Both candidates for the Olympia City Council Position 5 race have one common ground: Neither has been elected to public office.
The Olympia City Council appointed the current officeholder, Julie Hankins, to fill Stephen Buxbaum’s council seat almost two years ago after he was elected mayor.
Challenger Mike Volz has lived in Olympia since the early 1990s but is a newcomer to politics.
Voters will choose one of them to tackle serious challenges facing the city, including downtown, the homeless and the city’s budget.
Each brings a different set of skills and experience to the job. Hankins, 48, is an administrative assistant at Nova School. She helped found the Indian Creek Neighborhood Association in southeast Olympia in the early 1990s and, before joining the council, was chairwoman of the Olympia Coalition of Neighborhood Associations.
Volz, 43, restores classic Chrysler automobiles at his shop, MVP Mopars, located in the Spoon Auto Parts building a block from City Hall. He said he’s been in the restoration business since before he finished high school, and emphasizes his business experience.
Hankins’ top priorities include a sustainable budget, neighborhood planning, improving downtown Olympia and better public involvement. She emphasized that the city needs better neighborhood planning, and advocates continuing a process that would allow each neighborhood to draw up a plan. Such plans would provide continuity and allow the city to go forward, rather than change when leaders are elected every four years.
“Every four years we start to tack one way and then we change again,” she said.
She said the city needs more public meetings, not just the ones in council chambers where people get three minutes to address the council.
To improve downtown Olympia, Hankins said the city needs a downtown plan.
Volz also spoke about wanting to improve downtown and against a proposed homeless shelter that would accept sex offenders and drug users. But he didn’t identify priorities.
“I’m really not going in with an agenda that I want to fix any issues,” he said. “I just want to take each issue as it comes. I think we’ve had too many agendas.”
He said he’s running because he wanted to give Hankins opposition and not allow her to run unopposed. “I’m just a common-sense guy,” he said.
He said the issue of the election is the so-called low-barrier shelter, which faith group Interfaith Works proposed at a property on 10th Avenue but reconsidered after neighborhood opposition.
Volz has opposed the shelter. He said street people need help, but he doesn’t believe in sheltering people who won’t follow rules. Hankins was part of the City Council that approved spending more than $30,000 in the search for a low-barrier shelter. But Hankins now says she opposes the original proposal for the shelter that would accept Level 3 sex offenders. Part of the problem with a low-barrier shelter is “I don’t know what it means,” she said. It depends on how it is defined.
Hankins said there needed to be a better public process for informing the community on the shelter issue. Her approach to improving downtown would be the same: bringing people together at a meeting, including downtown businesses, neighborhood organizations, the police department, prosecutors, Thurston County, Intercity Transit and social service organizations.
Volz said improving downtown ills means “more enforcement of existing laws.”
Drug users are “going to have to end up in treatment” or in jail, he said.
He supports adding officers to the downtown police walking patrol and returning Olympia to the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force, which the city left during recent years of budget cuts.
“I really feel like I’m the guy who listens. I really am middle of the road. I don’t have an agenda.”
Asked the same, Hankins said “I would vote for me because of my experience and because this job, in order to get anything done. It’s really about relationships in order to get anything done. You have to be able to work with people.”