Yen Huynh selected to fill vacant Olympia City Council position

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The Olympia City Council on Tuesday interviewed the seven finalists vying for the vacant council position and, following a vote, selected Yen Huynh.

Hyunh will fill Position #2 left by Jessica Bateman — who was elected as state representative in November — until the 2021 election cycle. At that point, the term of that position will be on the city-wide ballot and she might opt to run to hold it.

Huynh works with the State Office of Minority and Women’s Business Enterprises, the governor’s subcabinet on business diversity and serves on the Olympia Planning Commission.

“I want to be a part of the city council because I love Olympia, truly. And when I say I love Olympia, I mean that I am able to walk downtown and wave at shop owners in the window, including my father,” she said.

“I pass by our houseless community members downtown and throughout our city and I’m not content. I don’t feel well walking past them thinking there isn’t anything I can do. So with me, I bring a diverse perspective on equity and a business lens,” she added.

Huynh was selected through a process of ranked choice voting. For that process, council members ranked the candidates from favorite to least favorite. The candidate with the most favorite rankings wins. In the case of a tie, the person with the least favorite votes is eliminated and votes are re-cast.

During interviews, the council members asked the candidates a list of six in-depth questions. Candidates were divided into two panels — a panel of three and a panel of four — and each took turns answering the same questions. The questions ranged from policing policies to climate mitigation to the city’s comprehensive plan.

Huynh said she’s interested in talking more about police wearing body cameras in some situations as well as relieving them of duties that aren’t related to traditional police work, like social services. When asked about changes she would make to the comprehensive plan, she — along with the other candidates — highlighted equity issues as a top concern.

The voting and interview process took place on camera in Olympia City Hall. Both the council members and the applicants were inside the building, but in different rooms. The interviews and vote took place over Zoom. After the interviews, the council members went into a 30-minute executive session to discuss the qualifications of each candidate. When it was time to vote, the council members filled out ballots ranking the candidates, and put them in a box.

Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall read each ballot out loud, and the results were uploaded on a spread sheet. When all was said and done, Huynh led with four top picks, followed by Dontae Payne with two.

“I am so excited right now,” Huynh said after the win, adding that she is eager to get started.

The seven candidates interviewed were whittled down from a list of 28 applicants — an amount Mayor Cheryl Selby called “unprecedented.”

CORRECTION: 9:55 pm 1/7/21 -- We corrected our misspelling of Ms Huynh's name from our earlier posting. 

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