Tumwater voters will decide on one contested race for city council in the Nov. 3 general election.
Tom Oliva, the incumbent for Position 2, will defend his council seat against challenger Stephen Ssemaala.
As for campaign finances, both candidates have agreed to spend no more than $5,000 and receive no more than $500 from one contributor. This is known as a “mini reporting option,” which also waives the requirement for candidates to file such financial reports with the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Four other Tumwater City Council members are running unopposed in the general election: Nicole Hill, Position 1; Joan Cathey, Position 3; Eileen Swarthout, Position 4; and Neil McClanahan, Position 7. All Tumwater City Council positions are elected at-large.
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Oliva, 56, was appointed to the council in 2010 and elected to a full-term in 2011. In that time, he has served on the Public Works Committee, LOTT Alliance Board of Directors, the Thurston Climate Action Team and the Thurston Regional Council.
A resident of Tumwater since 1996, Oliva said he brings a “progressive presence” to the council that is enhanced by his ties to the community. Oliva helped form the Friends of the Old Brewhouse group and has volunteered with the Barnes Lake homeowners association.
Outside the council, Oliva works full time as a management analyst with the Washington State Parks Commission. He has a master’s degree in business administration.
Oliva said a major priority as a council member is to continue to prepare the brewery property and surrounding district for redevelopment. The latter would involve more housing and mixed use structures to give the area near Custer Way more of an “urban feel,” he told The Olympian’s editorial board.
Oliva has a long list of endorsements from elected officials across Thurston County, including mayors from the three major cities along with all three District 22 legislators.
Although he is running his first official campaign in Tumwater, Ssemaala is no stranger to politics. In his native Uganda, he was elected to the Constitutional Assembly, where he helped write the nation’s constitution. He fled Uganda for the United States in 1996 as a political refugee and eventually became a citizen.
Since then, Ssemaala went from working at Jack in the Box to earning a law degree from the University of Washington. He now works as an attorney for the Department of Social and Health Services and is an adjunct political science instructor at South Puget Sound Community College.
Ssemaala, who has lived in Tumwater since 2006, is a founding member of the Kamukamu Learning Foundation, which enhances educational opportunities for children in Uganda.
Ssemaala, 52, unsuccessfully sought appointment in 2014 to the Tumwater City Council to fill a vacant position. Ssemaala told The Olympian editorial board that he has developed a passion for local government and economic development. The city needs to attract more businesses in order to generate more sales tax revenue, he said, noting that he supports more regional partnerships with Olympia and Lacey in order to create incentives to do business in the area.