Abel Pacheco Jr. will serve as a Seattle City Council member for the next seven months, the council decided Monday, appointing the University of Washington employee to fill a council seat vacated by Rob Johnson.
The director of strategic engagement for a STEM program at the UW, Pacheco will help decide the city’s next budget, weighing in on the resources Seattle should direct toward its housing and homelessness challenges.
The appointee also will lead the land-use committee Johnson chaired, taking up consideration of legislation to allow taller buildings along University Way Northeast and to ease regulations on the construction of backyard cottages and mother-in-law apartments.
After his appointment Monday, Pacheco said he would likely support upzoning the street known as The Ave, while seeking to alleviate concerns held by small-business owners there, and would advance the changes for accessory dwellings, having lived in such units himself.
The Martin Luther King County Labor Council backed his bid for the temporary post.
“Thank you all for the opportunity,” the 31-year-old Ravenna renter and carless proponent of alternative transportation modes told the council, choking up as he mentioned his mother. “Just like her, I hope to make you all proud.”
Johnson stepped down last month to take a job with NHL Seattle rather than complete his term. Pacheco will serve until Nov. 26, when the results of the Nov. 6 election are certified and the winning candidate in District 4 will take over.
The district includes Eastlake, Wallingford, the University District and Northeast Seattle.
Council President Bruce Harrell said the council wanted a “caretaker” rather than someone seeking election this year in District 4. Pacheco has been campaigning for the seat but said Monday he no longer intends to file for the primary ballot.
There were 11 qualified applicants for the temporary post. Pacheco was nominated by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda, who touted his work on racial equity in his job at the UW, his involvement on volunteer boards and his life as a person of color.
Through the Washington MESA program, Pacheco and his colleagues work with students of color as they pursue educations and careers in science and math. He’s spoken out about being wrongfully arrested, previously worked for the Seattle Police Foundation and grew up in Southern California.
Last week, he told the council he would prioritize food banks in budget talks. He said more regional coordination and hygiene services are needed to address street homelessness.
It took four rounds of voting for Pacheco to secure the majority he needed. Along with Mosqueda, Harrell and Councilmembers Sally Bagshaw, Debora Juarez and Lisa Herbold voted for Pacheco.
Pacheco ran for the District 4 seat in 2015 and failed to advance past the primary. He unsuccessfully sought a temporary council seat in 2017, after Tim Burgess stepped down to become interim mayor.
This year’s District 4 race is crowded, and the labor council in February endorsed Parkinson’s disease researcher Emily Myers over Pacheco and other candidates.