Besides the presidential race, there's another election in November, one that will affect your house, your schools, and your neighborhood more directly than anything that happens in Washington D.C. It may be more fun to discuss geopolitical issues, or pretend your opinion matters about macroeconomic policy, but your local and state representatives have an immediate affect on your day-to-day school issues and transportation options -- and as candidates they are a lot more responsive to your input.
The Mercer Island area is served by representatives from the Washington State 41st legislative district, and this year there are two candidates: Steve Litzow (Mercer Island City Councilman) and Marcie Maxwell from Renton. Steve's a good guy -- I have a lot of respect for him and his role on Mercer Island. But I hadn't heard of Marcie until earlier this year. She presented to the Mercer Island school legislative team a few months ago and I'm sure she'll be making many more appearances as we head into summer and fall (she let me take that photo when I met her at a party). So who is she?
She's a real estate agent with years and years of local community involvement in everything from the Rotary Club (she's local president) to the school board (former president) to her local neighborhood association (Kennydale, former president). I'm pretty sure she knows everybody in Renton (including my favorite public official blogger, Renton Councilman Randy).
By all accounts, she'd make a great representative, but I have two concerns. So I emailed her and she responded immediately with a personal reply.
First, since my natural inclination is to support my home team (Steve Litzow lives not far from me), I wanted to know what sort of connections (if any) she has with Mercer Island. Here's her response:
My parents have lived on Mercer Island since 1989. My dad passed away on December 13th, 2007 at age 86 and my mother continues to live in her condominium on Mercer Island. As I grew up in Central and South Seattle and am Sephardic Jewish, we have many life long family friends and community connections on Mercer Island. Also, for many years, we attended Temple B'Nai Torah where my children went to Sunday School and had their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs at the temple's former site on Mercer Island.
I have worked directly with Mercer Island School Board Directors on education issues as well as built ongoing working relationships with my state legislators who live there.
Second, since education is my number one issue, I was concerned about one thing missing from her background: although she and her family seem extremely supportive of public schools, their focus seems to stop at high school. What about college? or graduate school? Does she push students to pursue doctorates and professional degrees? Here's what she said:
My daughter graduated from Central Washington University with a degree in Nutrition; she went on to Western Culinary School and is a Classicly Trained Chef; and then graduated from the highly regarded Dietitian program at Oregon Health Sciences University and is a Registered Dietitian. My son attended a university then graduated from Renton Technical College with an AA degree and ASE Certification in auto mechanics. Both are successfully employed in their fields, supporting themselves, and are wonderful young people.
I grew up in a working class household in inner city Seattle, attended Seattle Public Schools, attended college but did not graduate as I needed and wanted to work. At age 22 and with strong work ethics and promotions, I was hiring, training, and managing college graduates to work in the branch banking field. I have been through extensive trainings and continued learning opportunities throughout each of my careers.
Long-term, deep community involvement is her biggest strength, but in one way that's her biggest weakness as well. Her entire life and career, along with her family and friends, has been so focused on local that she's faced little serious competition from people or organizations out of the area, much less any kind of threat from world-class or global competitors. The people of the 41st district will always need auto mechanics and chefs, policemen, and real estate agents, no matter how good the schools are in China or India. Strong unions can protect teachers, and Olympia can ensure that the Microsofts and Amazons pay their "fair share" of the revenue needed for transportation and public services, but will that be enough?
These are the sorts of questions I think we should be asking of her (and Steve) between now and November. A lot will happen between now and then, so I'm not ready to put my name (or money) on any candidate yet. Marcie has plenty of impressive backers, but so does Steve. Some people endorse both. What do you think?