Olympia City Council’s Rogers uncertain; 2 others file

mbatcheldor@theolympian.comFebruary 21, 2013 

Two downtown business owners have filed for the Olympia City Council seat of Karen Rogers, who hasn’t announced whether she will seek re-election.

Darren Mills, who owns Frida salon, and Cheryl Selby, who owns Vivala boutique, want the job.

In an interview, Rogers didn’t directly answer whether she would seek re-election, but hinted she may back a candidate other than Mills or Selby.

“If I can find a good person to run for my position, then I’ll be more than happy to step aside and give that person my full backing,” she said.

Both Mills and Selby said they were running because they were disappointed in Rogers’ performance. Rogers has often found herself on the wrong side of 6-1 votes.

“I see that she has trouble working with her fellow council members and I think you get more work when you work closely together,” said Mills, 45.

Selby, 52, said she had a lot of respect for Rogers, but believes that she has been ineffective.

“You know, I think she’s smart, hard-working,” she said, “but it doesn’t matter how hard-working you are, if you can’t move your position forward … you’re ineffective.”

Mills said his top issues are creating a sustainable budget and making downtown more of a destination. Better communication with the public is also a priority.

“I’d like to see a better system of connection between the community and City Hall,” he said. “Bringing the public into discussions early on as opposed to later on.”

Selby said her top priority is public safety and she also favors supporting a Buy Local campaign and to focus on dealing with climate change.

She favors revitalizing downtown by building a live/work development for artists. She is a member of the Olympia Artspace Alliance, a local nonprofit that is wooing the Artspace organization, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, which builds such developments.

Mills is also active in the arts community, having spent 16 years as the costume designer for Harlequin Productions, which produces plays at the State Theater. Both Selby and Mills have served on the city’s Parking and Business Improvement Area board.

Selby said she thinks the downtown business community needs a representative on the council, and it should be she.

“It’s been a long time since we had a business owner on the council and it’s time,” she said.

Mills said it’s important for downtown businesses to feel like they’re represented, but believes they are now.

Both candidates have taken issue with some recent council decisions.

Selby said she initially disagreed with the plan to sell the city’s Smith Building for $1 for a homeless center, which the council did last year. She has since warmed to the idea, but said the issue was handled poorly.

“I think it was not handled correctly,” she said. “I don’t think it was publicly vetted.”

Mills took issue with an ordinance that kicked campers off the premises of City Hall because there was no low-barrier shelter alternative given for people to sleep included in the ordinance.

“I wouldn’t have had an issue with that ordinance if there had been some other alternative in place for people to sleep,” he said.

The general election is Nov. 5.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor

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