Bernadette Pajer discussed concerns about the safety of vaccines.
Bernadette Pajer discussed concerns about the safety of vaccines.

Residents in the southern portion of Washington’s 39th District had a chance to sit down with newly appointed Rep. Carolyn Eslick at her first “Coffee with your Representative” event in Monroe.

Nearly a dozen people from the city and surrounding communities came out to Tuscano’s Italian Kitchen last Tuesday to share information about themselves and what they want their new advocate in Olympia to know. Talks largely focused on highway safety and improvements. To start things off, Sultan’s former mayor explained her schedule for the next few months.

This year is anticipated to be a short legislative session, said Eslick, who resigned from her 10-year position as Sultan mayor at the end of October. She now represents all of the 39th Legislative District, which is comprised of parts of Skagit, King and Snohomish counties, having taken the seat from John Koster in August. The Arlington resident now fills the role of executive director of the Washington State County Road Administration Board.

Eslick will stay in Olympia Monday through Friday while the Legislature is in session. On the weekends she will be at her Sky Valley home with her husband, Chuck; the couple will rent part of a house near the state capitol during the week.

Eslick has been campaigning to keep the seat in the 2018 election, when the term Koster was voted into ends. He had resumed a position in the Washington House of Representatives in January after a 12-year stint on the Snohomish County Council.

Eslick will have to pause her efforts on Dec. 8 and until the session concludes. She announced during her farewell ceremony at Sultan City Hall that former city councilmember Kristina Blair will lead the campaign. 

Eslick had said it took her about 17 years to get to the House of Representatives. She first ran for the seat in 2001, but the job went to Rep. Dan Kristiansen of Snohomish.

Following Eslick’s introduction, everyone had a few minutes to talk. First was Lynn Bloss of Monroe, who came to say that as a Democrat she is not concerned the Republican representative will fail to advocate for her demographic — she wanted to hear Eslick say so anyway.

Eslick said that is one reason why she believes she was chosen for the job. To take the appointment, she had to secure enough support from the Snohomish County Council and the Skagit County Board of Commissioners and the King County Council when members — who stand on both sides of the aisle — voted in September between three candidates; they saw she was reasonable and could get things done, she said.

Sultan City Administrator Ken Walker interjected to say he is a Democrat who has experience at most levels of government. He considers Eslick the best elected official he has worked for; she appointed him to the position about five years ago. He said he supports her and trusts her completely.

Neighbors Laurie Langley, Peg Ferm and Sharon Damkaer came to push for improvements to the intersection of State Route 203 and High Rock Road, near where 79-year-old Robert Allender died and several people were injured in a Nov. 5 multiple vehicle collision, about two miles south of Monroe heading toward Duvall.

The Washington State Patrol reports Robert Allender was driving a 1981 Toyota pickup southbound on SR 203, a few miles outside of Monroe, when he slowed to make a left turn into a private driveway. A 2001 Dodge Ram driven by a 48-year-old Ferndale man struck Allender’s vehicle, according to WSP, pushing his truck into the northbound lane of SR 203 where a 2008 Honda Fit struck him head-on.

Langley said she worries every time she knows her young daughter, who has had some near misses herself in the spot, comes home that way. Ferm said she has lived in the area for decades; she’s been passed on the right side by a high-speed hay truck that nearly took out her mirrors while trying to avoid a car that had pulled up to turn out of the intersection. 

She said she has been watching Eslick’s career from afar and believes she is a “good person and a good person to have as a representative,” and hopes by bringing the topic forward now it will become a point of interest for her.

Damkaer said she has Washington State Department of Transportation data that shows 46 accidents have occurred at the intersection in the past 15 years. She handed it off as part of a large packet of information for Eslick. All three women asked that she support funds for a roundabout to increase safety.

Startup resident Jeff Estes said he was also there to push for improvements to U.S. Highway 2, another nearby heavily traveled roadway. He specifically pointed to the high volume of traffic burdening the lanes. He wanted more conversation started on building infrastructure to meet the demand.

Eslick said she and Sultan’s current mayor and long-time vice chairman of the U.S. 2 Traffic Safety Coalition John Seehuus recently lobbied for the much-discussed idea of a bypass while in Olympia. She said she even discussed the topic with Gov. Jay Inslee during his visit to Monroe this summer.

Right now, WSDOT has purchased a significant amount of property that the new route would sit on, Eslick said. What is needed is funding for a plan. She said she likely won’t see the project fulfilled, but if it isn’t started now it may never be.

Eslick also fielded questions on the issues she will be directly involved with in Olympia. She’s spent the past few weeks getting caught up on her new duties and has been assigned to the House Capital Budget Early Learning and Human Services committees — it will take her a little more time to report back exactly what work on those groups will entail, she said.

“I’m excited to tackle these meaningful committee assignments. Some of our state’s most pressing public policy issues fall under these two committees,” said Eslick in a recent Washington State House Republicans news release. “There is a great deal of work ahead as we go into the 2018 session. With only a few more weeks before we begin, I’m not wasting any time.”