Mercer Island City Council candidates competing for position 7 are Debbie Bertlin, Robin Russell and Jake Jacobson. Bertlin is the current mayor of Mercer Island, as well as the incumbent office holder for position 7.
Biographies of each candidate:
Debbie Bertlin: I am part of a multi-generational Island family. I grew up on Mercer Island and am now raising my family here. I completed undergraduate and graduate degrees at Stanford University. My career spans four continents with Oracle and Microsoft, focusing on strategy and business development.
My service to Islanders includes as former chair of the Open Space Conservancy, board member of MIPA, EDS and member of the PTA. I have served on the city council for 7 years including as liaison to the parks, planning and utility boards.
Robin Russell: I moved from Seattle to Mercer Island to be closer to my father-Richard Russell who happily lives in Aljoya. Am retired from a 35-year career in banking; senior officer in trust and investment management. My number-one goal in my career was to exceed my clients’ expectations. I earned their trust, and my fiduciary duty was my guiding principal. Along with a successful career I have volunteered for many organizations that focus on our youth, health, environment, education and financial planning. As president of the Estate Planning Council of Seattle I helped guide the organization to a new level of outreach and organizational focus. As a two-term board member of Western Washington University Foundation I worked with the university president to help expand educational opportunities for students. The Children’s Hospital advisory board was a wonderful organization to be involved with, especially because many of my 11 nieces and nephews have gone there.
Jake Jacobson: I have lived on Mercer Island for the past 30 years and have benefited from its first rate schools, incomparable parks, trail system and beaches and from countless fantastic neighbors. I now have the time, passion and skills to help support the community on contractual, civic and fiscal matters which will shape the Island for generations to come. I am not accepting campaign contributions.
I am a graduate of Princeton University (AB politics 1965) and Stanford Law School (JD 1977). I served in Vietnam as a Navy officer and commanded a Navy ship. I practiced law in private law firms for 18 years specializing in government contracts, construction and public procurement. As a lawyer, I received Martindale Hubbell’s highest (AV) rating.
For the past 24 years I have been executive vice president of Osborne Construction Company dealing with risk management, government relations and negotiating complex construction and development contracts. I can negotiate a garbage contract.
I have extensive experience with government agencies including Washington Departments of Transportation and Ecology, King County, Sound Transit and several federal agencies.
My volunteer service includes presidency of the Associated General Contractors of Washington (2017), Mercer Island Road Diet CAG, Mercer Island Schools Committee for the 2014/2017 levies, the First Tee of South Puget Sound, fundraising for MIYFS and MISF and Stanford University fundraising and boards of visitors assignments.
How do you plan to better involve residents in the decision making process within the city?
Bertlin: Islanders live busy lives. We are diverse in our interests, passionate about our community, and have expectations that government actively engage. With critical decisions ahead, councilmembers have a twofold responsibility: as individuals to effectively connect with Islanders, and to ensure the city engages earlier, more frequently, with factual information.
I advocate for:Adopting more and better digital tools to facilitate dialogue between residents, staff and council. Additionally, the city’s website must be updated as it is currently too hard to navigate and search.
Conducting more nuanced research on Islanders’ opinions using methodologies that capture broader audiences and provide a more detailed picture of expectations.
Providing objective, robust and timely information about council, planning, design and parks commission agendas and initiatives, via digital, person-to-person and print mediums.
As your councilmember, I am committed to:Taking pen in hand when there are big issues before us, just as I did regarding ST negotiations.
Continuing to meet people where they are – on the sidelines of the soccer field, at band performances, and at the Farmers Market where the real conversations take place.
I am personally committed to listening to all voices and perspectives and ensuring that the city continues to mature its culture and tools to better engage with Islanders.
Russell: I value truth, trust and transparency. Our community must be informed and, more importantly, have a two-way dialogue with our community leaders. The council should limit executive sessions. Senior staff should set up community meetings to discuss important topics such as the bus intercept, CFZ, comp plan amendments, etc. Most importantly the city council and city manager must dramatically improve the notification process. The garbage contract, bus intercept, Crown Castle, CFZ are examples of minimal and seemingly zero notification. A group of citizens notified affected residents (by letter) of the Verizon mini-towers installation plans. The city needs to go back to timely letter notification, citizens should not take on the city’s responsibilities. There are too many surprises and residents often have little or no time to get involved. I am committed to representing all Islanders, respecting all voices and restoring trust in our city council.
Jacobson: Significant Issues are: spot zoning which degrades our neighborhoods, the “optimal bus turnaround” which will clog the north end, Island safety and unsustainable spending by the city. If elected to the city council, I will meet with fellow residents on request and whenever possible. I will hold monthly “office hours” in order to actively solicit the opinions and concerns of my fellow Islanders.