16 questions with Joel Wachs, New MI City Council Member

January 26, 2015 | by Erin Sirianni

Explore +
Joel Wachs and Mayor Bruce Bassett

New City Council Member Joel Wachs and Mayor Bruce Bassett | Photo Credit: City of Mercer Island

Last week, Joel Wachs became the City Council’s newest member.

He was one of 11 applicants who applied for the open seat following State Representative Tana Senn’s resignation to focus on state issues.

On Tuesday, January 20th, at their weekly meeting, the City Council voted on the applicants.  The first round of voting narrowed the pool to four – Steve Marshall, Terry Pottmeyer, Wendy Weiker, and Wachs. In the final round, Wachs won the spot with a 3-2 vote over Pottmeyer.

Though a newer Mercer Island resident, Wachs is already immersed in island life and political issues. He currently serves as chair of the Mercer Island Library Board, as a member of the Mercer Island Town Center Visioning Group, as a board member of the Mercer Island Farmers Market, and as chair of the Mercer Island Open Space Conservancy Trust.

Wachs position is only secure until the general election in November 2015 when Mercer Island residents will vote to fill the position. If you haven’t met Wachs yet, read through our 16 get-to-know-you questions, ranging from favorite book to biggest challenge our community faces. Then watch for his first political campaign in the coming months.

16 questions with Joel Wachs, Mercer Island City Council Member

Hometown?  Short Hills, NJ

How long have you lived on Mercer Island?  Just over seven years

North end, south end, or somewhere in between?  North end, in the Town Center.

What is your favorite MI restaurant?  That is tough – for a burger and a beer, the Roanoke; for a quick lunch, the Islander; for a more special dinner, Bennett’s or sushi at Yuzen.

Favorite local event?  When it is open, the Mercer Island Farmers Market.

What’s on your Farmers Market shopping list?  Well, it depends on the week, but a typical list might be tomatoes from Mary and Richard (Kittitas Valley Greenhouse); potatoes from Kira and Brent Olsen (Olsen Farms); apples or peaches from Brian Collins (Collins Family Orchard); some vegetables from Hedlin Family Farm, Tonnemakers, or Alvarez; bread from Andy and Ingrid at Snohomish Bakery; jam from Rome Doherty (Camp Roger Jam); and last, not not least, soup from Jerry Baxter (Got Soup?).

What’s your favorite book?  Middlemarch by George Eliot.

What is the most recent book you’ve read?  Watershed Down by Richard Adams. A friend brought it up at a holiday event last month. I hadn’t read it decades and, based on her comments, I wanted to re-read it as an adult. I was really impressed by how much it had to say to an adult about goals, teamwork, perseverance, and leadership.

How do you like to spend your free time?  Besides reading and cooking, I volunteer a great deal for not only Mercer Island organizations but also several regional and statewide ones, such as the Washington State Farmers Market Association.

Where are we likely to bump into you?  The farmers market in season and any of the Starbucks or Tully’s on the Island.

What is the best thing about living on MI?  My favorite thing about Mercer Island is the community. Everyone was very welcoming when I first moved here. I have continued to be amazed by how Islanders have been able to work together to preserve our institutions and quality of life.

What is your favorite local park?  Pioneer Park. Having served on the Open Space Conservancy Trust board for years, I have really learned to appreciate how beloved and heavily used it is by Islanders. We are lucky to have over 100 acres of forest preserved in the middle of our city.

What is the biggest challenge our community faces?  Definitely all of the issues around the growth of the region and the city. Whether it is transit, the tolling of I-90, parking, overcrowding in the schools, or the development of the Town Center, the core issue is growth and how we as a community and a region can work together to manage it well.

Light rail station on MI, for or against? I think that light rail will be a great resource to Islanders whether they are traveling west to downtown Seattle and the U-District, or east to Bellevue and Redmond. What concerns me is first and foremost how best to manage the station’s impact on the Island and, in particular, the town center and surrounding neighborhoods. Another concern is whether the project will have problems like so many other projects in the region, such as the pontoons on the 520 bridge or Bertha stuck in the tunnel in Seattle.

What are a few words you would use to describe your vision for the Town Center?  Walkable, vibrant, attractive, and scaled right.

Your upcoming political campaign for City Council, ready or not?  It will be my first
and I have a great deal to learn. So not really ready, but I will have to be soon.