Newcomer Tanya Lavoy is seeking the Position 5 seat on the Snoqualmie City Council. She will be challenged by four-year incumbent, Matt Laase.
With the election scheduled Nov. 2, The Valley Record sat down with Lavoy to ask her about her priorities if elected. The following conversation has been edited for brevity.
Can you tell me about your background?
I am originally from the Chicago area, but I’ve been in the Seattle area for over a decade and moved to Snoqualmie with my husband in 2015. I got really active in 2016 with volunteering and community organizing in the campaign space and really gave me the opportunity to get out and knock on doors with my neighbors and really start to listen to what people’s problems were. That got the gears rolling for me. I actually have been working for the state legislature as a legislative assistant since 2018, and I’ve got to see state level policy.
What I’ve really seen is that the state can give cities a lot of tools to address issues like affordable housing, but then it’s really up to those cities to deal with them and be able to address it. I’ve been looking at what our city has been doing and decided it was finally time for me to step up and run and try to put some of that knowledge and those kinds of community conversations to use.
I’ve already been endorsed by state Reps. Lisa Callan and Bill Ramos, current Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson and Councilmember Jim Mayhew. I’ve also been endorsed by the National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington which is a nonpartisan organization.
And my educational background: I have my undergraduate degree in international relations from Michigan State. I’m working on my master’s in public administration at Evergreen State College.
All of that tied together has kind of led me to this point and I think I’ve got the policy experience, the relationship building and the self-awareness that I don’t know everything.
If elected, what would your top priorities be?
Obviously, one is going to be a recovery from COVID, specifically for our local small businesses. We’re still not where we were before then, and I know this has been a tough year-plus for a lot of different folks in our community. We need to be doing what we can to make sure that our businesses are able to not just survive, but thrive. Obviously tourism has understandably taken a hit these past few years and that is definitely an issue for Snoqualmie.
I think another priority is working really with our regional partners to be able to address housing affordability because we’re not going to be able to do that on our own as one city. We have to work with our neighbors, like North Bend and the county and regional organizations, to really make that a team effort.
Another priority is, I think, it’s pastime that we really expand our local community center and finally add a swimming pool. I know that took a back seat because of COVID, but that is a priority for a lot of families here in Snoqualmie. People who may already be taking their kids drive into other cities for swim lessons and, you’d much rather be spending that time with, with your kids and not on the road. Related to that is our repairing our road and sidewalks. The Snoqualmie Parkway in particular has been a hot topic for folks.
I also think that it’s really important to provide multiple modes of engagement and notices for meetings, so that you’re not just relying on the city’s website or your Facebook page, you’re meeting people where they are. When we have city town halls we need to make sure that we’re rotating days of the week and times, and also make it child-friendly, especially for working parents and people work all sorts of schedules. That way we are really hearing from a broad section of the community. I think there’s been examples where the council has done this well and examples where they haven’t.
And the last thing would be, as we look at future development, is to make sure that we’re really embracing smart growth principles and preserving as much of our open spaces as possible.
What skills or strengths do you have that will make you an effective councilmember?
I see myself as a collaborative problem solver. I’m always going to ask questions and incorporate others’ ideas. I’m not a go-in-alone type of person and I think that’s what we really need especially in this kind of non-partisan council environment. That’s really what my career has been about, is working with others who are from all parts of different backgrounds and bringing them together. I’m used to working with people that are going through really stressful times, especially in this past year. I think the fact that I have experience with multiple levels of government and can bring that lens to council, will help us so that we’re not having tunnel vision.
I’m also a little bit of a policy nerd and I will do research on topics and ask questions of city staff. I know I’ll do my homework before a council meeting when we’re going to have to vote on something so that I am not walking in blind to a vote.
When you have a new development or a project that comes to the city, how do you decide if it’s worth implementing?
Part of that is looking at how well it fits with our city. I know that previously we had had a developer that was looking for all senior communities and the way that they were going about that didn’t really quite fit with the rest of the city. Part of that is smart growth, so there’s emphasis on walkability and mixed use areas so we have an interesting retail space, but also folks can walk to be able to get a cup of coffee. Then there’s really a diversity in housing types that are going to allow people at various budget levels to be able to buy a home.
Some of our original development has done that pretty well. We have these cottages and townhouses and we also have some habitat homes and there’s all sorts of different sizes and options for people not just people that are in different budget levels, but also different stages of their life. I want to work with developers that understand that. Part of this is that we’re part of county planning goals, and we’re eventually going to have to do our part to grow a little bit, and we have to make sure we’re planning in a way that meets our goals.
Why do you want to be on the city council?
I have watched decisions made by our current counsel and how they’ve tackled some of the challenges and I know that I could do just as good of a job or better. I think that I’m capable of making decisions that will help Snoqualmie be an inclusive place moving forward and I’m really excited about building our future. I’m someone who may be a little bit earlier in my career but I’m planning to live here for the next few decades, so I’m really committed to making Snoqualmie the best community that it can be. I know we’ve already been named as one of the safer cities and best cities to live in, and I think we can continue with that and do even better.
I think part of that is making sure that we have a diverse council. When I looked at the council, I didn’t really see anybody quite like me there. I really felt that I could bring a unique perspective and maybe ask some questions that other people weren’t asking and make sure that we’re really engaging our community in the best way that we can.
If we’re making an important decision and there’s nobody for public comments, or only a couple of people for a public comment, have we really done the work? That’s kind of where I come from, is trying to really involve the community as much as possible and really find out what is on their minds. I think that helps to ground my decision making and brings a unique perspective to the council.