Pledging to bring disparate groups together by fostering “civil discourse,” and to preserve Edmonds’ small-town ambience through building codes and architectural standards that “codify charm,” Vivian Olson formally kicked off her campaign for Edmonds City Council Position 5 in a Monday evening event at American Brewing Company in Harbor Square.
“The critical issue facing Edmonds right now is our failure to converse in a civil manner,” she said. “I believe that together we already have all the answers we need among us. The challenge is staying in the room long enough to actually have these conversations, and come up with meaningful, effective solutions.”
Olson also cited her experience with government contracting, engineering and technical disciplines, and years being part of the Edmonds community as among her qualifications for the council seat being vacated by retiring Councilmember Dave Teitzel. So far, Olson has one opponent — Planning Board member Alicia Crank, who announced her candidacy for Position 5 last week.
The first issue Olson hopes to take on is building codes, especially those affecting structures in the downtown core. For many citizens, it is the charm of these buildings and their surroundings that give downtown Edmonds its signature ambience, making the city a draw for day trippers and a joy to residents. She made it clear that her aim is nothing short of baking charm into the building codes.
“Downtown Edmonds has numerous old buildings, many single-story, a number of which will likely be either replaced or renovated within the next 20 years” Olson explained. “The current code allows 30-foot buildings, but doesn’t guarantee we’ll end up with something that is consistent with and adds to our unique charm. We’re already seeing downtown buildings going up that some feel are out of step. We need to get ahead of the rest of the building turnover and put guidelines in place that guarantee we’ll like how it looks 30 years from now. And we need to do this collaboratively, with everyone in the room.”
Olson’s campaign manager, Debra Rich Gettleman, describes the candidate as the woman of the hour, and what Edmonds needs right now.
“She is the person, she wants to listen, she wants to have creative, smart conversations that bring everyone into the room,” Gettleman explained. “She’s looking to break down barriers and meet people where they are. She is really about finding solutions together. She’ll tell you upfront that she doesn’t have all the answers, but believes in the strength, knowledge and wisdom of the community. She wants to harness that and work together to come up with answers.”
One way Olson proposes to do this is by getting out of the downtown core and holding weekly “Wednesday walks” in Edmonds’ neighborhoods. She says these will begin at a neighborhood gathering place such as a coffee shop, where she will talk about issues facing our community and listen to ideas and feedback from residents. She stresses her firm belief that we can all work together to come up with solutions that make sense.
Olson cited her background and education as providing a strong foundation for her to be an effective city councilmember. After graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1989 (“no, I did not know Captain Marvel!”), she went on to earn a masters degree in aeronautical science. While in graduate school, she also took several certification courses in government contracting, contract law, cost accounting and quality assurance. Her work experience includes supply contracting branch chief for the U.S. Air Force and contract administrator for Hughes Aircraft. She and husband Gregg settled in Edmonds, where they raised two daughters, during which time she worked as an independent businesswoman and coached swimming at Harbor Square Athletic Club.
“I believe my combination of experience, education and personal values make me as well-poised to do this job as anyone has ever been,” Olson said. “But it’s not about how awesome I am; it’s about how awesome you are. It won’t work without you. So bring your ideas, let’s have civil conversations where everyone is included and every idea is considered, and let’s come up with solutions that make sense. We don’t have to fear a future that we all help create. I love you, Edmonds!”
Learn more about Vivian Olson at her website..
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel