Pinky Vargas keeps busy between her dual roles as a Bellingham City Council member and as the Energy Efficiency Outreach Manager for Puget Sound Energy. Her commitment to community and love for people drives her engagement and passion for making change.

Why Bellingham?

I’ve been in and out of Bellingham for the last 30 years. I was born and raised in Canada, so Bellingham was a stop on the way to somewhere. I have some really good friends who live on Lake Whatcom, and I used to visit them and envy their opportunity to live in this city.

What is your favorite spot in Bellingham?

I love the Farmer’s Market, but it’s not open all the time. I love all of our parks too—Boulevard, Whatcom Falls—anywhere that has a trail.

What do you like best about your job?

Well, I have two of them. The best part about working for the city is the people I get to meet. I love the opportunity to create change, and help make decisions about our stewardship of the environment, and the vibrancy of our economy. The people make it awesome, but the ability to make change is really exciting to me as well.

And what about your day job—at PSE?

It’s similar. I get to meet people from all over because my service territory is Whatcom, Skagit, and Island county. But we are also making change—particularly on energy efficiency. It’s purposeful, meaningful work.

What do people not understand about the City Council?

The complexity. I misunderstood that myself before I got involved. I knew it was complex, but I didn’t realize the scope. Most people who come to the Council with a concern know their topic inside and out. But we are often learning about it for the first time on that day. Often, the people we’re interacting with are the experts in their field. They expect us to be too. We’re expected to be experts in every field.

How do you handle that—the complexity and the responsibility of making decisions in such a wide range of fields and subjects?

I do my best to educate myself on everything, starting by asking lots of questions of those who have been down the road before. Some of the other council members have been very helpful on that. Sometimes I have to ask privately: “how important is this, really?”


What organization or business do you want to see in Bellingham?

I love this city, but I wish we had more diversity in food. I feel like there’s nowhere to eat in the evening. I know a bunch of great lunch spots, but I choose between three-to-four options after dark, and sometimes I’m not in the mood for those. I wish we had more diverse, international food choices.

What is the best book you’ve read recently?

I usually read three-to-four at a time. At the moment it’s Thrive by Arianna Huffington, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This by Kate White, and A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren.

So what’s making you think? Which of those is challenging the way you think?

All three. I’m thinking a lot about what my next step is, and what could propel me forward. All three books are speaking to that. Huffington writes in her book that people—and women in particular—who have dynamic, busy lives ought to thrive rather than just going from accomplishment to accomplishment. I really like that.

Danielle Laporte has a series of exercises about identifying your core values. I went through those recently, and I keep going back to my notes. They made me think a lot about what it is to thrive.


If you’re free on a sunny day in Bellingham what do you do?

I love to walk, run, and swim. I can walk out my door and swim in Lake Whatcom. Or I can walk straight out my front door and choose from four different trails. Or, I might work on my tomatoes. I love my garden too.

And what about downtown, do you hang out downtown?

Well, the Farmer’s Market. I also enjoy Bayou—sitting on that corner is great, especially on an Art Walk night.

What are people always surprised to learn about you?

People are always surprised about how big my family is. Both of my parents come from really big families, and I have 56 first cousins. I know them all, and all of their spouses and children. When we have a family reunion, which we do every 3 years, we have a baseball tournament.

If you were going to enroll in Western today, what would you study?

Energy policy.

Is there are specific cause or charity that you’re particularly enthusiastic about?

I’m an ambassador for Explorations Academy. That’s very important to me because I believe we need alternative ways to learn, and diversity in our education. When I think about the kind of education that I had—which worked great for some of my siblings, but less for me—I wish that I’d been able to learn at a place like Explorations Academy.


What have I not asked you that I should?

I really want to make a difference in our economic vitality. I want us to create jobs, and make it possible for people to make a living here. I look out at the waterfront, and I ask myself, why has it taken us 13 years to decide to do something with this space?

Not that it can be done overnight. I’m still learning how to get things done on the City Council, but I would like our city to be more focused on economic vitality. We have lots of great pieces, but we need a comprehensive strategy. I know some people fear a very robust Bellingham—

Because it might change.

Right! I want to be part of solving the economic vitality puzzle.

What does that mean to you? What is economic vitality?

It means people won’t need to leave Bellingham to get a job. It means we have many different kinds of jobs here. We recognize the city has a part to play and we still have room for improvement in streamlining and supporting businesses to get started.  I still hear some frustrations.  It’s better for everyone if new businesses don’t have unnecessary costs and are delayed in opening. Time is money.

I’m not an expert; however, in my mind we have some codes that may not be serving the purposes that were initially intended.  Some bees in my bonnet are regulations on awnings,  and outside seating.  The planning department recently went through a Kaizen event, and we have a new Planning Director, so changes are happening.  My dream is: we make it easy to get started, businesses feel welcome, and our reputation grows as a great place to run a business.

January 3, 2017

Jeff Jewell

December 30, 2016

Matt Mullett

December 26, 2016

Todd Elsworth

December 23, 2016

Corrinne Sande

December 21, 2016

Downtown Improvement Gardens

December 17, 2016

San Juan Airlines

December 15, 2016

Holiday Classic

December 9, 2016

Baker Beacon Rally