Before there was a socialist in City Hall, there was Nick Licata.

Before there was a socialist in City Hall, there was Nick Licata. After 16 years on the City Council, this gentle, graceful man is the uncontested leader of the city’s progressive politics. An unabashed lefty activist at his core, this is a guy who lived in a Capitol Hill commune for two decades, who published the alt-weekly Seattle Sun in the 1970s, and who, upon his first election to the Council, instituted poetry readings in his committee meetings. Well known earlier in his political career for fighting new sports stadiums, he famously told Sports Illustrated in 2006 that the effect of losing the Seattle Sonics would be “close to zero.” But as he once said, “You can’t be a leader from the caboose. To be a leader you gotta be in the engine, and sometimes it gets hot in the engine.” The sponsor of the city’s paid-sick-leave law, Licata is thoughtful, engaging and always entertaining. He’s not a screamer or a grandstander. He listens before he acts. There’s a reason he wins re-election by landslide margins.

Read all of our picks for People & Places, and explore the rest of this year’s edition of Best of Seattle.

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