New District 3 King County Councilmember Sarah Perry has outlined behavioral health, protecting the natural environment, helping small businesses and equitable access to housing and support systems as her top priorities.
Perry, a longtime resident of the Eastside, having spent six years in North Bend and the last 20 years living in Issaquah, took over the District 3 seat in January from longtime councilmember Kathy Lambert after winning 55% of the vote in the November election.
Perry will represent the largest and second-fastest growing district in the county, which includes 10 cities, a swath of unincorporated area and the entirety of the Snoqualmie Valley.
“I’m so excited about our district because it has such a wide variety of communities, cities and towns,” Perry said. “Each city brings a unique perspective and personality.”
The council is Perry’s first elected office, but she has been heavily involved in public service in previous roles including Social Venture Partners, Springboard Alliance in Redmond, Seattle University and Encompass NW. She also helped found the Si View Indoor Playground in North Bend and Fall City Neighborhood newsletter.
Perry’s top priority will be focusing on behavioral health, including better treatment of those experiencing mental health crises and better funding directed to staffing and mental health facilities.
“I think it’s a national crisis and we’re really struggling in this state,” she said. “We’ve done better, but we’re still behind Mississippi and Tennessee in providing support service to those who are really struggling.”
Perry said part of that includes greater funding for the King County Designated Crisis Responders and streamlining the process for what to do when the county receives a call about someone experiencing a mental health crisis. It also includes better training for law enforcement officers.
Under the current system, Perry said a lack of funding and staff prevents crisis responders from immediately helping people in need. Even if officials can help a resident to a psychiatric hospital, beds are often full and the person is released, she said.
“Nobody is getting the support they need because in each of those spaces there are opportunities for improvement in training, funding, facilities and supportive care,” she said. ““[I want] a system of a structure in place that will make it a temporary problem rather than a life-altering event that they cannot come back from.”
Perry is also hoping to leverage relationships with Eastside services providers to allow for better access to service in District 3, especially for those experiencing homelessness.
“We have people struggling everywhere,” she said. “It’s not Seattle people coming here. It’s our people going there because we just don’t have adequate support.”
Perry said she also sees housing and transportation as critical issues for the district going forward. Her goal is for residents to be able to live in the community they work in and help to create a transit system that works for the whole county.
She wants to balance this growth while protecting the character of smaller communities and the preserving the environment, open spaces and farms.
“We need to make sure we have appropriate growth, making sure we’re doing it well to protect the character of those ten cities,” she said. “With those cities like Carnation, North Bend and Snoqualmie, it’s protecting that feel of that smaller community”
Perry, who is a small business owner, is also focused on helping small businesses, especially those that are minority-owned or have statistically not received equal support.
She said she is currently trying to connect with businesses to learn about their needs and if they were able to receive COVID-19 funding. She also explicitly stated that she wanted to put more focus on supporting the arts.
“Small business is the backbone of our community throughout these ten towns,” she said. “Sometimes people are just not aware of what’s available and we’re doing what we can to support those businesses.”
Going forward, Perry said a major challenge facing the county will be finding ways to sustain its success as some of the one-time COVID-19 funding runs out. Still, she said she is excited to get to work and listen to residents’ concerns.
“I know that there are those that are really excited and ready to meet with me. I welcome that,” she said, “For those who I have yet to earn their support, I am looking forward to the opportunity. It’s going to take all of us working together, to bring the solutions we need in all of our communities.”