Mike Nelson, left, and Mike Rosen

Mike Nelson, left, and Mike Rosen

Nelson, Rosen running neck-and-neck for Edmonds mayor

The incumbent, Mike Nelson, says his opponent Mike Rosen lacks experience. Rosen believes his opponent’s tenure has led to “lost trust.”

EDMONDS — Your vote could decide the next mayor of Edmonds.

Incumbent Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, 48, edged out political newcomer Mike Rosen, 68, in a four-way primary by a margin of 35.05% to 34.68% — a difference of 47 votes.

Nelson’s public service in Edmonds includes four years on the City Council and four years as mayor. He is endorsed by several local Democrats in the state Legislature, including state Sen. Jesse Salomon, state Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self and Rep. Cindy Ryu.

Rosen doesn’t have a political background, but said his professional background gives him the required credentials to serve as mayor. Rosen is backed five former Edmonds mayors and one of the city’s best-known residents, Rick Steves.

As of Tuesday, Rosen had received $85,141 in campaign contributions, about three times Nelson’s $28,704.

Nelson said his experience in public office makes him better qualified than his opponent.

“If you look at our city in the four years I’ve been mayor, our community is safer, it’s more welcoming, it’s more inclusive, and our quality of life has improved,” he said in an interview. “I have an opponent who we’re just sort of going on what he says. We don’t have any way to verify his experience.”

Rosen said his ability to solve problems, using public input and diverse experiences, outweighs what Nelson offers.

“I would argue that I have more experience with more government over a longer period of time across more agencies than anybody in city hall,” Rosen said. “The city has lost trust, appropriately, because they aren’t engaging with the community in a meaningful way.”

The candidates are vying for a four-year term.

Mike Nelson

Serving as mayor has allowed Nelson to see “under the hood” of Edmonds.

“Everybody’s job is always easier from the outside,” Nelson said. “Anybody who thinks they can just come in and wave a wand? Yeah, good luck.”

Nelson said the pandemic changed how he viewed his role as the city executive. And it equipped him with the tools to operate under crisis and uncertainty.

“Nothing can prepare you for that,” he said. “Having to make decisions with little to no information, and little to no preparation, that’s kind of a skill you don’t know you have until you’re in a crisis.”

Especially during the pandemic, he felt the weight his decisions could have on people’s lives.

As mayor, Nelson said he strengthened local law enforcement and prioritized funding Emergency Medical Services, resulting in faster response times, he said.

Nelson also prides himself on quadrupling funding for the city’s Pedestrian Safety Plan and acquiring new land for parks.

In April, Nelson attracted attention when he issued a stern warning after the shooting of a 13-year-old boy.

“For you want-to-be hardened criminals out there, I have a message to you,” Nelson said. “If you think you can come to our city and commit violence using deadly force, I promise you that you will be met with deadly force from our officers.”

Nelson had second thoughts about the statement in an interview last week.

“Do I regret saying that?” Nelson said. “Sure. But as a parent and as the mayor, I was upset and angry. I don’t want people shooting people in my city.”

His role as mayor goes beyond City Hall, Nelson said. When he is at his kids’ football games, the grocery store or going to restaurants with friends, Nelson said he is always interacting with community members and hearing their concerns.

“I’m never off the job,” Nelson said. “The only time I’m off is when I go on a hike by myself.”

Mike Rosen

Rosen said the current administration isn’t “respecting and hearing” what the community has to say, and the current mayor isn’t making decisions reflecting community values.

He plans to bridge this gap by making it easier for people to get involved with the city, by meeting them where they already gather: churches, community centers, and so on.

Rosen also assured voters he knows the ins and outs of government, despite having never served in office.

“The firm that I was managing principal of and worked for 26 years, more than half of our clients were government agencies,” he said.

He said he worked with government from local to federal levels across 20 states.

“I’m the guy that the government called and said, ‘How do we do this?’” he said.

In an endorsement letter to The Herald, the international travel expert Steves — who has run business Rick Steves’ Europe in his hometown of Edmonds since 1976 — said he’s more politically aligned with Nelson. But he believes Rosen will “be a better mayor.”

In his candidate profile, Rosen said he was the CEO/owner of PRR, a Seattle-based communication firm. Some voters felt this was misleading, and it has become a campaign issue.

“He was not CEO, and he was never the ‘owner’ in the typical use of the term,” said Theresa Hollis, an Edmonds resident who researched Rosen’s employment history.

Malika Klinger, one of PRR’s current managing principals, said in an email that the title of “CEO/owner” is an accurate reflection of the role Rosen played at the firm.

Rosen wants to increase public safety with a larger police presence. He also wants to funnel more money into repairing sidewalks and other pedestrian safety infrastructure.

He plans to work with larger government bodies to approach the homelessness and housing crises facing Edmonds, and invest in “evidence-based” and “culturally relevant” approaches.

Ballots are due Nov. 7.

Ashley Nash: 425-339-3037; ashley.nash@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @ash_nash00.

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