Whether it’s Darren Mills or Cheryl Selby who wins the race for Position 4 on the Olympia City Council, one thing is for sure: The winner will be a downtown business owner with no previous political experience.
Mills, 46, owns the Frida salon and Selby, 52, owns Vivala boutique. But that is where their similarities end.
Each has a different take on improving downtown, addressing homelessness, and managing the city’s budget.
Mills moved to Olympia in 1989 after graduating from high school in Chehalis, and started working as a hair and wig designer for theater. He moved to New York City in 2000, but it didn’t feel like home, so he returned about five years later. He now runs his boutique salon in Olympia’s urban core.
Selby moved to Olympia with her family in 1994 and was hired at the city’s parks department to teach children’s classes. She would later have another stint with the city as the co-manager of its Safe and Sober Driving program. In 2006, she opened the Vivala boutique.
She earned a bachelor of arts in clothing and textiles from Seattle Pacific University.
Mills said his top priorities are communication between the city and public; downtown; and the city budget.
He cited recent land-use controversies involving the city’s isthmus, a proposed Boys & Girls Club and 7-Eleven as examples of city communication that left the public dissatisfied. He wants to involve citizens early in the decision-making process so “the public will feel engaged in the process even if they don’t agree.”
Downtown “is a huge priority of mine” and one downtown foot patrol officer is not enough, he said. The city shouldn’t have cut the police foot patrol several years ago, he said. Downtown has become less safe, making customers not want to come.
Selby said her top priorities are “community vitality,” economic development and shortening City Council meeting times (which, in the last year, have lasted as long as six hours).
She said the city needs to redirect money to support the police department and rejoin the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force, which the city left in recent years of budget cuts. She said the city also needs to support businesses, noting that her two locations generate close to $40,000 per year in sales tax revenue.
“We just need to encourage business and ingenuity,” she said.
Both candidates disagree on a plan for a controversial proposed homeless shelter that would allow sex offenders and drug users on its 10th Avenue premises.
Mills supports the shelter.
“How can we expect these people living on the streets to get on the path to a better life,” he said, “if they’re not given the tools to do that?”
He said the shelter belongs downtown, “where the problem exists.”
Selby opposes having such a shelter downtown, in a neighborhood or near a school. She said she’s working to find a location on Martin Way near Providence St. Peter Hospital that would serve as a “coordinated entry” for the homeless.