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Mayor Bruce Bassett, the advocate becomes the leader
Islander Bruce Bassett never set out to be mayor.
Bassett, elected by the Council on Jan. 3, is the 16th mayor in the 51 years since the Island incorporated as a city.
Bassett, 50, who moved with his wife Nan and two children to the Island in 2003, came here because of the schools, he said. After running his own business for 10 years, he wanted to give back, he said.
He joined in community activities to give voice to some of his “left-leaning” tendencies, he joked. “But I also wanted to set an example for my children.”
Both he and his wife quickly immersed themselves in volunteer activities. Between the two of them, they have been involved in environmental and arts organizations here.
Bassett was elected to the city council in 2007. He ran unopposed last fall for reelection. He hoped to point city government toward a greener approach to providing services. He was one of the organizers of the Green Ribbon Commission and has championed causes such as the farmers market, encouraging electric vehicle use and environmental awareness But as he has moved through the issues, he understands that leading the city requires more than a passion.
His goals for the coming months are straightforward. As mayor, he wants to “lead the city forward in a positive and collaborative way.” He notes that he has to move quickly from his role as a member of the council to its leader in order to effectively address the issues facing the city.
His first priority, he said, is to “get his feet on the ground with this new job.”
“As a leader, I want to find consensus. I want the Council to become an effective working body,” he said.
Part of that, he added, is to advance issues through the vetting and approval process.
“It is about how to move things along,” he said. “Part of what I expect is to be able to ‘tee things up,’ and set the agenda.” That is a different role than being a Councilmember, he said.
The next order of business in the first year or so, he said, is to work closely with the school district on their plans to rebuild Island public schools.
Next, the Town Center needs renewed attention due to the coming of light rail and increased pressures on parking.
Other more clear cut projects include a new South end fire station and continuing to work on accessibility and transparency at City Hall.
Finally, he said, it is time to put the Lindell lawsuit behind them.
“Over the past four years, we’ve consumed countless community and staff hours wrestling with the Lindell lawsuit and all of its permutations,” he said. “It’s time to move on.”
“There are important public safety, transportation, education, sustainability and parks issues that confront us and demand our attention.
“This does not mean ignoring the lawsuit,” he emphasized.
As a result of the lawsuit, the Council directed city staff to conduct reviews of both public records procedures and the human resources department and conduct a performance review of City Manager Rich Conrad.
The result of these actions is to implement plans to ensure that safeguards are in place to minimize the risk that what happened in the run-up to this lawsuit could happen again, he explained.
“These are steps to rebuild our confidence that we have a solid city government,” he added.
“No one is pleased with the lawsuit outcome, but each day we remain mired in this issue is a day we could spend moving ahead,” Bassett reiterated. “We face big challenges and we must focus our attention on meeting those challenges.
It is clear that the suit will remain on his mind as he begins his term, but will not deter him from what lies ahead.
“We won’t forget what has transpired, but neither will we fixate on it to the point where we lose touch with the many community issues that our citizens properly demand we address.”
The City Council will be taking applications for a new Councilmember to replace outgoing member and former mayor Jim Pearman of Pos. 4.
For information on how to apply, go to www.mercergov.org.