Dennis Higgins will not run again for the Kent City Council but Bill Boyce, Les Thomas and Marli Larimer plan to retain their seats.
Candidates are starting to line up to replace Higgins, including Hira Bhullar and Awale Farah, who each recently announced they are running. Candidates must file between May 13-17 with King County Elections. The primary election is Aug. 6 if there are more than two candidates in a race. The general election is Nov. 5.
“It is important for elected officials to remember: we’re allowed to sit in these seats for a period of time but the seats don’t belong to us,” Higgins said in a Wednesday email. “While I hope to serve again someday, now is a good time for me to step aside. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.”
Voters first elected Higgins in 2009 when he defeated now-Mayor Dana Ralph for an open seat. Higgins ran unopposed in 2013 and decided in 2017 not to seek re-election. But when Ralph won the mayoral race over Jim Berrios in 2017, the council appointed Higgins to finish out Ralph’s term on the council.
“When we filled the council vacancy (for Tina Budell) last year, I was genuinely impressed with the number of talented people from a wide range of backgrounds willing to serve their community,” Higgins said. “I’m excited to see what new energy and ideas they might be able to bring to our diverse city.”
Higgins served as council president in 2012 and 2013.
“Kent is my home and my family’s home and I’m proud of it, but we can only improve if more people get involved,” said Higgins, who works for King County as a Geographic Information System (GIS) client services manager. “There’s plenty to do and I’ll see you on the volunteer trail.”
Farah, Bhullar enter race
Farah said in his news release that he has already received an endorsement from Higgins.
“Our neighbors struggle with everyday issues like finding good jobs, getting around town, and paying to keep a roof over their heads,” Farah said. “I will fight for increased access to public transit, for affordable housing in every corner of our city and more well-paid jobs for our families. Being an engineer and with the leadership positions I have held, I have the skills to bring people together towards common goals and a problem-solving mindset.”
Farah volunteers at the Living Well Kent greenhouse and the Kent Farmer’s Market. He has a degree in computer science from City University of Seattle and is in full-time pursuit of a master’s degree in innovative leadership from California-based Saybrook University. He lives on the East Hill with his wife, Shamso, and four children.
Bhullar, who lost to Budell in a 2015 council race, has lived in Kent for more than 10 years. He is a senior software developer at Starbucks in Seattle. He serves as a board member for Kent Youth & Family Services, Kent YMCA, Kent Schools Foundation, Kent’s Sunrise Rotary Club and Khalsa Gurmat School in Federal Way. He lives on the East Hill with his wife and two children.
“My priority as council member will be to support programs and policies that build strong communities and create opportunities for every child, family and resident of our city,” Bhullar said in a news release. “I will help Kent thrive by making our diversity a strength, find creative ways to generate revenue for city, creating good jobs that support families, improving transportation, making every neighborhood safe and increasing access to local government.”
Incumbents to run
Boyce, first elected in 2011 over incumbent Debbie Raplee, has served as council president since 2016. He ran unopposed in 2015. He served 16 years on the Kent School Board before deciding to run for city council.
“Serving this community has been the honor of a lifetime,” Boyce said in a news release. “I believe we have moved the city forward on a lot of issues but I believe there is still a lot of work to be done. I want to stay on the council so we can continue to add more police officers to our neighborhoods, add more businesses and jobs to our community and ensure we keep the city on a path of financial stability while keeping taxes low.”
Larimer was appointed by the council last year to replace Budell, who moved to Chicago for a new job. Larimer works as a Starbucks digital product manager in Seattle.
Thomas said during a phone interview that he will seek re-election. Thomas, who is retired, is in his 16th year on council. He is fighting diabetes and missed about four months of council meetings last year before returning in September. He has had part of his left leg amputated and uses a wheelchair. Thomas easily defeated write-in candidate Gwen Allen in 2015.
The terms of council members Toni Troutner, Satwinder Kaur and Brenda Fincher end in 2021. All were elected to four-year terms in 2017. Mayor Ralph is in the second year of a four-year term. The council jobs are part-time while the mayor is a full-time position.