Sammamish City Council is not known for its diversity, but the 2021 council elections may change that. If elected, Kali Clark would be the first openly LGBT elected official in city history.
According to Clark, representation has many meanings, especially in a city whose council has been over-represented by white men. Clark believes the council does not reflect Sammamish’s demographics.
That lack of diversity makes it “really hard to get, you know, really varying backgrounds and diverse perspectives on things that are going on in the community,” Clark said.
For that reason, Clark, 36, supports youth representation and engagement in local government. She aims to make youth feel more welcomed to make public comments, attend council meetings and participate in forums.
“I want people to feel like they are welcomed, that they have a voice,” Clark said.
Clark initially made an unsuccessful bid for the King County Conservation District Board of Supervisors in March. After that race, she said “quite a few people” encouraged her to run for city council.
Forest management, emergency preparedness and sustainable development are key priorities for Clark.
“We’re so lucky to have all the green spaces and trees that we do, so I want to keep it healthy and keep it safe,” Clark said.
Clark intends to establish a viable living forest to protect essential green belts and parks near watersheds, in accordance with state and federal forestry practices.
She recognizes that there is a fine balance between environmentalism and development, and supports taking advantage of already cut land for growth and development, thus satisfying industry-accepted sustainability standards.
Clark would like to aggressively expand housing, with the goal of reaching the 50-to-60% threshold of affordable housing within the next four years through high-density or multi-use housing.
An advocate of transit, Clark wants to expand transportation infrastructure to combat the paucity of quick and affordable transit options in Sammamish. Clark, who currently works for Sound Transit, views the current Sound Transit shuttle as a “temporary fix.” She wants to establish public transportation from Sammamish to the Redmond light rail station via Community Transit or King County Metro.
Clark also identifies earthquakes, pandemics, cyber attacks and climate change, including more intense fire seasons, as Sammamish’s most pressing disaster risks to prepare for. She intends to work with Eastside Fire and Rescue, and involve the community in more emergency preparedness exercises for such events.
“What I’ve seen in my decade of public service is there is nothing that you can rely on except, you know, truth and transparency,” she said.
Clark notes that the lack of these qualities dogs the current council, which has come under scrutiny for name calling and infighting. However, Clark said she is hopeful for change with the four council seats up for election and wants to find common ground in the community.
Clark was born and raised in Spokane and earned her master’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Washington in 2015. For eight years, her work as a wildland firefighter and regional manager at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources moved her all over the state.
In 2019, she settled in Sammamish to live with her fiancée before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency in May 2020 to assist with COVID-19 response. In January, Clark started working for Sound Transit on emergency preparedness and prevention.
Kali Clark is running for Sammamish City Council, Position 5, against Richard Benack. Mr. Benack declined to be interviewed for a profile.