Just one of the three Vancouver City Council incumbents faces a challenger in November.
While Councilors Ty Stober and Bart Hansen will run unopposed, Sarah Fox will face challenger Leah Perkel for Seat 6.
Fox has served on the council since January 2020 and is seeking her second term. She works as a climate and ecosystem section manager for the Washington State Department of Commerce and holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Portland State University.
“Voters should support me because of the work that I have been doing on council to date,” Fox said in an interview with The Columbian’s Editorial Board. “In this first term, I really delivered on the things that I said that I would.”
Fox’s endorsements include Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver; environmental group Sierra Club; Laborers Union Local 335; and the Southwest Washington Central Labor Council, which represents 47 local unions.
Perkel brings a customer service background with some political experience. She was previously an elected Democratic Precinct Committee officer for Clark County’s 104th precinct and an elected state committee member for the 49th Legislative District.
Perkel graduated from Mountain View High School in Vancouver and works as a customer service representative for TigerStop, a machine manufacturer.
“The reason I’m running is because I want to be the voice for my community. … We don’t feel like we’re being heard,” Perkel told The Columbian’s Editorial Board.
Perkel’s endorsements include Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver; the National Women’s Political Caucus; Port of Vancouver Commissioner Don Orange; and political organization Our Revolution.
A top priority for both candidates is Vancouver’s housing crisis.
Perkel said she would like Vancouver to invest in more single-family homes and more tiny houses to fit the needs of both low-income and middle-class families. She said she supports Vancouver’s Safe Stay communities and, if elected, would push the city to address high property tax rates.
“I don’t know how much we can do with the taxes, but we could definitely be working with our local representatives to figure out a solution for that,” Perkel said.
Fox said the city council has been working hard to address the city’s housing crisis and acknowledged that the city has much work left to do. She said her main priorities for housing are building houses at all levels of affordability and creating more incentives for developers to create housing units.
Fox said she wants to expand the multifamily tax exemption to apply to more housing, such as duplexes or units that can be owned instead of rented. She said she is proud of the work that council has done on housing, such as passing the affordable housing tax levy earlier this year.
“We’re doing everything we can, and I’m really proud of our city,” Fox said. “We were one of the few cities in the state that had the affordable housing tax program levy the first time that passed.”
Both Fox and Perkel are supportive of the city’s Climate Action Framework, which the council approved last year.
Fox pointed out that Vancouver’s climate goals are more aggressive than those of most cities — something she is proud of.
“I don’t think it’s extreme, and it is a good thing to put out into the world that you have high goals,” Fox said.
Fox highlighted the city’s efforts to create a green building code and to apply for state or federal funding to alleviate the city’s financial burden.
Perkel said she supports the framework and is most interested in the city investing in alternative energy sources, such as solar panels and wind turbines.
“I am really excited about the climate action plan,” Perkel said. “I just feel like from what I’ve learned, there are obstacles and barriers in the way that are preventing us from doing it now.”
Perkel said she supports Vancouver Police Chief Jeff Mori and his recent hiring of two women as assistant police chiefs. She stated her support for the police department’s body camera program and said she would like to see police officers be more accessible to the community.
“I would like to see our police officers actually go more out into the community and interact with them,” Perkel said.
Fox said she is proud of her work to create the body camera program and wants the police department to hire more women and people of color.
Fox said she is supportive of creating a Southwest Washington training facility for police officers and other emergency personnel, citing the current lag for Vancouver recruits.
“We’ve also invested in a company that is basically going out and has a whole campaign about recruiting more women and people of color for the police force,” Fox said. “Our police officers on the street should better reflect our community.”