Councilmember-elect James Blair knocked off an incumbent by just 30 votes to win his race for Yelm City Council, according to recently certified election results.
He will take part in a formal swearing-in ceremony Monday, Dec. 30, at South Puget Sound Community College’s Kenneth J. Minnaert Center for the Arts.
Blair was behind in the race against incumbent EJ Curry after the first count but he quickly took the lead as more ballots were counted. He’ll now serve as a councilor in Position No. 1 following what was his second bid for a city council seat.
Coming onto the council this January, Blair said he hopes to bring a fiscally conservative voice to the table and deter city spending he sees as wasteful.
“I just sit back and I see so much wasting, in one way or another,” Blair said. “That’s a big thing for me because I feel like if people have more money in their own pocket then they could do better on their own, whether that be a business or normal people.”
During a recent interview with the Nisqually Valley News, Blair, 31, sported a clean-shaven head, a big bushy beard and a red flannel.
His face was red from commuting on his 2007 Harley-Davidson Heritage model motorcycle. The average person might take Blair for more of a lumberjack than a producer-to-retail cannabis sales representative.
Blair moved to Yelm from Tacoma with his wife and 11-year-old son in April 2016. After getting involved in politics during the past presidential election and not feeling in tune with either the Democratic or Republican parties, Blair got involved in local elections.
In 2017, he began a bid for a seat on the Yelm council. He ultimately lost, but it was that run that ultimately instilled a passion for the impacts of local government. He said it also helped him get more involved with the community.
“You’d think people would care more about what’s going on right where they live because, when it comes down to it, that’s where we can change things,” Blair said. “We can all say and do whatever we want on the national level stuff, but the likelihood of any one of us trying to change something is next to none.”
Blair said his 2019 run was sparked by a drive to change spending habits on the council, especially after the city purchased its new city hall and the neighboring property on Washington Street.
“I don’t necessarily agree with the direction on the whole new city hall. It’s think it’s cool that we have the Boys and Girls Club in (the old city hall), don’t get me wrong. I’d like to see some movement on the veterans hub that was supposed to be in there as well,” Blair said.
Yelm walks a fine line between urban hub and small town, Blair said, and he heard from many locals that keeping Yelm on the smaller side should be a priority.
“Growth is going to come no matter what. At the same time, we’ve got to keep walking that fine line and make sure we’re not screwing ourselves over. Long before we even think about doing some new buildings, we need some roads that can connect and handle the increased population out there,” Blair said.
One of the big issues Blair is looking forward to addressing is the upgrades and repairs that are being made the city’s water treatment facility. Blair admits that water rates aren’t going to go down anytime soon, but said he would like to make sure any plans are carried out in a fiscally responsible manner.
“The biggest thing I think we can do is just stay on top of what’s going on with it, make sure we’re not spending more money than we need to be and making sure the work is being done,” Blair said.
On the topic of homelessness and the regional housing crunch that has impacted Yelm, Blair said the issue is multifaceted and fairly complex to understand on a surface level. He said he believes there’s no one right answer to solve the issues.
“I feel for a lot of people because I was in that situation years ago. I slept in my truck for, like, nine months. I must have been 22 or 23. I lost my job, was having trouble finding another one and eventually couldn’t afford by apartment anymore and that’s what I did until I could get back on my feet,” Blair said, adding that he would stay with friends often.
On the flip side, Blair said local government should stop being complicit in enabling aspects of the homelessness epidemic.
Blair said he’s supportive of the Yelm Homelessness Task Force’s proposed recommendations to increase law enforcement and work with local nonprofits to provide services at low costs to the city, among other recommendations.
Overall, Blair said he’s excited to be involved in the decision-making process and looks forward to hearing from constituents.
Blair will be sworn in along with other elected officials around the county at a swearing-in ceremony at 2 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 30, at South Puget Sound Community College.