Top (L-R): Mike Nelson, Brad Shipley. Bottom (L-R): Diane Buckshnis, Mike Rosen.

Top (L-R): Mike Nelson, Brad Shipley. Bottom (L-R): Diane Buckshnis, Mike Rosen.

Rosen, Nelson advance in race for Edmonds mayor, refocus campaigns

Four candidates threw their hat in the ring. Diane Buckshnis and Brad Shipley trailed behind on Tuesday.

EDMONDS — It’s looking like a battle of the Mikes.

Of the four candidates vying for Edmonds mayor, incumbent Mike Nelson and former communications firm CEO Mike Rosen are set to advance to the general election. Rosen narrowly led the race as of Tuesday with 35.7% of the vote.

Nelson was neck-and-neck with him at 34.2%.

Thousands of ballots remained to be counted over the next two weeks.

On Wednesday, The Herald spoke with both candidates about their initial reactions and how their campaigns will refocus moving forward.

Mike Nelson

Nelson, 48, said he’s excited to participate in community forums and debates to share his vision for Edmonds.

“I have served in an elected capacity for the city of Edmonds,” Nelson said. “I’ve also done a lot of work for the city, and I have a lot to show for it. It’s one thing to have a wish list. It’s another thing to say, ‘Hey, here’s what I have done to the city, and here’s what I’m going to do moving forward.’”

Nelson provided a list of about 100 accomplishments during his term as mayor, regarding public safety, COVID response, equity and inclusion, parks and the economy. He’s proud to have quadrupled the pedestrian safety budget, received funding for seven new police officers, hired the first female police chief in the city’s history, secured $40 million to revitalize the Highway 99 corridor and moved forward on acquiring and protecting the Edmonds Marsh for salmon.

“At the end of the day, you have to ask, ‘Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?’” Nelson said. “And I think most people would agree it is.”

Looking forward, his top priorities are to continue making Edmonds more walkable, to create more parks and green space and to invest more in the Highway 99 corridor. Some of those goals have big price tags attached, like the $37 million land acquisition and remodel, but Nelson said there is funding in place through programs like the Community Renewal Act.

“Not only is it an investment in the city, but it’s also going to be a wonderful way to provide community resources in an area that has historically been undeserved, and that the entire city and the entire region will benefit from it,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot of potential here.”

Additionally, Nelson said he’s excited to expand upon cultural events — like Lunar New Year, Juneteenth and Pride — to “bring more diverse folks together” and continue making Edmonds a welcoming place to live and visit.

“I think there’s been a lot of great things happening in our city — that’s what I see,” Nelson said. “It feels to me like a net positive.”

Nelson’s opponents have argued that during his term, trust has been broken in the community. Nelson disagrees.

“Trust in general, nationally in government, is at a low right now, and I can’t think of anything more divisive to say than ‘Don’t trust government right now,’” Nelson said. “I think if you look at the last person that we’ve elected who didn’t have any experience, like my opponent, that said, ‘Trust me,’ is Donald Trump. And we’ve had four years of chaos. Just because somebody says, ‘Trust me,’ what do they have to back that up?”

Nelson also supports more accessory dwelling units to keep people housed in Edmonds.

“Those who have a different vision for Edmonds will say whatever they can because they fundamentally have a different view of Edmonds,” Nelson said. “I’m interested in moving our city forward, and I think others want to take our city backward.”

“People are always afraid of change, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Nelson continued. “We can preserve the uniqueness of our community, but also change in a way that makes it more walkable, safer for pedestrians, more welcoming and more livable.”

Mike Rosen

Rosen, who has the backing of five former Edmonds mayors, currently serves as vice president of the Edmonds Center for the Arts. Previously, he managed multi-million dollar budgets while CEO of communications firm PRR.

Thus far, Rosen, 68, has been pledging to advocate for ideals like communication, unity and collaboration. On Wednesday, Rosen said he plans to hone his campaign a bit more moving forward. He said he has noticed “consistent threads” in issues like pedestrian safety, crime and safety, and the Highway 99 corridor, as well as environment and budget issues.

“We are spending down our reserves,” Rosen said. “We have used federal money to invest in things that have long-term commitments. So if you hire staff, and you use one-time money to do it, you still have to pay those people in the future.”

He questioned Nelson’s decision to move forward with the $100,000 land acquisition that will require millions to renovate into a community space.

“That by itself erodes trust — the council did not know what was going on,” Rosen said. “It’s sort of an ongoing loss of trust by a thousand cuts.”

Rosen said the community lost trust in its local government through misrepresentation in surveys, inaccurate vision statements and a lack of community outreach.

“Go online, and try to find an email for Mayor Nelson,” Rosen said. “There’s not an email for him. You can’t email the mayor. That doesn’t build trust.”

He said the biggest difference between himself and Nelson is their approach to problem solving. Rosen explained that his approach has three parts: making decisions with public input, gathering varied information to inform decisions, and then acting in a way that accurately reflects public sentiment.

“I believe that there aren’t any issues that Edmonds is facing that are unique to Edmonds,” Rosen said. “There are people in the region, in the state, in the country and in the world who have dealt with the issues we’re facing on much grander scales than we have. So I’m big on reaching out to international or national experts.”

He also hopes to “tap into the secret sauce” of volunteerism.

“The decisions that are made by the people we elect impact every day of our lives, so on the one hand, it’s very humbling to be supported by the number of people who have invested their trust in me so far, but I really do encourage people to investigate,” Rosen said. ” Talk to people who’ve worked with us or worked for us. Because the mayor is a CEO … and government only moves at the speed of trust.”

Buckshnis and Shipley

City Council member Diane Buckshnis and Brad Shipley, the city’s former senior planner, will not advance from the primaries.

Buckshnis garnered 21.8% and Shipley brought up the rear with 8.1%.

Buckshnis, who worked in finance for 23 years, has served as a fiscal watchdog on the city council for 13 years. She aimed to spend tax dollars wisely, protect neighborhoods from multi-family development and protect the environment.

Shipley stepped down from his city job to run for mayor. He has also worked in urban design, finance and real estate. Looking forward, he hopes to design a better Edmonds, specifically focused on the city’s growth and inequalities.

“I am fully committed to constructing a more inclusive city, with a specific focus on housing and transportation,” Shipley said in a July interview. “Having been a former city employee, these are the very challenges that have consumed my daily efforts and granted me a profound understanding unmatched by any other candidate.”

Kayla J. Dunn: 425-339-3449; kayla.dunn@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.

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