OLYMPIA - Mayor Pro Tem Stephen Buxbaum announced Monday afternoon that he will run for mayor.
“I believe Olympia needs an experienced mayor, someone who’s going to engage respectfully with citizens that can help work out differences and help facilitate a common vision for our future,” he said.
Buxbaum, 55, was elected to the Olympia City Council in 2009 and was named mayor pro tem in 2010. In that position, he acts as deputy mayor, representing the city at some local events and chairing council meetings in Mayor Doug Mah’s absence.
In a statement announcing his candidacy, Buxbaum said his priorities are to increase commerce downtown and elsewhere in the city, address crime and maintain a social safety net and “enhance the character and quality of all our neighborhoods.”
Buxbaum said the city needs to focus on supporting local businesses and encourage residents to keep their purchases local and money in the community. He said he’s collaborating with the local visitor and convention bureau and Thurston Economic Development Council to track vacancy rates and “identifying areas of emphasis.”
He said he wants to find opportunities to clean up derelict properties, perhaps using government grants such as Community Development Block Grant dollars.
Buxbaum offered as an example the old Griswold’s Office Supply building at 308 Fourth Ave., which burned in 2004, leaving a charred facade that has gone undeveloped.
He also stressed downtown housing. “Housing continues to be an important issue for me,” he said. “I want to make sure that we move forward on finding ways to offer or make available housing at all income levels.”
Buxbaum cited more than 30 years of management experience, part of that at the state Department of Community Trade and Economic Development, now called the Department of Commerce. He ran the state’s housing programs, helping to establish affordable housing throughout the state.
Buxbaum has most recently worked as a consultant and part-time faculty member at The Evergreen State College. He has a bachelor’s degree in political economy and a master’s degree in public administration from Evergreen.
Buxbaum had no elected political experience before he was elected in 2009. His only announced opponent is former KGY radio announcer Dick Pust, who also has no elected political experience.
“I think the voters will have a clear choice between Dick and I,” Buxbaum said, stressing his experience. Pust has said he has had a long interest in politics, but couldn’t act on it because of restraints from the Federal Communication Commission. Pust spent 51 years at the station before separating last month.
Mayor Doug Mah announced in January he will not run again, and he completes his four-year term this year. Councilwoman Rhenda Strub has said she’s considering a run for mayor, and Councilwoman Karen Rogers has said she won’t rule one out.