Two newcomers plan to run for Bellingham City Council seats

Candidate filing week is still more than a month away, but two relative newcomers have officially announced their plans to run for Bellingham City Council.

Birchwood Neighborhood Association President April Barker has announced she will run for the Ward 1 seat, which is currently held by Jack Weiss.

Weiss announced in February he would not seek re-election, and he asked Barker to consider running. Ward 1 covers part or all of the Cordata, Meridian, Birchwood, Columbia and Central Business District neighborhoods.

“To get the physical improvements our neighborhood desperately needed, I have worked closely with a variety of city staff and elected officials,” Barker said in her candidacy announcement. “So, it was an honor to have Jack and others ask me to run for the seat.”

Barker owns a small business, Northwest Muscle Mechanics, and works as a part-time para-educator for Bellingham Public Schools. She also serves as chairwoman of the Bellingham International Airport Advisory Committee.

More information can be found on her Facebook page: facebook.com/April4Bellingham.

Also running for the council is Nick Kunkel, who ran as a Libertarian for the state House of Representatives in 2014 but did not move past the top-two primary.

Kunkel, a former fish biologist who now works at a lumber mill, announced his candidacy for the Ward 5 seat in early February on his Facebook page, facebook.com/electnicholaskunkel.

“I have been asked by some great people to make a go for City Council in Bellingham’s 5th ward,” a Feb. 5 post on the page reads. “It would be a pleasure to give it all I have and do my best to get to know how you want Bellingham to grow in the years ahead!”

Kunkel could go up against incumbent Terry Bornemann, who has been in office since 2000. Bornemann announced in early March he planned to run for one more term after people asked him to stick around to “provide the institutional memory with a very new council.”

Two other council positions are up for election this year: Dan Hammill will run to keep the Ward 3 spot he was appointed to when Cathy Lehman resigned in December 2014, and Roxanne Murphy will run to keep the at-large seat.

Other challengers are certainly waiting in the wings, but no one else has filed yet, according to Public Disclosure Commission filings. Once someone formally announces their candidacy, they have two weeks to register with the PDC.

Bellingham Planning Commission member Steve Crooks said he is leaning toward running for the Ward 1 seat, but he has a few other things to consider before he makes a decision.

Two of the people who applied for the Ward 3 seat against Hammill — Michelle Magee and Scot Barg — have said they will not run for that seat.

“I think Dan is a good guy ... I like what he’s done so far,” Barg said.

Iris Maute-Gibson, who also applied for the seat against Hammill, said she was not planning to run for Ward 3 but was looking at her options.

“I am not sure right now,” Maute-Gibson said. “I’m doing some investigating about what might be the best fit for me as well as for the city.”

Rodd Pemble, recycling manager at Sanitary Service Company, said that despite rumors he might make a go, he will not be running. Clayton Petree, who has run for council before, also said he would not run.