What’s next for Vancouver city council?

2013 could be pivotal for Smith, Stewart, Burkman

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

Halfway through Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt’s first term as mayor and on the eve of a potential announcement on whether or not he’ll run for Congress, at least a few city councilors are also weighing their political futures.

For Councilors Larry Smith and Jeanne Stewart, 2013 may mean a mayoral bid, wether Leavitt decides to try and keep his seat or not. Another councilor who may have higher aspirations, Jack Burkman, said that door may open only if Leavitt does not run for re-election as mayor.

It’s not clear if Leavitt, should he decide to run against first-term Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler in 2012, would or could keep his title as mayor, his full-time job as an engineer and make a full press to win.

Smith and Stewart, both longtime council members, have indicated they have their eyes on the center seat at the dais.

Smith, who was elected to his seat in 2003 and won re-election this year, serves as mayor pro tem and makes no secret of the fact he’s interested in the job.

“If (Royce Pollard) hadn’t run, I would have run” in 2009, Smith said. “It’s something I’ve considered — it’s on my mind.”

Smith said he’s considered where he could “best serve the citizens” — including if that means he’d serve the city better than Leavitt.

Options open

Stewart said Leavitt’s weaknesses as mayor are among her motivations. The two have not minced words in their views on one another, particularly when it comes to Stewart’s dissenting view on the Columbia River Crossing.

“Anyone who wants to exercise rightful caution, he wants them just to shut up and have no voice,” said Stewart, who has served since 2001.

Stewart’s shown she could be interested in moving up the ladder: She filed briefly to run against Democratic County Commissioner Steve Stuart in 2010. But, for Stewart, the stakes could be higher than for some of her fellow councilors: Her term expires in 2013, the same year as the mayor’s term is up, so she’d have to pick.

“I think about it sometimes,” Stewart said. “I’d like to see as things go along. The political scene comes and goes and is constantly changing. It’s too far out to stake my claim.”

Burkman, who was elected to the council in 1997 but did not run again in 2001 due to family issues, was elected again in 2009.

“I told Tim that I will never run against him for mayor,” Burkman said.

But he remained more coy when it comes to running in 2013 if Leavitt isn’t in the picture. He’s shown ambition to take a higher role before — running unsuccessfully as a Democrat for state representative for the 17th District in 2006.

“A lot of people approach me and say ‘because you’ve done council, you’re going to go for higher office,’” he said. “But my love is in the community here. My goal is to continue working for the city for a substantial period of time.”