The Bellingham mayor’s race offers a choice between a seasoned elected official and a political newcomer with experience in the corporate and nonprofit sectors.
As the outsider, Kim Lund hopes voters see that distinction working in her favor.
“This election is an opportunity to think critically about if we have the person in the office right now, that has the skills to make the change that we need in the community,” Lund said. “Obviously, I’m in this race because I think I’m that candidate.”
Trained as a chemical engineer, Lund, 49, started her career at Intel, where she was a team leader at a plant that manufactured Pentium processors.
Her time at Intel taught her “a bias toward action, taking pragmatic steps forward and having data-informed approaches,” Lund said.
The tech industry calls it “failing forward quickly,” as Lund put it — unafraid to make mistakes but willing to adjust quickly in order to find the best solution.
Lund has another expression for the leadership she would bring if elected mayor on Nov. 7.
“I think we need inspired and courageous leadership in this moment,” she said. “That’s what I want to be for Bellingham.”
Like incumbent Seth Fleetwood, Lund was born and raised in Bellingham, and graduated from Sehome High School. She’s married to Gil Lund and they have two children, ages 22 and 17.
In addition to her work in tech, Lund’s resume includes a stint on the Communitywise Bellingham board of directors, where she helped guide that organization’s opposition of a proposed coal terminal at Cherry Point. She currently is a board member for Whatcom Million Trees Project and Brigid Collins Family Support Center. She also served as executive director of the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation for eight years, leaving that post in late 2022 to focus on the mayoral campaign.
Lund’s background contrasts with that of Fleetwood, an attorney who served for 12 years on county and city councils before becoming Bellingham’s mayor in 2020.
Some say Fleetwood’s experience in elected office is an advantage.
“I’ve come to learn that there are a lot of special considerations and information that goes with knowing how to be effective in local government,” said Bellingham City Council member Michael Lilliquist, who endorsed Fleetwood.
“I really value the years of experience that Seth brings to the table,” Lilliquist added. “It takes a lot longer for people to come up to speed than people realize.”
But Lund has garnered her own endorsements from elected officials, including a former mayor.
Lund and Fleetwood both are good listeners, said Dan Pike, who was Bellingham’s mayor from 2008 to 2011.
“But I think Kim is a little bit better at making a plan,” Pike said.
A mayor needs to be able to make a decision on incomplete data, Pike said, and he as well as others who support Lund believe the challenger is better equipped to do that.
“When a decisive decision is not made, and when things are allowed to prolong, they get worse,” said city council member Lisa Anderson, who endorsed Lund. “We’ve had multiple situations where I felt, had a decision been made earlier, it would not have festered to the point of having it be a much bigger issue.”
As an example, Anderson cited recent efforts to restrict recreational vehicle parking and establish a safe parking area for homeless people who live in their vehicles. The city has not been able to find an outside agency willing to run the program.
Anderson believes Lund would make more timely decisions on quality-of-life issues like this one.
“We’ve just had too much inaction over the past three years,” Anderson said, referring to the period when the COVID-19 pandemic led to deteriorating livability in Bellingham. “Acting on it recently, during an election cycle, doesn’t give me a lot of confidence we’re going to have a long-term fix.”
Lund wants better data on homelessness. The point-in-time count, a one-day census of unhoused individuals conducted every January, is widely understood to be an incomplete snapshot of the homelessness problem. Lund proposes the city adopt the “by-name list,” a more personalized method of finding services for unhoused people. Agencies in other jurisdictions, including Seattle, say the approach works.
“You can start to answer questions like, how many people became unhoused in our community this month? How many people were we able to exit off of the streets?” Lund said. “Right now, you don’t really have a comprehensive regional approach that is measuring those things.”
Lund, like Fleetwood, places a high priority on climate action.
“It’s been the more frequent and acute weather events that we’re experiencing that have brought home to me that we’re not listening to the best available science, and we’re not acting accordingly,” Lund said.
One reason she resigned from the Bellingham Public Schools Foundation was her reservations about our climate future.
The school district’s strategic plan, built around helping children reach their full potential, “is predicated on a stable natural world,” Lund said.
“When I stepped down, it was in part to reflect on how can I put my energy and talents towards taking action on climate within my community,” she added.
Lund supports a moratorium on logging state lands in the Lake Whatcom watershed until a climate vulnerability assessment is completed. As mayor, she wouldn’t have direct jurisdiction over state-owned forests but could help sway those decisions, as Lake Whatcom is the city’s drinking water source.
Another of Lund’s climate priorities is the city’s urban forestry management plan, which was delayed by the pandemic and is still being drafted. The plan would guide protections on city trees and direct new plantings, to offer carbon capture along with cooling shade during a heat wave.
Housing is another of Lund’s top priorities. She said she has heard from Port of Bellingham officials and others that businesses moving to Bellingham can’t afford to house their workers here.
Bellingham, like much of the West Coast, is decades behind on housing construction, Lund said.
“I think most of the candidates are united in saying we need to build more and across the entire (cost) continuum, and that’s going to take time to realize those effects,” she said.
A new state law making it easier to build accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, in backyards will be stifled by permitting costs, Lund said. ADUs are a key piece of “infill,” or greater housing density, in single-family neighborhoods.
“We as a city are imposing $3,800 just on park impact fees for an ADU,” Lund said. “That seems like a fee that goes against our infill goals right now.”
She proposes a switch to form-based zoning because its use in other communities has led to the promotion of affordable housing.
Instead of zoning according to use — residential here, commercial there, industrial over there — form-based zoning organizes cities by physical form.
“We have expertise in the (planning and community development) department right now that has worked in communities that have had form-based zoning codes,” Lund said. “We have people that have worked in more expedited permitting processes. So, we have expertise to do things differently. As mayor, I really want to empower the people to try those approaches and do that work.”
Home: Bellingham’s Edgemoor neighborhood
Education: Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Washington
Employment: Previous executive director of Bellingham Public Schools Foundation