In Seattle, the race for mayor is in full swing, and among the contenders is a former islander who served on Vashon’s school board and created an education award that is still bestowed each year on the island.
Charlie Staadecker, who moved from Vashon in 2004 but still has strong ties to the island, declared his candidacy last September before most of the other seven candidates vying for the position. Since that time, he has gone on a four-month “listening tour” in Seattle, fine-tuned his platform and raised a considerable amount of money.
Staadecker, who owns a real estate company in downtown Seattle, explained his motivation for running for office and leading the city where he grew up.
“I think Seattle and our region are on a spring board for great success, and yet what I saw at city hall was leadership that was polarizing, divisive and combative. This is the exact opposite of the direction that will be needed to ensure our success in the future,” he said.
Staadecker, who now lives in downtown Seattle near his office, has served as the principal of his company for 35 years, he said, and has brought many businesses to Seattle. In the future, he believes small businesses will be essential to the city, especially in the fields of technology, biotechnology and software. Job creation is of utmost importance, he said, calling the availability of well-paying jobs the greatest social justice that can be provided.
Not a career politician by any stretch, Staadecker said his professional background suits him well for the challenges of mayor.
“My career has been built on trust, authenticity and collaboration,” he said, “and that is what I would bring every day if elected.”
His vision and platform are built on six key points, with job expansion and economic stability leading the list, followed by education, a city hall that serves the citizens, safety, infrastructure and the sense of Seattle as a place that rekindles the spirit of the great Northwest.
His message, he said, is resonating.
Staadecker lived on Vashon for 12 years with his wife Benita and children Tess and Ben.
At Vashon High School, Principal Susan Hanson, who taught both of Staadecker’s children, voiced her support of his candidacy.
“I think he would be a wonderful mayor. I would vote for him if I could,” she said.
Staadecker served on the school board when she was hired as the principal and was a strong advocate for students, Hanson recalled. His tenure on the board was at a time of some significant challenges, including a schedule transition and substantial mold problems at the high school. Always, Hanson said, Staadecker wanted to know how proposed changes would benefit students and would only change his mind once he was convinced something was truly in their best interest.
“He would ask very, very penetrating, thoughtful questions,” she said.
Staadecker’s board tenure spanned from 1995 to 2003, and in 1996 the board earned the distinction of being the Washington State School Board of the Year. He also served as the state legislative chair for Washington’s 295 school districts.
In 1998 as a member the school board, Staadecker created the Doors of Opportunity Award, which honors a district teacher or staff member who goes beyond his or her job description to open doors and maximize students’ potential. Award winners earn $2,000 — $1,000 for personal use and $1,000 for their classroom. So far, 15 district employees have won the award, and nominations for this year’s recipient are due at the end of May.
Staadecker said he returns to Vashon frequently because of “deep, enduring friendships” here. And he returns each year to hand out the award, a task he said he will continue should he become Seattle’s mayor.
“I am blessed to have lived on Vashon,” he said.
Acclaimed violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and pianist Kimberly Russ of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra will perform a benefit concert for Staadecker’s campaign with Seattle Symphony Orchestra Conductor Emeritus Gerard Schwarz at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 28, at Town Hall Seattle. For more information and to purchase tickets, see www.charlieformayor.org.