‘Our best days are ahead’: Nelson presents 2023 State of City

Mayor Mike Nelson addresses attendees.

Residents gathered at the Edmonds Waterfront Center Thursday evening to hear Mayor Mike Nelson’s 2023 State of the City address.

Local business owner, restaurateur and Edmonds Multicultural Association trustee Steve Ono opened the event by welcoming the approximately 60 people attending in person, telling some of his story about growing up in Hawaii, and eventually settling in Edmonds where he opened his business and became part of the community.

The event was also broadcast remotely on Zoom and via the city’s cable television channel.

Local business owner Steve Ono welcomed attendees and introduced Mayor Nelson.

“Owning a restaurant that helps make Edmonds a dining destination is a high – and unexpected – honor for me,” he said.  “I am so grateful to be an active participant in this community. Our community inspires and encourages me every day to make Edmonds a place where we work smart, respect everyone and be kind – where we truly live aloha.  And now it is with great pride that I introduce the mayor of Edmonds, Mike Nelson, to present the 2023 State of the City address.”

“Good evening and it’s wonderful to see you all,” Nelson began. “It is so great to be here in person again where I can see your faces and not be talking to a screen.”

After acknowledging officials present, including schools interim superintendent Rebecca Miner and several city councilmembers, Nelson referenced the challenges the city has faced over the past few years, all against the backdrop of COVID.

“Are there challenges still facing us?” he asked.  “You bet. But I believe that our city and its residents are ready to tackle them together.”

The mayor speaks at the Edmonds Waterfront Center Thursday night.

Nelson then launched into an overview of the city’s 2022 priorities and accomplishments including reimagining public spaces and numerous events held around the city. These included Lunar New Year, the city-sponsored uptown and winter markets and three new community festivals: Five Corners Cornercopia, Porchfest and the Firdale Winterfest. Nelson also pointed to a range of other accomplishments: a new neighborhood city hall, the city’s new electric vehicles, the Highway 99 Gateway Project, the SMART 911 program that provides timely information directly to residents on events ranging from natural disasters to street closures, ramping up the city’s human services efforts specifically to assist those without homes, the community policing academy, and progress on Civic Park.

Expanding on the reimagining public spaces effort, Nelson stressed how the initiative is helping connect all parts of our city — not just downtown — and that this was in response to residents’ expressed desire for more community events in public spaces.

“And where are these public spaces?” he asked.  “They are predominantly in our streets, which comprise 77% of our public space. And these pilot projects were implemented because you — the members of our community — pulled together to make them happen. With your help, we doubled the number of outdoor markets in the Uptown neighborhood, held outdoor movie events in our parks and more, all of which were attended by hundreds of residents. Significantly, this was the first year our parks events were held outside of downtown.”

Addressing the city’s human services program, Nelson described how Edmonds’ new social services worker – now fully integrated with the Edmonds Police Department – coordinated service for 195 people in 2022, connecting those in need of housing with housing services, detox treatment, counseling, food and hygiene resources and more.

“This has truly been an all-city effort, where human services has coordinated with police, the neighborhood city hall, our community court, parks, planning, our Edmonds Senior Center, South County Fire, and numerous nonprofit and faith-based service providers,” he added.

Moving on to policing, Nelson stressed that the city’s police department is better equipped, funded, trained and staffed, and is more diverse, accountable and engaged, citing examples including active-shooter training and the kids’ cyber safety program.

The mayor next addressed the local economy, pointing out that “it continues to be strong,” helped along by such measures as business support grants and outdoor dining permits that have increased sales tax revenues.

“More people than ever are visiting, dining and shopping in Edmonds,” he said. “My friends, business is booming.”

Addressing the topic of equity in action, the mayor acknowledged his frustration in not being able to hire a permanent equity and inclusion manager but hopes this will happen soon to help bolster the city’s effort to build trust and engagement with historically underrepresented communities.

“This is part of our ongoing efforts to meet people where they are, not expecting them to come to us,” he said.

Among the mayor’s priorities for 2023 and beyond is acquiring land across the city for creation of new parks. This map shows parcels currently under consideration.

Moving on to parks, Nelson rolled a video montage of progress at Civic Park, compressing many months of construction into a few minutes of photos. “We are so close!” he concluded.

He went on to describe how the city has identified multiple tracts of land across the city for possible expansion of the parks system, creating new parks in neighborhoods previously underserved.

“I hope to share with you soon some additional progress we are making in this area,” he added.

He next described the progress along the Highway 99 corridor, specifically pointing out that in addition to construction and the physical changes, there is a planned community renewal program to include walking tours, open house events, public/private partnerships, housing opportunities and new parks.

The proposed multi-use trail network will provide safe routes for walkers and cyclists, connecting parks, schools and other amenities.

Nelson concluded with a glimpse of what the future holds, looking ahead to where we are going in 2023 and beyond. These include a multi-use trail network to connect schools and parks throughout Edmonds, an Edmonds disaster preparedness volunteer group, an updated 2023 Climate Action Plan that will put Edmonds on track for climate neutrality by 2050, and additional investments in Highway 99 including planter buffers, signage, sewer upgrades and lighting.

The Mayor’s Climate Action Plan lays out a roadmap for the city to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050.

In addition, the mayor said the city is working with the Washington State Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation to establish a downtown historic district to add to the National Register of Historic Places and thereby help preserve the charm and heritage of the city’s downtown core.

“These plans are multi-year, they are bold, and they will make Edmonds more livable for all,” he added. “These, combined with efforts already made and underway, will ensure that Edmonds continues to be a vital community for us and for future generations.

“Even with all this, there will always be challenges to face,” Nelson concluded. “But I’m not worried, because we are not alone. We are blessed with an amazing city staff, dedicated volunteers, active community leaders, caring business leaders, and the most compassionate and engaged citizenry in this whole country. My friends, our best days are ahead.”

The event was recorded and will be posted shortly on the city website and YouTube for later viewing.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel


  1. Thanks Larry for a great article. Things are happening. I am particularly intrigued by the plan for expanding parks.

    1. Mr. Wambolt’s thoughts about sidewalks are important for public safety. This would be a very good question for next mayoral candidates and their budget priority on sidewalks and public safety and how they will live up to that expectation.

  2. I certainly applaud some of the strides forward and accomplishments that the city has made in the last year. However, what I didn’t hear is how we’re doing as a city with our finances.

    Are we on solid ground financially? Or, that because we have dramatically reduced our financial reserves over the last few years, leaves us with little cushion to absorb fluctuations in these uncertain economic times? My back-of-the-envelope analysis of the recently adopted 2023 city budget suggests that the city will be needing to come and ask us for a property tax increase before the end of the year. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in an election year.

    I agree with the mayor that our best days are still ahead IF we can stop working at cross purposes, engage in open and honest dialogue about the problems we face and collectively (the mayor and his administration, City Council, local business leaders and us citizens) look for solutions. The only way I know how to do that is to be fully transparent about our challenges.

    Problems are normal. It’s how we solve them that requires communication, coordination, and some imagination.

  3. Once we manage to “vision” downtown streets into a proper walking mall park, the town will be just perfect. Can’t wait to see the grassed in area around the fountain, complete with eating tables and lounge chairs for the visiting masses. I will give the mayor kudos for finally picking a great police chief and at least giving a little minor push back to the idea of state control of our city zoning. Hope he doesn’t lose too much clout with the State Dem.s over that slight slip away from proper group think.

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