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Originally published November 14, 2009 at 12:06 AM | Page modified November 14, 2009 at 3:31 AM

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Band of advocates, activists now McGinn's likely insiders

While no one is naming names, it looks like Mike McGinn is putting together a team of advocates and neighborhood activists — some of whom felt marginalized under Mayor Greg Nickels — as well as former City Hall insiders and people with expertise in transportation and other issues.

Seattle Times staff reporter

There's a rumor going around City Hall this week about Mike McGinn, Seattle's environmentalist, bike-riding mayor-elect. The story goes that McGinn once ousted a job candidate from an interview after the applicant admitted he drove a Jeep SUV.

McGinn calls the rumor "absurd." But it does show a certain wariness among city employees about McGinn and his incoming administration.

McGinn won the mayor's race, beating his insider-backed opponent, Joe Mallahan, by more than 5,000 votes. A crew of volunteers nicknamed the "jobless schoolkidz" and a bunch of environmental and bicycling advocates comprised McGinn's campaign.

Now McGinn is working on turning that group of people into a mayoral administration.

While no one is naming names, it looks like McGinn is putting together a team of advocates and neighborhood activists — some of whom felt marginalized under Mayor Greg Nickels — as well as former City Hall insiders and people with expertise in transportation and other issues.

"I think we're looking for individuals who ... are really good at working in a team context and supporting each other," McGinn said this week. "We're also looking at people who will be open to engaging community groups, in understanding and in solving the problems we face."

McGinn has moved his headquarters from a couple of cluttered storefronts in Fremont and Southeast Seattle to a corner office on the 60th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower in downtown Seattle. Members of the team who used to crowd onto folding chairs and a rented microfiber couch are now working in an airy conference room with views of the city's South End and Lake Washington.

They took out the cubicles in the transition space and set up computers around a long table so they could work together.

McGinn is reaching out to former mayors, he said, and he recently had breakfast with former King County Executive Ron Sims.

"We're going to be looking not just to the people that have been involved in the campaign," McGinn said, adding, "We need people who understand how government works. We need people who understand how Seattle works."

That likely will include some people who are already insiders.

"You need to bring in some seasoned hands," said David Hiller, a McGinn ally and advocacy director at the Cascade Bicycle Club. "The difficulty here is that a lot of the seasoned hands either sat on the sidelines or backed the other guy."

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Mallahan, not McGinn, won the endorsements of the city's business and labor communities, law enforcement, unions and Gov. Chris Gregoire. Local elected officials, including Nickels and the entire City Council, did not endorse.

Tayloe Washburn, the immediate past president of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, said he already has reached out to McGinn and offered to help.

"He's going to be our next mayor. As our leader, it's in everybody's best interest to work together and leave the campaign behind," he said.

Washburn endorsed Mallahan, contributed to his campaign and sat on his advisory committee. He said he hopes McGinn seeks a broader range of people than just his campaign supporters.

David Postman, a spokesman for the Vulcan real-estate development company, which did not make an endorsement in the general election, is advising McGinn on media relations during the transition. "What Mike wants to do is to take what worked so well in the campaign and use that through this transition period and in running the city," said Postman, a former Seattle Times reporter.

After McGinn accepted Mallahan's concession Monday night, he answered a question about the members of his transition team by gesturing at his packed campaign office:

"Look around the faces in this room," he said. "Some of them will be on there."

South Seattle Realtor Darryl Smith and Kip Tokuda, a former state legislator, led a transition meeting this week of about 30 community supporters.

McGinn has planned three town-hall meetings in the coming weeks. He might not ever establish a traditional transition team, Postman said.

"People in the campaign might also be really good, smart people who can grow into other roles as well," said Brice Maryman, a local landscape architect and campaign volunteer. "People become advocates because they feel like government isn't representing a particular thing. But they have other skills, too."

Maryman isn't looking for a job in the administration, he said. But Rebecca Deehr, a former policy director for pedestrian advocacy group Feet First and co-chair of a city pedestrian master-plan advisory group, said she might be interested.

Community activists, she said, "aren't just advocates. They're really experts in their field."

Deehr was one of dozens of community activists who endorsed McGinn and spent hours phone-banking for him. Hiller, too, said he has had a couple of brief conversations with McGinn about how he could help with the transition or in the administration.

But everyone insists it's too early to get into specifics.

McGinn does have some experience with transitions. He sat on Nickels' transition team in 2001.

Staff reporter Mike Lindblom contributed to this story. Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or eheffter@seattletimes.com

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