Nine candidates are vying to be Seattle mayor. Times City Hall reporter Lynn Thompson sat down recently with business owner Charlie Staadecker to let him introduce himself and tell voters what’s important to him. The answers have been edited for length.
Business owner seeks to bring trust, transparency as mayor
Seattle mayoral candidate Charlie Staadecker answers a few questions about his background and his plans for the city.
Occupation: Business owner
Education: B.S., economics, Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania, 1966; B.S., hospitality management, Cornell University, 1971
Home neighborhood: Pike-Pine
Family: Married to Benita, three grown children
Hobbies: Cooking, reading, golf
Q: You’ve run a commercial real-estate company in Seattle for 35 years. How does that and other experience prepare you for the job of mayor?
A: The focus of Staadecker Real Estate is attracting companies to locate here and expanding companies who currently are here. That directly relates to understanding job creation and economic sustainability. I would use those skills to attract employment to Seattle.
My first career was in hotel administration. The lessons I learned about exceeding customer satisfaction and expectations are exactly what citizens are looking for in their government.
I also had two terms on the Vashon Island School Board and one term on the Puget Sound Educational Service District. That’s politics at the grass-roots level. You learn very quickly that you have to be a collaborator to take diverse opinions and mold them into strategic goals.
Q: How would you ensure that the Seattle Police Department has strong leadership and is undertaking the work of reform?
A: The first thing is the criteria in hiring a new police chief. Foremost in my mind is the word “integrity.” Integrity to stand up and change the systemic culture to one of transparency. We have lost the trust of the public. Without a doubt, the majority of officers deeply care about the people they serve, and they work in a very professional manner in a high-stress job.
The changes I would ask for are to re-establish that trust by getting out of police vehicles and doing more beat patrols where police officers actually go door to door in neighborhoods, introduce themselves and say, “I am here to serve you.”
I would also ask the new chief to come up with a plan to incentivize new recruits to come from the city’s neighborhoods. Because then you are part of the community, and that is an important ingredient to rebuilding trust.
Q: How would you balance growth with quality of life and protecting single-family neighborhoods?
A: Single-family neighborhoods must remain single-family. Identify neighborhoods that could become more dense that have mass transit and other services. I do believe in height. I think tall, slender buildings add more light and space. I would incentivize public space, plazas, water features and parks. Height should not be a deterrent for the great interaction we want to see on the street.
Q: Seattle has a $1.8 billion backlog in deferred maintenance for transportation infrastructure such as arterials and bridges. That’s despite a $365 million levy approved in 2006 that was supposed to catch us up. How would you address that?
A: Aging infrastructure is one of the biggest problems we face in the next 20 years, and it’s not just roads. We have 100-year-old water mains, failing sewers, potholes beyond repair, crosswalks obliterated. We need a very transparent, 20-year plan on solving this. The people of Seattle would be very supportive if they knew what was facing us. People don’t see a return on Bridging the Gap and if they don’t see a return, they won’t renew it and they won’t have trust with funding major infrastructure.
Q: What is your strategy for getting through a crowded primary?
A: After every panel discussion or forum, people come up to me and say, “You don’t speak politically. You don’t look at this as a steppingstone. You’re doing this solely because you care deeply about the city.” If I can just get enough exposure, people will recognize that you don’t have to be a politician to lead a city.
Q: You responded in one forum that you were looking for a police chief with the “highest virtues.” You wear a bow tie. You raised your kids on Vashon Island, as if you were hiding out from the big, scary city. Sometimes it seems like you’re from another era. Can you relate to contemporary Seattle?
A: Actually, the reason for Vashon Island was it represented all the best that Seattle used to be — it was a neighborhood where people cared and took care of each other. And I truly believe that those old-fashioned ideals can apply to modern Seattle. Virtues such as trust and authenticity are exactly what people are thirsting for today. They don’t like political strife and gridlock.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305
On Twitter @lthompsontimes