Timothy Ballew II was appointed as the new member of the Whatcom County Council on Jan. 16, filling a spot recently left absent due to district realignment. Ballew previously served as Tribal Chairman for Lummi Nation for five years.
Ballew will fill the role until the November election results have been certified.
Ballew said he believes his experience will help him excel as a councilmember.
“I think the biggest thing that I have learned and taken away from my experience is that, in public office, it is less about the personal agendas that someone brings to the table, but to take on the issues of the day that are on the table when we arrive,” Ballew said. “I learned that very quickly and I think that is very important for public servants to take that to heart.”
Seven nominees, including Ballew, were given time to speak at the council meeting. Some of the topics discussed among almost all the candidates were water protection and distribution, incarceration, prison expansion and homelessness.
After all of the candidates spoke, the councilmembers wrote down one or two nominees they believed best fit the open Council position. The Council’s clerk tallied up the votes and Ballew was the majority vote with four councilmembers listing his name first.
Councilmember Tyler Byrd was the only one who voted against Ballew. Once the discussions surrounding the new councilmember were finished, the council called for the public to speak. Twelve of these 14 individuals spoke about the homelessness crisis in Bellingham and the surrounding communities in the county.
Several members from HomesNOW!, an organization that strives to build tiny homes for people experiencing homelessness, spoke to the councilmembers.
Several homeless individuals, some of whom have been recipients of the organization’s services, spoke at the meeting as well.
“I think most of you feel the same way, but homelessness is not OK,” said volunteer Paula Smith. “Too many of us don’t say anything. We don’t step forward and say, ‘This is not OK.’”
Other community members voiced their concerns about homelessness as well. Several suggested using abandoned buildings or vacant motels to house people experiencing homelessness.
Social worker Amy Glasser, who previously ran for a position on the county council last fall, spoke out about the homeless crisis as well.
“It is the Council’s job to take care of the people that will die this winter,” said Glasser. “It is your job to take care of the people who can’t take care of themselves.”
The next County Council Meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 30 in the Council Chambers.