Rosen launches mayoral campaign with promise to ‘protect you, this place and your money’

Mayoral candidate Mike Rosen displays his list of “the 70 things that keep me awake at night” that he plans to address as mayor.

In the largest Edmonds campaign kickoff of the current election cycle, more than 200 supporters gathered at the Edmonds Yacht Club Thursday to hear mayoral candidate Mike Rosen formally throw his hat in the ring to become Edmonds’ next mayor.

Rosen joins two other candidates — City Councilmember Diane Buckshis and former City of Edmonds Senior Planner Brad Shipley — who are challenging first-term Mayor Mike Nelson.

The main speaker Thursday night was former Snohomish County Prosecutor and longtime Edmonds resident Adam Cornell, who pointed out that the large crowd “shows momentum – and in this case that momentum is for change at the mayoral level. This is an election about the right Mike and the wrong Mike, and I’ll spend some time talking about each – and that’s appropriate in an election that’s so important to this community,” he said.

Cornell began by admitting that he endorsed Mike Nelson for mayor in 2019, something he now regrets.

Former Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell, who spoke in support of Rosen, began with a public apology for endorsing current Mayor Mike Nelson in 2019.

“As a lifelong Democrat I hold progressive values, and when Mike Nelson sought my endorsement I gave it to him,” he said, calling it “a mistake. He has let the community down, he has let me down, and he does not deserve a second term as mayor. He has proven that he does not have the temperament or the skills to do the job. Too many times he’s acted to feather his own nest and not take care of the flock of citizens in our community. He shows a persistent lack of accessibility, transparency and accountability. But accountability is coming in this election.”

Cornell went on reference what he termed Nelson’s “repeated failures” over the past three years, citing one in particular that he said should “offend progressives and anyone with a good conscience.”

He pointed to a statement made by Nelson at an April 2023 press conference — reported in My Edmonds News — in response to recent violent incidents in the community, where the mayor delivered a strong tough-on-crime message. Cornell then read Nelson’s quote directly from the news report: “’…and to you wannabe and hardened criminals out there, I have a special message for you – if you think you can come to our city to commit violence and use deadly force, I promise you that you will be met by deadly force from our officers.'”

“Think about that,” Cornell continued. “It’s one thing to condemn acts of violence, but it’s another thing to suggest that we respond to acts of violence by sanctioning the murder of criminal suspects by the police. As the former county prosecutor and co-chief law enforcement officer in the county, I was shocked and appalled by Nelson’s remarks. We are a society of law, and criminal suspects have just as much right to due process as everyone else. Of course we condemn violence – we all do – but it’s another thing to sanction the murder of criminal suspects.  It’s unhinged and smacks of political desperation.”

Noting that a disproportionate number of those who are both victims of and arrested for crimes are people of color, Cornell said the mayor’s statement betrays what Nelson professes as his political values. In addition, Cornell pointed out that this creates tremendous liability – an officer who does this can say it was sanctioned by the mayor of Edmonds.

“He is the wrong Mike and does not deserve our vote,” Cornell concluded.

Then, pointing to Rosen, he added, “We have the right Mike sitting right there.”

After Cornell’s remarks, attendees viewed Rosen’s campaign video in which he states his values and makes his case for why he deserves their vote. See the video here.

Attendees respond to questions raised by Rosen during his remarks.

Taking the podium, Rosen then addressed attendees directly.

He began with a series of questions and asking for a show of hands in response, concluding with “How many of you could live anywhere but choose to live here in Edmonds?” and “How many of you think that our government could be doing better?” Almost every hand in the room was raised.

Looking across the room, he remarked at “how the audience spans the local political spectrum, but showed up in this room today because you want to make this place better.”

He next described his diverse job experience including market research, public involvement, communications and program development for a range of private and government entities. Other experience includes heading up the documentary and public affairs unit at KIRO-TV, serving on and chairing the Edmonds Planning Board, and helping found the Edmonds Civic Roundtable.

“I get government,” he stated. “I understand how governments work. And to me the job of government is simple: Add value, period.”

He went on to describe the job of the mayor as the CEO of the city, the council as the board of directors, and citizens playing the dual roles of shareholders and clients/customers.

He next outlined his priorities as mayor.

“First is stop the crazy,” he said. “Like many of you, I’ve seen what’s going on nationally – people are becoming polarized, not talking about the merits of an issue, but rather saying in effect ‘I don’t like what you say, so I’m gonna take you out.’  I always thought Edmonds wouldn’t do that, but it’s been creeping in.  I’m done with that, and in my opinion there’s enough of us out there who feel the same way. Not here, not us, not today.  There will always be those pushing to weaponize things, and while they deserve a place at the table and to be part of the discussion, we’ve gotta keep the crazy out, respectfully discuss the merits of an idea, and advance things together.”

He then spoke to his next priority, public engagement.

“Folks need a voice in things that affect their daily lives,” he said. “But it’s hard to engage – we’re busy and only have so much time. We need to be agnostic about how we engage with folks – one tool does not fit all. We must go beyond coming down [to council] on Tuesday nights, getting three minutes to speak, and trying to ignore the flashing red lights. We can do better than that.”

Mike Rosen shares a moment with his wife Sharon.
Rick Steves was on hand to congratulate Mike Rosen.

He stressed that Edmonds is a diverse community, being careful to point out that this goes beyond racial and ethnic diversity.

“We are a community of young people, old people, people who live in multifamily homes, single-family homes, different parts of town, different income levels, to name a few,” he said.  “There are more than 130 languages spoken in our schools, and many of us have physical and cognitive challenges.”

Another priority is city staff.

“Our staff is our subject-matter people – our experts,” he began.  “Over the past three years we have lost almost every single city department director. All that institutional memory has just walked out the door.  I know we can’t pay what some other places can, so we need to create the kind of place where folks who are already here want to stay, and folks from outside want to come and work here.”

His next priority is engaging regionally on issues that go beyond our jurisdictional borders like crime, housing, transportation and the environment.

“We’ll never have enough money or brains to solve these issues on our own,” he said.  “We need to roll up our sleeves and sit down with other officials from across the region, pool our knowledge and expertise, leverage our dollars, and tackle these.

“And sadly, for the past three years we haven’t even been showing up,” he added. “Our current mayor does not attend regional mayors’ meetings and has been absent in the joint efforts they have initiated. We need to deal with regional issues in a regional way, and Edmonds needs to be at the table. Building partnerships is how we’ll solve these problems.”

Another priority is money.

“We’ll never have enough money to do everything we want,” he stressed. “So we need to prioritize and identify what we really need to fund versus what would be nice to do. Top of the list is safety – if there’s a health or a crime issue, we’ve got to be there. Infrastructure like roads need to be repaired and maintained.

“So here’s my platform,” he continued.  “I’m gonna protect you, I’m gonna protect this place, I’m gonna protect your money, and I’m gonna do it by trying to improve government.”

Former Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson with Mike Rosen.

Running a city “with hundreds of projects going on, managing hundreds of people, and managing millions of dollars means we need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Rosen added. “It’s not three things, it’s hundreds of things.

“I have a list of 70 things that bother me,” he said as he unfurled a 10-foot scroll listing each.  “I won’t read each of them to you now, but these are the things that keep me up at night, and this is the stuff we need to be working on. If we can make good decisions based on good information, talk about the merits of an idea, have respect and empathy for one another, walk into a room knowing there will be controversy and be willing to admit to ourselves ‘what if I’m wrong?’ we’ll be on the right road.

“There’s a lot of power in this town,” he added.  “Volunteerism is the secret sauce, and we all have a stake and role in making this place what it can and should be. If you elect me, I’ll be in office for 1,461 days – that includes holidays, weekends and nights.  We are temporary stewards of this place, and we have to do it right. There is no undo button.”

He next related a parable about a traveler visiting a monastery at the top of a steep mountain. The only way up was to be hoisted in a basket by a monk. On the way up the traveler noticed that the rope looked pretty frayed, so he asked the monk hauling him up “how often to do you fix this rope?” The monk’s response: “Every time it breaks.”

“I think we have some ropes here in Edmonds that need to be replaced,” he concluded. “And it would be my great honor if you would hire me as mayor.”

Learn more about Mike Rosen at his campaign website here.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. Was wonderful to hear Rosen’s message last night. He will be a great mayor for our city.

  2. Mike Rosen is a terrific candidate for Mayor.
    He has been doing a great deal of public service as member and past Chair of the Planning Commission, leader and co-founder of Edmonds Civic Roundtable, etc.
    He has met with many of Edmonds Citizens and past leaders and secured a very impressive list of endorsements.
    I know Mike on a personal level and his integrity, civic commitment and leadership are all without question.
    After the many failings of current Mayor Nelson (flawed police chief hiring, lack of transparency, lack of engagement, lack of transparency, etc), Mike Rosen would be a huge breath of fresh air as our Mayor.

  3. From the time he announced, Peggy and I have enthusiastically Mike Rosen’s candicacy for Mayor of Edmonds. As a friend and a collegue, we know Mike to be very intelligent, experience, diplomatic, open, down-to-earth and committed. Not only that, he’s fun to be around. Anyone who doesn’t panic when a wild mountain gorilla sits on his lap can handle challenge the city might throw at him. He loves Edmonds, and we look forward to having him as our next mayor.

  4. Speaking of the flawed police chief hiring, does anyone know the status of the lawsuit Chief Pruitt filed? Sadly, I believe it’s against our city instead of Mike Nelson. If so, are taxpayer funds used or is insurance paying for the defense?

  5. In my view, Mr. Rosen has the attributes that will make an outstanding mayor: he is very bright, has a deep understanding of complex city issues due to his long service on (and leadership of) our Planning Board, believes in collaboration in solving problems, is a very effective leader of people, is not wedded to any particular political agenda, and truly cares about our city. I wish him well in his campaign.

  6. It’s against the city, Nelson (because when cities are sued it’s pretty standard to include the mayor), and rightly against Vivian Olson since she was the ringleader tapped by the group who decided to smear Chief Pruitt.

  7. Why at the yacht club, though? I know there are a lot of well-off people in Edmonds, but I don’t think that’s the best venue to highlight how progressive you are going to be for the entire Edmonds population. It also doesn’t look much like the audience “spans the local political spectrum”–it appears to be a room full of old white people (keep in mind, I am getting old and also white, I don’t have anything against old white people but that’s not diversity).

    I understand money talks, but I hope you don’t hold all of your events at venues that cater to exclusive groups of wealthy people. It’s not a good look if you’re trying to ride the diversity train, in my humble opinion.

    1. There are very few suitable facilities available in Edmonds that can accommodate 200+ people. Perhaps the Waterfront Center can hold that many but it has inadequate parking.

  8. My continuing memory of ‘right’ Mike’s membership and contributions to our City’s Planning Board while I was still Chair confirm to me that he will make a very good mayor for Edmonds. He has the thorough knowledge, temperament and commitment to our city and all of our residents. I wish him all good luck in both the Primaries as well as the General.

  9. I got the chance to spend a little time with Mike. I have no concern that he has our best interests at heart. He listens he spoke his mind he understands a great deal on a lot of topics not that we always agreed. Haven’t ever heard from the current mayor although I am sure I have sent several messages. The other 2 have the opportunity to engage I guess we will see if they do. Mike made the effort and in my opinion will continue to do so as mayor.

  10. All I know for sure is Mike Nelson needs to go, along with a couple of department heads who just don’t seem to get it that the citizens want to be heard loud and clear and assert their rightful position at the top of the organization chart; not at the bottom with three seconds to sing, often in desperation, at council meetings.

    Our next mayor needs to be a person who gets out into the community holding frequent town hall meetings in the neighborhoods and listens to people who want to volunteer and give their talents for the betterment of the city. Planning for actual needs should be more important than catering to all the wants of the various special interest groups in town. Just walking around downtown shaking hands and kissing babies isn’t going to cut it.

  11. Can someone please explain what this all means? Is it clamping down on free speech?

    “First is stop the crazy,” he said. “Like many of you, I’ve seen what’s going on nationally – people are becoming polarized, not talking about the merits of an issue, but rather saying in effect ‘I don’t like what you say, so I’m gonna take you out.’ I always thought Edmonds wouldn’t do that, but it’s been creeping in. I’m done with that, and in my opinion there’s enough of us out there who feel the same way. Not here, not us, not today. There will always be those pushing to weaponize things, and while they deserve a place at the table and to be part of the discussion, we’ve gotta keep the crazy out, respectfully discuss the merits of an idea, and advance things together.”

  12. Mike Rosen said “I understand how governments work.” Apparently not. If the mayor were CEO and the Council board of directors, as he describes, Council could fire the Mayor if not performing to their satisfaction.

    The CEO analogy is often used but is not accurate. Our strong Mayor (as opposed to a weak Mayor/city manager government) oversees staff and is responsible for ensuring our laws and ordinances are enforced. Council legislates. Courts adjudicate. Executive, legislative, judicial. Separation of powers. Checks and balances. Basic high school civics lessons.

    In contrast to businesses, which don’t have to be transparent in their operations, government must serve the citizens. This translates to being inefficient in which services to provide. Where they can and should be efficient is in providing those services. Unlike a CEO, the Mayor needs to understand both necessary inefficiencies as well as necessary efficiencies.

    Here is a link to astute comments by Joe Morgan in October 2011 (election season) about the difference between government and business. This discussion among citizens is enlightening:

  13. Mike Rosen will be a great mayor for Edmonds. Edmonds citizens need to make sure the other Mike (Nelson) does not get elected for a second term for all the reasons listed earlier.

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