By Sara Fabian
Since August Olympia City Councilwoman Cheryl Selby was leading the race for mayor by huge margins. Now, as the November 3 elections have closed, Selby has crossed the finish line to become Olympia’s new mayor, with 68 percent of the vote. Selby is the city’s first directly elected female mayor since Olympia voters began electing their mayor in 1991. Previous mayors were appointed by the council.
Selby promises to bring a “participatory leadership” style with fellow council members that emphasizes teamwork and equality in decision-making. Selby said she also would build on her work with nonprofit programs such as SideWalk, which connects the homeless with housing and other assistance. She states her intent is to bring more economic development to downtown and bring Olympia and it’s people together.
Selby, who owns a downtown clothing business called Vivala, is the first mayor in nearly 40 years who owns and operates a business within the city’s boundaries. Selby ran on being a small business owner, claiming voices from the business community have been historically under-represented on the Olympia City government.
Selby supports a $12 statewide minimum wage and gradually implementing a $15 minimum wage in Olympia in a way that she says would protect local small businesses. Her campaign platform includes a pledge to “reinvigorate our tax base with new revenue by leveraging assets” such as the local arts and business community, for example, along with supporting the continuation of the city’s Downtown Strategy.
Selby says the lack of mental health services and opioid use has created “the perfect storm.” Selby serves on the board of Sidewalk, which works to place people into rapid rehousing – 500 people in the last three years. There is no news yet of what and how, besides the resource of Sidewalk, Selby’s vision of downtown will turn out. It is also too early to tell if Selby’s promises will make space for low-income housing and resources for the homeless downtown, a place Selby wants to transform into a more art’s and culture avenue.
Marco Rossi came in second with 31 percent. He ran on a progressive platform called Olympia For All, which supported a $15 minimum wage, urban planning, police accountability, and public involvement. Rossi said his campaign helped keep those issues alive in the election conversation. He and other supporters will continue to pressure the council to address problems such as poverty and police reform, he said.