The first-ever District 3 council race in Menlo Park features three strong candidates with a diverse set of backgrounds.
Chelsea Nguyen is a Vietnamese American U.S. Air Force veteran with three children who currently works as a project manager at Cisco and has lived in the district on and off for 40 years. She has a business management degree from Menlo College and served in the Air Force for nearly a decade, working in the Military Police and Information Systems Security areas. She has volunteered with San Mateo Blue Star Mothers, Junior League Mid-Peninsula and the American Red Cross, and served on a mayor-appointed committee in Palo Alto to administer community development block grants.
Max Fennell is the owner of Fenn Coffee and a professional triathlete who has lived in the district for four years. He has volunteered with programs to introduce youth to triathlons and endurance sports and is now serving on USA Triathlon's Diversity and Inclusion Board.
Jen Wolosin is a community advocate, parent and founder of the Parents for Safe Routes organization in Menlo Park who previously worked as a market research professional. She has lived in District 3 for seven years and has a bachelor's degree in sociology from University of California at Berkeley and an MBA from UC Davis. Wolosin has served on a number of local traffic and safe routes task forces and committees and has held leadership roles with the Jewish Baby Network and San Mateo Mothers Club.
While we believe each candidate would bring a lot to the table as a Menlo Park City Council member, The Almanac endorses Wolosin for the seat. We believe her experience on numerous city task forces and committees, her work as the Parents for Safe Routes founder and understanding of — and ideas to address — the various issues facing the city make her the top pick.
Wolosin got involved in local politics several years ago out of an interest in getting her child to school safely on a bike. That desire led her to found the Parents for Safe Routes organization in 2017, where she has advocated for making roads safer for children trying to get to school by walking or biking in Menlo Park. Wolosin isn't a single-issue candidate, however; she has expanded her interests and knowledge to other transportation issues, including traffic and green transit, as well as climate change, housing and equity.
She's been a consistent attendee and participant at City Council meetings for more than four years, which is indicative of her civic interest and passion. Between that and her extensive committee work, Wolosin has a familiarity and understanding of how city government operates and has undoubtedly worked with some of the staff she would be engaging with as a council member.
Wolosin sees the top issues facing Menlo Park — which she identifies as COVID-19, the economy, and climate change — through the lens of equity, and pointed out measures that the city can undertake or continue with equal access in mind, such as continuing to allow online participation during City Council meetings after the pandemic subsides.
She is eager to implement or consider a variety of initiatives to combat climate change, from transitioning from gas to all-electric buildings and more electric vehicle chargers to land-use policies that put more housing near jobs and transit. Wolosin tied equity into climate change considerations during her interview with The Almanac, pointing out that the Belle Haven neighborhood will be the first in the city to flood due to sea level rise and saying the council should look to "right a lot of these wrongs of historical inequities."
Wolosin also believes the city should reflect on its precedent of concentrating housing in Belle Haven and District 1 and said she is open to a number of ways to increase the housing stock, including adding density downtown and near services, and increasing the availability of housing in single-family neighborhoods through accessory dwelling units. She recognizes that more housing is needed at all income levels throughout the city and said she appreciates that District 3 is "50% apartments," with duplexes in her neighborhood in Vintage Oaks.
She also has several ideas for improving the Menlo Park Police Department, including establishing a citizens advisory committee and evaluating how money is spent in the department. Wolosin emphasized any analysis of the local police force should involve the community, since "the police do the bidding of the community."
Wolosin's work starting and expanding Parents for Safe Routes shows she can build consensus and see an initiative through, skills that are essential for a council member. Her focus on equity and openness to weighing different ideas and considerations for how to address issues facing the city, combined with her experience in local government, make her the best District 3 candidate. That being said, we hope Nguyen and Fennell stay active and involved in city politics, as we believe they have a lot to offer as Menlo Park navigates a period that will be marked by significant change and challenges.
What does it mean when The Almanac makes an endorsement? Read our explanation here.