LACEY - Lacey Mayor Tom Nelson will not seek another term as mayor, opening the door for another council member to snag the next two-year appointment.
Nelson made the announcement during a Lacey City Council retreat Friday. He said juggling a full-time job with the requirements of being mayor became too much to handle.
“I just don’t have those hours to devote to it,” Nelson said, who noted he often has three to five weekly requests to attend events that conflict with his job at North Thurston Public Schools, where he is director of facilities.
The decision doesn’t mean he plans to leave the council altogether. Nelson, who is nearing the end of his second term, said that he is leaning toward running this fall but hasn’t made a final decision.
Mayors in Lacey are chosen by the council every two years. As council chair and spokesperson, the position doesn’t hold much additional power but does pay more. In his capacity as mayor, Nelson votes like any other council member but also runs meetings, makes recommendations for boards and commissions, and assigns council members to committees.
Several council members have already expressed interest in filling the position, a decision that will go before council in January.
Deputy Mayor Virgil Clarkson and council members Andy Ryder, Jeff Gadman and Ron Lawson all said Monday they would serve if nominated. Council member Cynthia Pratt said she isn’t interested in being mayor, preferring committee work to being in the spotlight, though she didn’t entirely rule it out. Council member Jason Hearn said in an email response that he believes Clarkson is “by far the best qualified” for the mayor position.
Clarkson, who served as mayor from 2004 to 2007 and is in his fifth term on the council, said he would accept an appointment but won’t advocate for the position.
“I have no political or administrative desire to push for that,” he said, “but I will say, if they wish me to serve in that capacity, I will serve in that capacity.”
Lawson said he has no ambition to be mayor but that he’d accept a nomination.
Gadman, who was recently appointed to fill an unexpired term, expressed interest but said he was unsure if the rest of the council would welcome a relative newcomer to the seat.
Clarkson, Nelson and Lawson said they wouldn’t support a newly elected council member for mayor.
The next mayor needs experience and history on the council, Nelson said, adding that Gadman doesn’t fit that profile.
Others say it isn’t the right time for a new council member to take over as mayor.
“This council has gone over some very traumatic changes of the past 15 months, and that’s a bit of a radical jump that I don’t think we’re quite ready for yet,” Lawson said, alluding to the three new council members who took office in 2010 and the appointment of Gadman earlier this year.
However, not everyone is opposed to a newcomer mayor.
Pratt said she wouldn’t lean either way before seeing the makeup of next year’s council.
Ryder disagrees with the idea that the mayor should have council experience, saying they shouldn’t ignore a new council member with strong communication skills who could run a meeting and make sound judgments.
There is a possibility the next mayor of Lacey isn’t even on the current council. With three seats up for grabs this fall, the council could experience a wave of new faces along with a new mayor.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/outsideoly