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At 25, Sultan mayoral candidate tackles local issues

Russell Wiita ran for Sultan City Council in 2015 and won. (Courtesy of Russell Wiita)

Russell Wiita made headlines in 2015 when he became a city council member in Sultan — at the age of 21. Now at the age of 25, he is taking the next logical step and running for mayor.

“When I was running back in 2015 for council, (age) was a question I got too,” Wiita told the Jason Rantz Show in KTTH. “What I tell people, I talk about my experience on the city council dealing with the issues, I talk about my work … with the county council … and my regional connections to elected officials and folks who have an impact in Snohomish County and what we do.”

“So I think I’ve prepared myself really well for the role, and have the relationships within and outside of Sultan to do a good job for the city,” he said.

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Wiita entered public office shortly after he graduated from the University of Washington. Before that, he was a student representative on the city council during high school. He’s spent years becoming familiar with the city and the issues it faces. Sultan is a small town along Highway 2, about 40 miles northeast of Seattle. It has a growing population of more than 4,600 people. As the town grows, development has naturally come along. That is among the top concerns for this small town.

“We’re kind of one of the last refuges of affordable housing in the area,” Wiita said. “We got a lot of natural beauty around and that small-town feel that people want to raise their families in. We are facing an influx of growth from, not just Seattle, but other parts of Snohomish County where people can’t afford to live anymore. They are willing to drive that longer commute to buy an affordable home.”

Wiita is not running for mayor as an anti-development candidate. It’s more about smart development; making sure infrastructure can keep up with the flood of new residents, utility needs, and traffic.

“The biggest concern I hear with development is Highway 2 traffic,” Wiita said. “Anyone who has traveled over the mountains on a Friday and come back on a Sunday recognizes the issues we have there.”

Wiita sees the solution as getting state lawmakers to prioritize highway upgrades. There have already been community meetings in the area to address the traffic issue as well. The city has also been discussing more east/west connectors in the city, which Wiita says could help residents get around the traffic.

“Our traffic problems are, for the most part, caused by people who don’t live in Sultan,” Wiita said. “They are not necessarily driving to Sultan, they are driving through it. With our new homes being built, those people are going to be on the roads, Monday through Friday, morning and afternoon, going to and from work. Right now, our infrastructure is holding up pretty well with that.”

Wiita is not the only current city council member running for the mayor’s office. Current Mayor John Seenhuus seeks election (he was appointed by the council in 2017 after the previous mayor left early). Councilmember Rocky Walker is also running for mayor. Early returns show Wiita coming out on top in Tuesday’s primary elections.

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