Fred Butler enters race for Issaquah mayor
January 22, 2013
By Warren Kagarise
Fred Butler, a City Council stalwart for 13 years and a voice in important debates about the future of Issaquah, entered the race for mayor Jan. 17.
The contest could hinge on the vision for the decades ahead, as city leaders seek to position Issaquah for redevelopment and attract more jobs to the community.
Butler, 72, served on the council at major junctures in recent history, as members debated the defunct Southeast Bypass road link, how to preserve forested Park Pointe on Tiger Mountain and, late last year, a 30-year redevelopment blueprint called the Central Issaquah Plan.
“We are in the process of evolving from a small town to a small city, moving from suburban to urban,” he said in a Jan 17 interview. “Because I’ve been involved in a lot of the planning and the development of the urban villages and the Central Issaquah Plan, I believe I’m in a pretty good position to help implement the direction that we are going in.”
Butler said the decision to run for mayor is rooted in a lifetime of public service, initially as a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer colonel and, as a civilian, chief engineer for Seattle City Light, and later in elected office.
“You’ve got to want to do it,” he said. “You’ve got to feel like you’re making a contribution and you’re making a difference.”
In 1999, as a then-novice candidate, he ran and won a council seat. The electorate chose Butler again in 2003, 2007 and most recently in 2011. Other council members elected Butler to the top spot, council president, in a unanimous decision Jan. 7.
The 23-year city resident and wife Rosemarie live in a Squak Mountain neighborhood.
Ava Frisinger is not expected to run
Butler is the only candidate for mayor so far, although the announcement could prompt other candidates to enter the race. Election Day is Nov. 5 and the deadline for candidates to file for election is in May.
The mayor serves full-time and earns $95,112 per year in the position. The next mayor is due to take office in January 2014.
If Butler — or another incumbent council member — wins the seat in November, the council is then responsible for interviewing applicants to fill the vacancy. (Butler’s current council term runs through December 2015.)
The incumbent mayor, Ava Frisinger, is not expected to seek a fifth term in the job. The last time she ran for re-election — unopposed in 2009 — she said she did not plan to run again in 2013.
Without Frisinger on the ballot, Issaquah is poised for a dramatic shift at City Hall.
Voters elected Frisinger in 1997, and she led Issaquah through monumental change — a construction boom in the hillside urban villages, annexations and a population explosion from about 10,000 residents in 1997 to more than 31,000 residents now.
Frisinger also raised the city’s profile throughout the Puget Sound region — a legacy Butler said should continue.
“I would like to think that I’ve developed a reputation as someone that can look after the interests of my own jurisdiction, Issaquah, but take a regional approach to helping to solve the problems,” he said.
Butler serves in regional roles, on the boards for Sound Transit and the Cascade Water Alliance, and as a representative on the King County Regional Transit Committee and the Eastside Transportation Partnership.
“What it does, it provides an opportunity to learn from those people some things that have direct applications to our own city,” he said. “There are good ideas and good things happening all over the Puget Sound region.”
Butler, a respected authority on transit issues, served in 2010 on a regional effort to reshape King County Metro Transit service. King County Executive-elect Dow Constantine tapped Butler to serve on the transition team as Constantine shifted ascended to the top county office in 2009.
“You’ve got the opportunity to see things that have worked very, very well that are directly translatable to Issaquah, and some things that perhaps haven’t worked too well that you want to stay away from, so that you don’t make the same mistakes,” Butler said.