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Four vie for open Council seat
In sharp contrast to a year ago, just four Islanders have applied for the open seat on the Mercer Island City Council.
Last year there were 17.
Islanders Bob Bersos, Steve Marshall, Tana Senn and Benson Wong have applied to fill Pos. 4 on the City Council, vacated by Jim Pearman, who resigned to take a position with FEMA.
All four have sought to serve on the Council before. Bersos ran for election and applied for it last year. Marshall also applied last year, as did Senn. Wong ran for office several years ago.
Despite their small number, the four are as diverse as the Island itself, representing a wide range of skills, education and experience.
The City Council will select the candidate to fill the vacant position on Thursday, Jan. 26, at a special Council meeting held at 7 p.m.
Bob Bersos, 56, is an Island native and retired firefighter, city volunteer, emergency preparedness expert and school bus driver.
He grew up on the South end and graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1973. He and his wife, Dorian Goucher, have three children who are also MIHS graduates. Bersos earned a degree in media technology from Bellevue Community College and a degree in management from Olympic College in 1984. In 1993 he earned a Bachelor of Science in public administration from Seattle University.
Bersos has long been involved in public safety on the Island. He has put in more than 30 years as a volunteer firefighter here and in other communities. He has been involved in the Mercer Island emergency preparedness planning efforts and said he has attended nearly every City Council meeting for five years.
Bersos’ top priority for the city in the coming year is to continue working on disaster preparedness. Figuring out how to deal with changes to transportation, Metro bus service on the Island and parking are other concerns.
“We need to continue to ask, what else can be done?” he said. “What haven’t we thought of?”
Bersos said he could immediately contribute to the Council because he knows the Island’s history and its people well.
Steven Marshall, 63, has lived on Mercer Island since 1976. He and his wife have raised three daughters here.
He is an attorney in private practice working as a consultant on energy and infrastructure issues.
Marshall said his top priority for the coming year is dealing with regional transportation and its impacts on the Island, most specifically with tolling.
He holds a JD degree from Harvard University. He worked for many years at the Perkins Coie law firm, where he was chief counsel for Puget Sound Energy on corporate governance, regulatory and contract matters including rate cases.
He is a senior fellow and coordinator on these issues for the Cascadia Project. He has been a member of the King County Regional Transportation Task Force since 2009. He has been on the City of Mercer Island Planning Commission since 2007. He has also worked on committees for the Washington State Bar Association and has authored white papers, testimony, chapters on topics such as electric vehicles, the Washington state public records and open public meetings laws. He has been part of several regional organizations including the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce Board and the Municipal League of King County.
Tana Senn, 40, and her family have lived on Mercer Island since 2005. She and her husband have two sons. Senn holds a degree in education from Washington University and a master’s of Public Policy and Administration from Columbia University. She worked for more than 10 years in Jewish nonprofit organizations, including Hadassah and the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. She has also been a communications and marketing consultant for nonprofits and other entities that include the Seattle Foundation, Sealaska and the City of Redmond.
She was the co-campaign manager for Debbie Bertlin’s successful campaign for City Council last fall. She is the president-elect for Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Board, active in the PTA and other volunteer activities at Island Park Elementary School. She is a Cub Scout leader.
Her priority as a Councilmember of the coming year is the budget. She states, “We need to monitor the implications of (last year’s) service cuts and revenue increases, being mindful to maintain our community’s core values and strengths, including the financial security of all residents.”
She also points to tolling on 520 as a major issue as light rail plans progress. “We must be proactive in protecting Mercer Island interests by anticipating imposed 1-90 tolls and have contingencies in place.”
Benson Wong, 59, is an attorney and partner at Keller Rohrback, LLP in Seattle. He and his wife have lived on the Island for 27 years and have two children who attended and graduated from Island Schools.
Wong holds a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a degree in political science from Yale. He works in his law firm’s corporate finance and business practice group. His resume states that he advises firms “ranging in size from ‘mom and pop’ organizations to firms that employ hundreds of employees.” His firm also represents clients in mergers and acquisitions and in real estate transactions.
Wong said his first priority as a Councilmember would be to enable and promote local businesses on the Island. Next is protect and maintain parks and open space. Finally, Wong notes that the city must take a major role in assisting the school district in rebuilding Island schools.
Wong has been active in the King County Bar Association; is a 14-year member of the Washington State Public Stadium Authority that owns Century Link Field and Exhibition Hall; The Washington Public Affairs Television Network and the King County Charter Review Commission. He has been a member and chair of the Mercer Island Community Fund Board since 2006, and a member of the Mercer Island Schools Foundation Board. He is Counsel of Record for the Kin On Health Care and Community Care Network of Seattle’s International District, where he was once president of its board.
Wong believes his many years of mediation and negotiation experience would be immediately useful to the Council and the work ahead.
To view all of the applications, go to www.mercergov.org.