By Nicholas Johnson

Four Des Moines residents have applied to fill a vacancy on the city council created in January when Anthony Martinelli resigned his Position No. 6 seat amid allegations of domestic violence and abuse.

The candidates include Vic Pennington, Priscilla Vargas, Tad Doviak and Yoshiko Grace Matsui.

The city council’s six current members plan to interview the candidates during the council’s Thursday, Feb. 24, meeting before voting to appoint one of the candidates during the council’s March 3 meeting. The appointed candidate would serve the remainder of Martinelli’s four-year term, through 2023, and have the option to run for election to a new term in 2023.

Each candidate will have 5-7 minutes during Thursday’s meeting to answer three questions:

    • What qualifications and experience do you have that have prepared you to be a Councilmember for the City of Des Moines?
    • What do you hope to accomplish if appointed?
    • What is your vision for Des Moines?

However, all four applicants have already addressed those questions in their applications.

Pennington was elected to the Des Moines City Council in 2013, served as deputy mayor in 2016 and was re-elected to the council in 2017. During his time on the council, Pennington chaired and served on a variety of committees, including the public safety, emergency management, and finance and economic development committees.

Pennington resigned from the council in January 2020 to become chief of South King Fire and Rescue. Two years later, in January 2022, he stepped down from his position as fire chief.

“I am an established, trusted government leader with a record of successful outcomes that you will not get from other candidates in this process,” Pennington wrote in his application.

Vargas ran for a seat on the city council in 2021, losing in the general election to Gene Achziger. She has spent her career working in the public and private transportation sectors, currently as the Sacramento Regional Transit District’s acting ADA compliance officer. She is also a member of the Des Moines Senior Services Advisory Committee.

“During my career, I have also served on various state and national governing boards and public transportation associations,” Vargas wrote in her application.

Tad Doviak also ran for a seat on the city council in 2021, losing in the general election to incumbent Traci Buxton. Doviak, who works in information technology, is a director on the Des Moines Police Foundation’s board, a block watch captain, chairman of the Holy Trinity Lutheran School Board and president of his local church congregation.

“I seek to do the greatest good for the community,” Doviak wrote in his application, “and my experience and knowledge will be a great asset to the Council and the City.”

Grace Matsui also ran for a seat on the city council in 2021, losing in the primary election as Soleil Lewis and incumbent Matt Mahoney moved on to the general election.

Grace Matsui, who works as a public safety exams administrator for the city of Seattle, was elected in 2015 to the King County Water District No. 54 board of commissioners, serving as that board’s president for several years. She currently serves on the King County Conservation Futures Advisory Committee, the Des Moines Legacy Foundation and the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market board, among other volunteer positions.

“Ultimately, the City Council is a voice for the people,” Grace Matsui wrote in her application. “I would strive to work cooperatively with the whole Council to set a course for Des Moines that incorporates the viewpoints of the residents.”

Click here to review each candidate’s application, including their written responses to those three interview questions.

Correction: This story originally misstated Yoshiko Grace Matsui’s last name. Her last name is Grace Matsui.


Nicholas Johnson (he/him) is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who grew up in Boulevard Park, graduated from Highline High School and studied journalism at Western Washington University. Send news tips, story ideas and positive vibes to [email protected].