Is Ron Sims angling to be Seattle's next mayor? The former King County executive and deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is being cagey about it, even though Tim Burgess' announcement this week that he will run sets the campaign season in motion.
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"I haven't made a decision," Sims says. Still, in an interview with Seattle Weekly, he gives a glimmer of what could be the making of a stump speech and sets the record straight on a question that would likely arise in a campaign.Sims says he traveled all over the country for his job at HUD, and went to some places that knocked his socks of with their "vibrancy," "personality" and "innovation." Austin was one. Silicon Valley another. They are areas that have a sense of who they are and who they want to be, according to Sims.
Coming back home a year-and-a-half ago, though, he says he realized one thing: "Our area has lost the wow factor."
What exactly does he mean? Sims is hard to pin down. "It's a sense and a feel," he says. "We have become technicians."
He promises more details at a breakfast speech he is giving next Tuesday for the Urban League. "People will say 'he's raising this because he's running,' " Sims foresees, undoubtedly correctly. But he says he won't be using the speech to throw his hat in the ring.
At 64, he says he's basically been retired since coming back to his home in the Mount Baker neighborhood. "I want to do public service," he says, however. "I just haven't decided what that's going to look like."
One obvious question is why he left his public service job in D.C. after only two years. For several years prior to that, conventional wisdom had it that he was longing for a bigger stage than his role as county executive allowed. Then it was considered a lucky break for Sims that Barack Obama gave him just that, even though Sims had backed Hillary Clinton for president.
Mention this standard narrative to Sims, though, and he erupts. "The idea that I wanted to go back to D.C. is a lie! It is a crock, and I'm angry about it!"
The notion that he might be recruited by Obama was so far from his mind, he says, that he thought it was a joke when he got a call from someone claiming to be from the president's transition committee. "I hung up," Sims says.
Even after the staffer called back, and invited Sims to the transition headquarters in Chicago, he said he thought he was being asked in order to give a briefing on various issues. Then Obama walked through the door, sat on a couch next to him, leaned over and said, "I hear you want a job in my administration."
Obama had heard the rumor too! Sims didn't erupt in anger then, although he insists his response was "No, Mr. President, I think I want to stay in my community and run for office again." That 'no' quickly became a 'yes.'
Two years later, though, Sims said he was fed up with having "no life" in D.C. besides work. His wife and three grown kids were here. It may be full of boring technicians, but Sims says he just wanted to come home.
Recommitted to Seattle, he now has to figure out whether he wants to be its mayor.