Pam Stuart thought her time on Sammamish City Council was over when she did not run for reelection last November.
But only five months after her term expired, Stuart has returned to the council dais as part of a new majority, in the wake of former council member Ken Gamblin’s resignation earlier this year.
On May 10, the King County Council voted unanimously to appoint Stuart to fill Gamblin’s vacated seat after the city council deadlocked on her appointment for three months.
Stuart previously served on the council for four years, from Jan. 2018 to Dec. 2021. Her focus was mainly on sustainable development and environmental protection. She represented Sammamish on the Water Resource Inventory Area 8 (WRIA 8), where she helped raise and distribute funds to protect and restore watersheds for salmon recovery. In addition, she served on the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration, or K4C Initiative, to establish greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. She also served on the Growth Management Planning Council for King County, where she helped to develop countywide planning policies for affordable housing and transportation.
Stuart did not run for reelection in 2021 — a tough decision that she attributed to a lack of progress during her previous tenure. In 2021, following former council member Jason Ritchie’s resignation, Stuart faced a six-member anti-development majority alone.
“Those things that I found important, the rest of the council didn’t,” she said in an interview with the Sammamish Independent.
She did not think that sustainable growth candidates would be able to win a majority during the 2021 election. So Stuart decided to take her knowledge and resources elsewhere, where she felt she would be in a better position to make a difference.
However, the elections turned out much better than Stuart expected. Amy Lam, Kali Clark, and Karen Howe — all of whom believe in sustainable growth — won their races, prompting Stuart to regret her choice of sitting it out. She said she felt eager to work with the new council members.
So when Gamblin resigned in early January, Stuart saw the opportunity to apply for appointment to the vacant seat.
When the city council was unable to come to a decision on whom to appoint, and the matter was referred to King County Council, Stuart was not surprised. The two factions had three votes each, and majority control was on the line with her appointment.
Ultimately, Stuart believes her experience helped her stand out from other candidates. The chosen applicant would only have 17 months to serve out the remainder of Gamblin’s term, which ends in Dec. 2023. The onboarding process for a new, inexperienced council member would have taken many months.
“The fact that it [the county council vote] did come back unanimously — I was honored and humbled and pleased to see that,” Stuart said.
Stuart’s goal, first and foremost, is to push the city to be more proactive in addressing climate change.
“As my son has pointed out to me, it is not that we will destroy the planet — the planet will be fine,” Stuart said. “We [humans] are the only species ever to inhabit this Earth who are making choices to create our own extinction. We have to take action.”
Stuart also identifies diversity, inclusion, and equity as an issue she plans to tackle. She believes that we need to build a community that supports greater racial and socioeconomic diversity.