Mercer Island 2020: A year in review

Reporter covered the pandemic, protests and more.

Reporter staff


Following a three-month city endeavor, the Mercer Island City Council unanimously voted to approve the 2021-2022 Biennial Budget at its Dec. 1 virtual meeting. Council members joined in a round of applause after the 7-0 result was tallied.

The budget features $147.4 million in expenditures and $153.2 million in revenues across all funds for two years, and reflects the council’s collective decisions since City Manager Jessi Bon announced on Oct. 1 that the city staff had finalized the preliminary biennial budget.


Mercer Island residents dug deep into their wallets and pocketbooks on Nov. 25 to fund QFC gift cards that will be distributed to the city’s Youth and Family Services (YFS) Food Pantry to support Islanders in need. Between the north and south QFCs, Island firefighters from local union 1762 collected a total of $11,197.

“People are giving quite a bit,” said firefighter Eric Gaines as he surveyed the scene at the south QFC. “It’s great, and I think this year, even though it’s a little weird and a little different, people are needing it more than ever.”


For the past few months, the city of Mercer Island stated in letters to the community that it was prepared to take legal action against Sound Transit, noting inconsistencies in the Seattle-based agency’s plans with the terms of the 2017 Settlement Agreement related to the Mercer Island Transit Interchange.

After Sound Transit submitted a Right-of-Way Use Permit Application on Oct. 23 that the city said violated the terms of the agreement, council held a special morning meeting three days later and voted to authorize City Manager Jessi Bon to file a lawsuit against Sound Transit, according to another online letter submitted that day to the community.

It was a unanimous decision, 7-0, at the Oct. 26 meeting to set the lawsuit in motion as the city sets its sights on enforcing the terms of the agreement.


It was heartbreaking to close Mercer Island playgrounds on March 21 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Ryan Daly, the city’s emergency operations section chief.

“We want parents to have the ability to get their kids outside. So when we found an opportunity to open things back up, we wanted to do so and in a safe manner as well,” Daly said.

The city’s parks maintenance staff began reopening the playgrounds on Sept. 24, and all 13 playgrounds in the Island’s 11 parks are now back in action, along with those in some neighboring cities.


Northwest Yeshiva High School Head of School Jason Feld said that benefactors Jack and Zeana Greenberg would be thrilled at how the school is using their endowment.

“The people that knew them best told me that they’re definitely smiling down on us from Heaven,” Feld said of the longtime Seattle residents who both passed away in recent years.

The board of the Mercer Island Jewish school recently announced a J-Z Greenberg one-time $5,000 Covid Relief Tuition Grants to all 43 NYHS students for the upcoming school year. Seattle Hebrew Academy is also a beneficiary of the foundation.


The Mercer Island City Council voted 6-0 at its July 21 meeting to have Mayor Benson Wong sign a pledge committing to police reform — specifically relating to use of force — in the city.

Councilmember Jake Jacobson abstained from voting.

The pledge, introduced by the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, calls for mayors and city councils of communities nationwide to review their police department’s use of force policies, collaborate with community members in the review, report review findings back to the community and then ultimately reform a city’s use of force policy.


The Mercer Island council officially endorsed Friday, June 19 as Juneteenth 2020 in the city at its virtual meeting on June 16.

One MI, an equity-focused network organization on the Island, had asked that the council endorse the day. Other city organizations to support Juneteenth 2020 include the Mercer Island Parent-Teacher Association, the Mercer Island School Board of Directors and the Mercer Island Community Fund.

Juneteenth, which is officially recognized in 47 states, commemorates the emancipation of remaining slaves in the Confederacy — specifically Texas — on June 19, 1865. Although slaves had technically been freed in 1862 via the Emancipation Proclamation, the small presence of Union troops in Texas weakened efforts to keep this effectively enforced.

Hundreds of Mercer Island community members met up on June 12 to protest the police killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans.

A march started at Islander Middle School at around noon and ended at Mercerdale Park at around 2:30 p.m., where a speaking event assisted by the Seattle Unity and Peace Team took place. The Island’s march, which was organized by a group of Mercer Island high schoolers, came about after Black Lives Matter Seattle King-County called for a statewide day of action June 12.

Students from Mercer Island High School’s International Entrepreneurship class were crucial to publicity and organizational efforts. Photo courtesy Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce

Students from Mercer Island High School’s International Entrepreneurship class were crucial to publicity and organizational efforts. Photo courtesy Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce

WeLoveMI, the recently formed COVID-19 relief campaign created by the Mercer Island community fund (MICF) and the city’s chamber of commerce, recently received two awards for its work on the island.

The Mercer Island High School (MIHS) PTSA selected the campaign for its Outstanding Community Partner of the Year award. The MIHS PTSA also selected the MIHS International Entrepreneurship class that helped lead the campaign for an Outstanding Program Award.

“We’ve been blown over by the talent, creativity, drive and passion of each and every student in the MIHS International Entrepreneurship class,” said Erin Krawiec in a recent press release from WeLoveMI. “It was great to see them putting everything they’ve learned as business students into action with this campaign.”


More details have been released regarding the homicide of a 61-year-old man with ties to Mercer Island.

Skyview resident James Perkins, 31, was charged with first-degree manslaughter after police found human remains in his Renton hotel room in the 1800 block of East Valley Road.

A tip reporting the disappearance of William Sheldon, 61, was made to Redmond police on April 26. Mercer Island police took the helm of the investigation after learning that Sheldon had been staying with a friend on the Island.


An international business with direct connections to Mercer Island has been pulled into the worldwide coronavirus pandemic fight.

Go into your closet and check the labels on your T-shirts — from concerts or sporting events or conventions — there’s a high probability that shirt was made by SanMar. The family business’ owner, Jeremy Lott, is an Islander.

Earlier this month, Lott was interviewed by Shauna Swerland, CEO of Fuel Talent, for her podcast, “What Fuels You” (


Kissing babies, signing proclamations, maybe even tough budget adjustments — it’s all expected when a person accepts the nomination to be mayor. But first-year Mayor Benson Wong never could have anticipated a worldwide pandemic landing on the shores of Mercer Island when he accepted the appointment to the city’s top position.

“Life has definitely changed,” Mayor Wong said in a March 26 telephone interview with the Reporter.

Wong took the helm on Jan. 7, 2020, when the world was watching China deal with a deadly illness, “coronavirus” we called it. It had a feeling akin to the Ebola outbreak in Africa — scary, heartbreaking, but distant. Soon — sooner than any average American had anticipated — that distance was shortened and the virus was in our proverbial backyard.


Mercer Island has named its new permanent city manager.

Jessi Bon, who has been serving as Mercer Island’s interim city manager for the last nine months, is now the permanent holder of the role as of the Feb. 18 city council meeting. Bon stepped into the role intermittently in June 2019 after having served as the city’s parks and recreation director since August 2018.

The motion appointing Bon to the position unanimously passed. Before the vote, all seven councilmembers commended Bon and expressed their gratitude.


The entire Mercer Island community is to be honored at the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) Foundation’s annual breakfast fundraiser event on Feb. 12.

The MIYFS Foundation’s 2020 Community Philanthropy Award will be given to the entire Island community for its support of the Mercer Island Thrift Shop. Suzanne Philen, Thrift Shop business coordinator, will accept the award on behalf of the community.

The award is given at the annual breakfast to an individual, business or organization on the Island to recognize a strong partnership with MIYFS.