Here’s our recap of the Kent City Council’s regular meeting, held on Tuesday night, Dec. 12, 2023:
Farewell To Councilmember Les Thomas
The meeting began with a heartwarming goodbye to Councilmember Thomas, who is retiring after nearly two decades of public service. This marks his fourth term as a member of Kent City Council. Les has also served on the King County Council, as a member of the Washington State House of Representatives, and on many other boards and volunteer positions.
Thomas brought his wife and many family members to the meeting to mark the occasion. He spoke about how he in his lifetime has seen Kent grow from a village, to a town, and suddenly to a large city. He also had personal messages that he shared with each of the other councilmembers. Thomas said the council was like a family; they don’t always get along, but they have the utmost respect for each other.
Mayor Dana Ralph read a proclamation declaring December 10th Les Thomas day. Councilmember Thomas, who was an old friend of Mayor Ralph’s father, brought tears to the mayor’s eyes as he spoke of her dad. Police Chief Padilla also had an award for Councilmember Les Thomas, honoring his service to the community.
December Employee Of The Month
The honors this month went to Technical Lead Judicial Specialist Ida Matias. Ida began working as a judicial specialist in 2006, and was promoted to lead in 2021. Mayor Ralph said Matias consistently demonstrates exceptional qualities when it comes to fostering collaboration and teamwork, showing foresight and initiative. She is reliably able to speedily resolve complex technological issues, keeping the courts running smoothly.
Public Safety Report
Chief Padilla introduced four new Kent Police Officers, who were then sworn in: Matt Kinney, Andrew Robinson, Mark Mendela, and Ernesto Green. Kinney is a former critical care registered nurse and army medic. Robinson said that Kent’s police department has a great reputation and that he found the crew works really well together. Mendela is an in-state, lateral transfer, meaning he will have a quick turnaround and require less time for full officer status. He was a firefighter for 17 years. Green has an AA in forensic psychology, and worked as a SWAT officer, as well as being a crossfit coach for 12 years.
Padilla was also pleased to report that the Kent PD has received WASPC accreditationagain. This shows police accountability via third party review. It is not an easy accreditation to receive, involving thorough evaluations of the practices and standards of the department.
In November, the Kent Police began an operation to enforce open drug use laws. The task-force focused on specific hot-spots based on complaint calls. They made many arrests, and most of those who were arrested have chosen drug treatment. Police want to connect people with treatment options, but will enforce any violations of the laws.
Padilla also reported on the tenth annual Shop With A Cop event that just took place. The police partnered with Target in order to connect with underprivileged youth. At this event, 50 youth were each issued a $175 gift card, and able to do some holiday shopping along with the officers. Padilla offered a special thanks to Mayor Dana Ralph, who he said is the driving force behind this event, doing all kinds of work behind the scenes and especially fundraising.
Money For Officers Is Top Legislative Priority
Mayor Dana Ralph briefly reported on the coming legislative session, which she feels hopeful will bring more money to hire additional officers for the city. She said it’s the number one request from the community, and looks forward to a positive report in a future meeting.
One person spoke during the comments section, representing a HOA in the Overlook Glen neighborhood. He thanked the council for dealing with prior safety issues, like an abandoned house used as a squat which had caught fire twice in August. With the city’s help, they were finally able to pressure the owner to demolish the hazardous building. He also thanked council for improvements at the nearby pump house, which he said had been a magnet for crime, including stolen vehicles and prostitution. He said the public works department put up barriers which have really helped, though it requires surveillance and maintenance as people keep cutting the chains and getting into the area.
He made a request that something be done about another residence in his neighborhood, which he said the police were already well familiar with. He described the location as another destination for stolen vehicles, criminals, and drugs. He said there were 15 shopping carts stolen from WinCo at the house. Though an eviction is in progress, he believes the owner could actually be the source of the longstanding problem.