Olympia Mayor Stephen Buxbaum’s surprise announcement this week that he will not seek a second term in office opened the door for an exciting campaign during what would otherwise be a low-key local election year. We hope voters will have a choice among many quality candidates.
Mayor Pro Tem Nathaniel Jones might be favored if he choose to run. But, so far at least, the first-term council member has shown little interest, preferring to focus on several important projects at his day job with the state Department of Enterprise Services. He term will expire in 2016.
Another first-term council member, Cheryl Selby, is actively building support for a run at the mayor’s chair, although she hasn’t publicly announced her candidacy. Her term will expire in 2017.
Selby could become the first mayor in recent history who owns and operates a small business within the city’s boundaries. Voices from the business community have been historically under-represented on the Olympia council, which is a reflection of the electorate and perhaps a concern for Selby’s impending campaign.
If elected, Selby would also be the first woman to hold the position since one-term mayor Holly Gadbaw in 1988-1989.
The race would become exciting if two-term council member Jim Cooper decided to run. Cooper would appeal to the city’s progressive voters. But could he find the time? He has a new job directing the state association of United Way chapters and is leading the Better Thurston movement to change Thurston County government structure via a home rule charter. And, he has a young family.
Buxbaum has treated the mayor’s role almost as a full-time occupation, even though it is considered part-time and pays less than $20,000 per year. His time commitment sets a bar that few candidates will be able to match.
Candidates who were already planning to run, such as Selby, may now declare early, while others who see an open mayor’s chair as a rare opportunity can start building a campaign organization. Buxbaum did them all a favor by stating his intentions about six months before the formal filing deadline.
Whoever chooses to run, we hope all candidates will continue Buxbaum’s work on creating a Community Renewal Area process for revitalizing downtown. The city’s core is only one of many issues facing a new mayor and council, but it’s a pivotal issue for small business and the city’s identity.
In the meantime, Buxbaum has pledged to spend his final year focused on driving the council to pass a CRA ordinance, creating a long-term funding plan for a complete renovation of Percival Landing and building a new, modern library. We thank him for his six years of public service on the City Council, and wish him success in all of those projects.