It was a night full of hugs, smiles and optimism at the swearing-in ceremonies and reception for new Kent Mayor Dana Ralph and new City Council members Satwinder Kaur and Toni Troutner.
Ralph, who served six years on the council, is the first new mayor in 12 years as Suzette Cooke decided last year not to seek a fourth term.
“I’m still getting use to that ‘Mayor Ralph,’ ” Ralph said during a Tuesday night reception at City Hall prior to taking her oath of office. “I could not be more honored, humbled and grateful to have the faith our residents put in me to help lead this city.
“This city has so much potential. You look around the city and we are destined for really great things here. I know that all of us together are going to move us in that direction.”
Voters elected Ralph in November over Councilman Jim Berrios, whose term expired in December. Voters elected Kaur and Troutner to their first terms and re-elected Councilwoman Brenda Fincher. The council appointed Dennis Higgins on Tuesday to fill Ralph’s vacant seat for the next two years. Higgins served eight years on the council but didn’t seek re-election last year.
“I’m really honored and humbled to be able to serve on the City Council,” said Kaur, who defeated Paul Addis in the fall and replaces Berrios. “It’s a great opportunity. I’m really happy to be here and I look forward to working with each of you.”
Troutner defeated Tye Whitfield in November.
“I’m going to continue to be out in the community meeting with our residents, listening to all of you and hearing about your concerns,” said Troutner, who takes Higgins’ prior position. “But most importantly I think we need to continue to tell the story about what a great place Kent is to live. I am going to be anxious to hear from all of you what things are happening that you are really excited about so we can continue to tell the story about why we love Kent so much.”
Former Mayor Jim White, who led the city from 1994 through 2005, returned from Arizona with his wife Edna to watch Ralph take her oath of office.
“Most of you know it’s Mayor White’s fault that I’m standing here,” said Ralph, who served on the city’s Land Use and Planning Board prior to running for council. “He started me on this journey with Land Use and Planning many years ago, has been a consistent guiding voice to me and promised me he will keep answering his phone.”
White later shared advice for the new council members and mayor during the council meeting’s public comment period.
“Serving on the council will be one of the most exhilarating things you do and also one of the most frustrating things you do,” said White, who helped bring the Kent Station shopping center to town. “People will not always agree with your decisions.”
White first served on the council 34 years ago. Voters elected him as mayor 10 years later.
“A lot of good times, a lot of tough times,” White said. “But I’ve always urged council members to do what you feel is in the best long-term interest of the city. Does that mean you are going to agree all of the time? No. Debate, discussion is healthy and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But you keep at it, you keep working to better the community and provide better service to the community.”
Ralph plans to make that happen.
“My door is open,” Ralph said. “That is one thing that I talked about with Mayor Cooke – she made this place accessible to the community and I will carry that on because it is so important that we all have a voice in what we are doing.”