Newly sworn in, Metropolitan King County Councilmember Sarah Perry plans to move slowly, while focusing on boosting access to behavioral health services and protecting the environment.
Perry has no immediate legislative wish list, no specific policies or bills she’ll immediately push.
Rather, she wants to spend her early days in office learning the lay of the land and listening to others about what needs to be done.
“I’m not walking in with my white cape, I am going to walk in with big ears,” she said.
Perry, 57, defeated 20-year incumbent Councilmember Kathy Lambert in November to win the seat representing northeast King County. Council seats are nonpartisan, but the race had a distinctly partisan flair, with Perry eager to remind voters she’s a Democrat and Lambert’s a Republican, in a district that has shifted left in recent years.
The race was upended about a month before Election Day, after Lambert was roundly condemned, lost endorsements and was stripped of her committee chairmanships for a campaign mailer her colleagues called racist. Lambert ultimately apologized.
Perry will chair the Local Services and Land Use Committee, which oversees issues like zoning and permitting, county roads and bridges and unincorporated areas.
“I work together with people,” Perry said. “I’m going to listen to the people who have started doing the work, have done the work and I’m going to bring people together that are smarter than me in these areas.”
Perry, a political consultant who lives in Issaquah, has previously worked at nonprofits including Eastside Housing, and Seattle University.
On behavioral health, Perry offered an example of the county’s designated crisis responders, mental health professionals who often work in conjunction with law enforcement in assessing and responding to mental health emergencies.
The program has suffered with staffing issues.
“You’re in a crisis situation when you call that crisis hotline, so we need to do that better, does that mean more funding?” Perry asked. “Maybe.”
Maybe, she said, it needs better “synthesis,” better organization between the crisis responders and ambulances and law enforcement and health care facilities, so that everyone is working together and there are hospital beds available for people who need them.
“Do we need more funding for facilities or do we need more staffing?” she said. “Maybe there are some conversations we can have about all of that.”
As the county searches for a new sheriff, Perry says she wants someone with law enforcement experience, who will also be “deeply engaged in the community.”
On environmental issues, Perry said she wants to protect green spaces and work to support the state Growth Management Act and local zoning laws.
“We have an opportunity to look at what King County has done and is doing right now to see where it impacts which communities and where it doesn’t,” she said. “And we have an opportunity to shift it so that all residents benefit from what King County has to offer.”