what is needed on council to help people help themselves.

Most recently, I have taken the time to listen to the community. I’ve spoken with businesses and residents. I have heard their concerns, which are consistently the same across the city. I’ve been shocked at the number of people who feel they are not being heard or represented by the current city council.