Jennifer Sutton ended her service as a member of Issaquah City Council Thursday. She is expected to be confirmed as a public diplomacy officer for the U.S. Foreign Service.
Strange timing and low expectations led to the situation that saw a freshman Issaquah City Council member exit her seat this week after mere months in office.
Jennifer Sutton exited her position on the council Thursday. On Saturday she will fly to Washington in preparation for her impending confirmation as a public diplomacy officer with the U.S. Foreign Service. She was offered an appointment less than two months after taking her oath of city office.
"In a way, I'm thrilled," Sutton said in a recent interview with the Reporter. "But it's bittersweet, because I'm uprooting my life and giving up council. I was really worried about how my fellow council members would take the news, but they were all supportive and recognized it for the achievement that it is."
Sutton said she began the written application process for the Foreign Service in October 2014, before former Councilmember Nina Milligan announced she would not seek re-election. She wasn't called for her in-person examination until the following May — less than a week after the filing period to run for office had closed.
It was Sutton's third application attempt after two previous goes that didn't see a job open up during her 18-month hiring windows. After the oral assessment, she was assigned a score that was "pretty good, but not guaranteed," she said.
"I was a little pessimistic about my chances, to be honest" she said.
The chances were unlikely. According to a U.S. State Department FAQ, decreases in funding have led to a pattern of attrition hiring since 2013 — no one comes in until someone goes out. About 20,000 people take the Foreign Service Officer Test every year and fewer than 300 people were hired in 2015, according to State Department data.
Challengers gravitated toward the other open seats on council, leading to primary runoffs in those races while Sutton coasted through the November election unopposed. After a background check, her latest 18-month hiring window for the Foreign Service opened in September.
She was shocked when she was called for a job in February, less than five months later.
Leaving the council is Sutton's only regret, she said.
With Sutton's departure, the City Council is taking applications for an appointed replacement — even going so far as to release a "Brady Bunch"-inspired YouTube video, titled "The Council Bunch," to attract candidates.
Sutton said she believed there were definitely qualified replacements among the applicants she's met.
"The only thing is, they ask me for advice on what it's like to be a council member and I have to respond, 'Eh, I might not be the best person to ask,'" she said.