OLYMPIA - The weather may be cool outside, but this year's Olympia City Council race is already heating up.
Three City Council members have made announcements about their plans in the past three weeks, though the August primary is nearly seven months away.
Mayor Doug Mah kicked it off Jan. 3, saying that he wouldn’t seek a second term as mayor. On Monday, Councilman Craig Ottavelli said he wouldn’t run again. Councilman Steve Langer, who is serving a partial term, announced Tuesday that he would seek Ottavelli’s seat.
The flurry of announcements has started the speculation early: Who will run to be Olympia’s next mayor?
Council members Stephen Buxbaum and Rhenda Strub say they’re considering a run. Councilwoman Karen Rogers said she couldn’t rule one out. Add to that a wild card: 70-year-old former KGY Radio announcer Dick Pust said he is considering a run for mayor after leaving the radio station this month.
The seats of Mah, Ottavelli and Strub are up for election this year.
Mah, who will have served 10 years on the council at the end of the year, said in a news release he didn’t want to deal with a re-election campaign as he finishes out the year. But he didn’t rule out a future in politics.
“I wanted to make sure that there was ample time for any and all candidates to decide whether or not running for mayor was something that they would be interested in,” he said.
Mah’s departure means that Strub, who was elected in 2007, would be the senior member on the council – but only if she is re-elected. If not, the seniority will fall to Councilwoman Jeannine Roe, who took office in November 2009 because she was elected to a seat held by an appointed council member, Joan Machlis.
Strub said she intends to run for a council seat; she hasn’t decided whether it will be for mayor or for her current seat.
Buxbaum, who is mayor pro tem, was elected in 2009 and is also a potential mayoral candidate.
“It’s under serious consideration, and right now I plan to announce in early February,” he said.
Councilwoman Karen Rogers was more demure.
“What I’ll say is anything’s possible, but first thing first is taking care of myself,” she said.
Who decides to run could be shaped by the decision of Pust, the longtime KGY announcer who was either fired or quit his job at the station this month, depending on whom you ask.
Pust, who would perhaps instantly have the most name recognition if he announced a run, said he’s “giving it a lot of thought.”
“I’m going to give myself a couple weeks to figure out which end is up in my life right now,” he said.
Jeannine Roe is the only council member not leaving the council who definitely isn’t running for mayor.
“No. I have a full plate as it is,” she said. “I’m really enjoying working on the council.”
The mayor makes $19,968 per year. Council members make $16,640, except for the mayor pro tem, who makes an additional $1,664. Council members also get health and retirement benefits.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org