Following the premature resignation of Councilmember Sally Clark from the Seattle City Council, local leaders Sharon Maeda and John Okamoto have put their names into the hat for the city councilmember vacancy.
The Seattle City Council plans to appoint a new member by majority vote on April 27. The selection of the finalists for the position will be on April 20.
In a statement, Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess said, “Given the council’s work and unprecedented character of this fall’s election, I believe we should appoint an experienced ‘caretaker’ who pledges not to seek election to the council this year.”
Maeda was a community activist, having worked as a journalist, teacher, non-profit director and in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She says that the variety of her previous jobs allows her to see different sides of an issue.
“I think I can really hit the ground running. [If I got the position] I have until the end of the year and I’ll give it everything I have,” Maeda said. “I can work without having to worry about the distraction of running for office and not worry about my next career move.”
Maeda retired in February. She was most recently executive director of 21 Progress, a program assisting young adults and immigrants with DACA applications and college and job readiness.
“I know how to go into a situation and find out what everybody wants. I’m a really collaborative person and I like to get things done,” she said.
Maeda noted that she was humbled, thrilled, and amazed by support she has already received from community members.
In 2006, Maeda was a finalist for the city councilmember position vacated by Jim Compton.
Unlike Maeda, Okamoto spent most of his career in the public sector. He’s worked in various administrative positions in the City of Seattle, Port of Seattle and Washington State Department of Transportation. He was also executive director for the nonprofit Washington Education Association.
“The issues before the council this year—I feel I have the knowledge,” Okamoto said. The knowledge, he said, is of issues, policy, and operations within the city government system. He said he gained this knowledge throughout his various jobs.
“I grew up two blocks from City Hall. I have a deep love for Seattle. I have deep relationships within the community and issues in the community,” Okamoto said. “I’m pretty humbled by the level of support given by the community. This is my first run for political office, so I didn’t know what to expect.”
Okamoto stepped down as interim director of the Seattle Human Services Department in February. He is currently assisting with the transition of leadership to the new acting director and some special projects within department.
Clark stepped down from her position as councilmember on April 12. She will assume the role of director of regional and community relations at the University of Washington.
In 2015, seven members of the new City Council will be voted in by district while the additional two positions will be at-large, as decided on by Seattle city voters 2013. All nine councilmembers were previously chosen by city-wide vote.