In a surprise announcement today, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said he is calling

In a surprise announcement today, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen said he is calling it quits and will not seek a fourth term on the Seattle City Council.

“This wasn’t an easy decision, but it is the right one,” Rasmussen said in a statement. “It is now time to direct my efforts toward the same causes I have always been most passionate about — in exciting new ways.”

Rasmussen, who, had he remained a candidate, would have had to run in West Seattle’s newly-created District 1, is the second Council incumbent to exit the political scene, following Nick Licata, who revealed on Wednesday that he leaving his post after more than 17 years.

“During the last several weeks I have been taking stock of the year ahead. I have determined that what is most important is focusing on the critical issues before the City Council, rather than being divided between a campaign and the work I want to accomplish,” Rasmussen said.

The councilmember added that in his final year, he will focus on “fulfilling our commitment made during the Proposition 1 campaign to provide the best bus service we have ever seen in Seattle; finalizing Neighborhood Conservation District legislation to enable neighborhoods to have better control over growth and development; preparing and placing a comprehensive transportation measure (Bridging the Gap II) before the voters in the fall to improve our transportation network; and creating a Greenspace Opportunity Fund to allow neighborhoods to purchase former City Light substation sites to preserve them as open spaces.”

Rasmussen’s departure sets the stage for a wide-open race in District 1. Four candidates have filed so far: Amanda Kay Helmick, chair of the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council; West Seattle neighborhood activist Chas Redmond, business consultant George Capestany; and David Ishii.

Concluded Rasmussen: “I want to recognize the leadership of Mayor Ed Murray, my Council colleagues, advocates and others who have helped give meaning and inspiration to my work, and the talented staff who have provided extraordinary support and guidance throughout my time in office.

“I am profoundly grateful to have served the people of Seattle for more than 25 years, both as a member of the City Council, as Director of the Mayor’s Office for Senior Citizens and for former City Councilmember Jeanette Williams. I’ve sought to contribute to Seattle in ways that I hope will be meaningful for future generations.”