Seattle City Council identifies eight finalists for open citywide seat

Jan 22, 2024, 12:05 PM | Updated: 1:11 pm

seattle city council seat...

The Seattle City Council Position 8 seat. (Photo courtesy of the City of Seattle)

(Photo courtesy of the City of Seattle)

The Seattle City Council has narrowed down its candidates for the Position 8 citywide council seat to eight finalists, announced by newly-named Council President Sara Nelson.

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The eight finalists are: Juan J. Cotto, Neha Nariya, Mark Solomon, Vivian Song, Steven Strand, Mari Sugiyama, Linh Thai and Tanya Woo.

These finalists were chosen by the Seattle City Council from a list of 72 candidates who completed applications made public via the council vacancy webpage.

The seat, Position 8, was vacated by Teresa Mosqueda after she defeated Burien Mayor Sofia Aragon for King County Council’s District 8 seat in November’s general election race. Mosqueda previously held the Position 8 seat since she was first elected in 2017.

Of the finalists, Woo’s name has been mentioned the most, as newly-elected councilmembers Bob Kettle, Cathy Moore, Maritza Rivera and Rob Saka have all mentioned they would nominate Woo.

Tanya Woo previously fought to be on the Seattle City Council when she ran for the District 2 seat in the November 2023 election. She was defeated by incumbent Tammy Morales, who earned 50.6% of the vote compared to Woo’s 49.1% — 12,925 votes for Morales against Woo’s 12,527 votes, according to King County’s latest ballot data.

“As a community advocate, I’ve fought against continued discrimination from the city towards the CID, recently named one of the most endangered neighborhoods in America,” Woo said in her candidate statement. “I learned that fighting for our voice when the city imposes their will without listening to our community, is a fight we can win. I want to bring that same passion to fight for all of South Seattle.”

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Woo runs a community watch group in the Chinatown International District and helps run a hotel that offers workforce housing.

Juan Cotto, another one of the finalists for Position 8, is the senior government affairs and community relations strategist at Bloodwork’s Northwest, his application stated.

“I bring over 25 years of experience and a proven track record in government affairs, community relations, and strategic leadership,” Costa wrote on his application. “With my background in public policy, community outreach, and governmental relations, I am confident in my ability to contribute effectively to the Seattle City Council.”

Another finalist, Neha Nariya wants to join the council because she is “deeply passionate about effectively representing all of the communities to which I belong, along with those which I’m not yet a part of,” according to her paperwork for the council seat.

Nariya is the co-founder of Civic Hotel in Seattle.

“As we continue to grow post-COVID, our city faces unique challenges on the path to becoming truly inclusive and accessible to all,” she continued on her application. “Reflecting on my professional and personal journey, my proven track record exemplifies a steadfast commitment to propelling us forward.”

Mark Solomon, currently the crime prevention coordinator with the Seattle Police Department (SPD), wants to bring his 33 years of police experience to the vacated citywide seat.

“The reason I seek appointment is simple; Seattle is my home, and I want to take care of my home,” Solomon wrote in his application.

Solomon ran for the Seattle City Council District 2 seat in 2019, losing to Morales.

Steven Strand is another officer with the SPD vying for the job. Strand is currently the west precinct commander for the SPD. He was promoted to captain by former Chief Carmen Best on July 2, 2020 — the day after the CHOP camps were cleared from Capitol Hill, according to the Capitol Hill Blog.

“Though the public conversation around being a police officer has changed substantially over the years, I am extremely proud of the work I have done on behalf of the residents of Seattle,” Strand wrote for his application. “Along the way, I have embraced police reform, civilian oversight, accountability and alternatives to policing.”

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Vivian Song has long been a part of Seattle’s community — currently serving on the Seattle Public School Board of Directors, the Denise Louise Education Center Board and the Washington State Leadership Board — and wants to bring her diverse experience to the city council.

“I see what happens when we come together to achieve results, be it the hundreds of volunteers tutoring students as they recover from learning loss after the pandemic or the City Council and Mayor immediately addressing our students’ mental health needs following a tragic gun incident at Ingraham High School,” Song wrote in her application. “Even in a difficult time, we can make progress.”

Song is also a founding board member of Make Us Visible Washington, according to her application. Make Us Visible Washington was created to encourage local communities to build a curriculum and advocate for the integration of Asian American contributions, experiences and culture, primarily in schools. The group was created in January 2021 in response to a wave of anti-Asian American violence.

Mari Sugiyama is campaigning for the vacated seat after previously working for the City of Seattle in the Human Services Department.

“The breadth and depth of my experience within city government, and in the non-profit and private sectors has always maintained a common theme of working and serving communities of color and historically marginalized groups,” Sugiyama wrote in her application.

The South Seattle Emerald endorsed Sugiyama for the seat, calling it a “rare opportunity for the council to pick a qualified and exceptional leader.”

The final finalist is Linh Thai, a regional operations manager for The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that supports veterans.

More on the Seattle City Council: Seattle considers changes to local election cycle

“My decade-long involvement in board development, recruitment and strategic planning has given me a strategic perspective on governance,” Thai wrote for his application. “This knowledge is essential for making informed decisions that align with the best interests of the constituents of (Position) 8.”

Thai was also a district representative for U.S. Congressmember Adam Smith.

On Monday, Jan. 22, the city council will meet with the finalists. The following day, the council will make its appointment for the Position 8 seat.

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Seattle City Council identifies eight finalists for open citywide seat