OLYMPIA - Olympia City Councilwoman Karen Rogers has announced a run for mayor and will face Mayor Pro Tem Stephen Buxbaum and former KGY Radio host Dick Pust in the August primary.
Rogers, 37, a policy specialist for the state Liquor Control Board, was elected to the council in 2009. She also has served on the Thurston County Planning Commission and the city Utility Advisory Committee.
In her campaign statement, she said her top priorities include fiscal responsibility and making the government more responsive to citizens. For example, she favors a two-year suspension of the city’s policy of putting aside 1 percent of major projects for the arts, which she said the city can’t afford in the bad economy. There is $235,000 in the municipal arts fund, which she said could be directed elsewhere.
“We need to tighten our belts, get our priorities in order and take the council in a new direction, take the city in a new direction,” she said.
Rogers has disagreed with council decisions to fund public art and was critical of a decision to cut maintenance funding to the Amtrak station. She ultimately voted, along with the rest of the council, to pass a budget that didn’t include Amtrak funding last year. She also voted this month, along with the rest of the council, to restore it.
She said her volunteers are preparing a database of city spending in the past year that residents can examine and make suggestions.
“What we need to do is get together as a community, go through what these tax dollars are and have the community decide,” she said.
Rogers said she planned to continue to hold her community meetings, which she has about once every other month. She said that despite some council members’ concerns, they shouldn’t be considered campaigning.
“Just because you campaign doesn’t mean you stop being a council member,” she said. “What I’m doing in these meetings is being a council member.”
She said her accomplishments in her nearly 15 months on the council include “creating open government and defining what open government is,” and “creating opportunities in the community for our community to participate more.”
Rogers said there also is “a greater focus now on outreaching to citizen advisory committees and using them more.”
Rogers joins a mayor’s race of relative newcomers. She had no elected political experience when she was elected to the council in 2009, the same as Buxbaum. Pust has never been elected to public office.
Rogers has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in wetlands ecology from the University of Florida. Asked why people should vote for her, she said, “There’s only one reason to vote for anyone. You vote for the person who’s most qualified for the job.”
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org