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Merkle not seeking re-election - Mayor supports newcomer for a City Council position

By Ruth Longoria

Changes are brewing for the look of the Mercer Island City Council, though it's still another eight months before the November elections.

Mayor Alan Merkle announced Tuesday he won't run for re-election to the council. Instead, he'll back Islander Michael ``Mike'' Grady for a council seat. Grady announced his candidacy the same day.

``I'm throwing my full support behind Mike, he'll be a great council member,'' said Merkle, who has served on the council since 1997.

The council appointed Merkle as mayor in 1999. His third term serving on City Council Pos. 6 will end at the end of the year.

``When I agreed to take on this third term as mayor, I made the decision it would be the end of my service to the city,'' he said.

But, he doesn't want people to think he'll be leaving office any sooner.

``There's a long time until Dec. 31, and there's still work to be done,'' he said. ``I'm not bowing out, just announcing I won't run for re-election.''

Merkle is proud of accomplishments the city has made during his time as mayor -- such as acquiring Luther Burbank Park, getting a community center underway, completing the Park & Ride, the tree ordinance, connecting the Island with a sister city in France, and moving forward with I-90, he said.

But, with a full law practice, two children graduated from college by the end of the year and plans to spend more time with his family, Merkle said, it's the right time to walk away from public office.

``Nine to 10 years is long enough to have my fingerprints on what is going on,'' he said. ``We should continue to get fresh energy, fresh perspective and broad thinking.''

Grady has those attributes, Merkle said.

Grady, 50, is a senior policy analyst for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Seattle. Since 1997, he has provided technical and policy assistance to federal, state, local and tribal governments concerning salmon conservation, as it relates to water, transportation and land use management.

Grady and his wife, Elizabeth Babcock, moved to the Island eight years ago from an area called Boston Harbor, outside Olympia, Wash. The couple have five children.

During his nine years in Olympia, Grady worked as water resource policy analyst and chief growth management planner for the state department of community development, and as community energy planner for the state energy office. He also was active in the community as a volunteer with his church and a basketball coach with the Boys & Girls Club. In Olympia, he was a PTA president for three years. He has continued those involvements locally since moving to the Island. and now helps coach track at Mercer Island High School.

Grady grew up in the Midwest, an hour south of Chicago, the oldest of 11 children. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology at the University of Notre dame in 1977, a master's degree in psychology at the University of Northern Colorado in 1982, and a master's degree in geology from the University of Idaho in 1985.

During the 1980s, Grady held various teaching positions, including as a geology instructor and director of cooperative education program at the University of Idaho, and a physical science instructor and academic advisor at Washington State University. He also was a board member for the city of Moscow, Idaho's parks and planning, and a petroleum geologist for the Mobil Oil Corporation. From 1977 to 1981, he was executive advisor and human relations counselor for the U.S. Air Force.

In addition to community, family, academic and political priorities, Grady enjoys participating for triathlons, mountain climbing, luging, team sports, kayaking and cultural events.

A sense of community is important to Grady, said, and it's something he hopes to instill in the young people he works with, as well as his own children.

``It's important to have a sense of responsibility,'' he said. ``To have the goal to make the community a better place.''

Grady's love of the Island is one reason he'd be a good councilmember, he said. He sees the positive aspects of Island life and plans to help retain those attributes.

``This is a very safe environment. Our kids can walk up and down the street and walk home or to school. That's rare,'' he said.

Grady said his familiarity with the Growth Management Act and utility and water issues also would enable him to make informed contributions to discussions and decisions. He also has city management and planning experience: ``I'm hoping to put that experience to good use.''

Grady believes there is a misconception that all Islanders are wealthy. He hopes to help improve the quality of life for those who aren't as well off, through support of programs for the less fortunate. ``The measure of a good community is to what extent we help those in need,'' he said.

Merkle said Grady's desire to serve the community is one reason he is supporting him for a council seat.

``The council is best served by people whose only interest is to serve the community,'' Merkle said.

In addition to Merkle's open council seat, two other council seats will be up for grabs in the November election. However, neither Councilman Dan Grausz or Councilman Jim Pearman, who now occupy those positions, are quite ready to make a decision on their candidacy.

Pearman, serving in Position 4, said he has too many issues pending to decide yet.

``I think I'm going to delay, there's a timing issue,'' said Pearman, whose wife is expecting a baby Oct. 17. Pearman, 48, also is attending classes and working toward a master's degree in public administration.

``We're all thinking about (whether or not to run for a council seat), but I'm not ready to announce,'' he said.

Grausz, serving in Position 2, said he may make a decision this week, after he's had a chance to observe the direction the council is planning for the new year at the council retreat, held last weekend at La Conner.

``If we're on the same page and I can make a good contribution, I'll run,'' he said.

But, if it looks like things are going a direction he isn't, he won't run. A lot depends on whom else is running, he said.

``I have no desire to be a lone wolf on the council,'' Grausz said. ``This could be a significant change to the council.''

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