(Steven Lane/The Columbian)
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt confirmed Thursday that he will seek a second four-year term.
He made the announcement at a 2 p.m. event at Sigma Design, a downtown firm, amid a small invited gathering of supporters and media.
A day earlier, Leavitt kicked off his campaign with a private event that raised $35,000 for his re-election effort.
“In 2009, you handed me the reins of the city,” Leavitt said. “I told you then that it was time for a better idea. During the deepest doldrums of the recession, we’ve accomplished significant improvements with that better idea. Yes, we could have buried our heads, we could have shirked our responsibilities, we could have complained that it was others at fault. But we didn’t. Instead, we pulled up our bootstraps and went to work.”
“Your city today is stronger, leaner and more friendly to work with,” Leavitt said.
He said the city has created a small-business resource website, and will soon debut a new, more user-friendly city website.
“And, we are building bridges in partnerships with both local businesses and regional agencies to entice more jobs to Vancouver,” he said.
He cited Sigma Design, which employs 37 people downtown, as an example of small-business growth in downtown, along with Torque Coffee, Loowit Brewing Company and Gravitate Design Studio. Then he mentioned PeaceHealth, which projects that by 2017 it will have 800 workers at Columbia Center, and said the health care organization selected Vancouver over five other locations.
Leavitt said there’s still a lot to do, and it won’t be easy. He asked people to join him in his fight for the future of Vancouver.
He also referenced a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, signed by Leavitt and 43 other mayors, that outlines ideas for new revenue dedicated to repairing roads and bridges statewide.
“And I know that it’s difficult to swallow,” the idea of an 8-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase or $20 licensing fee increase, he said.
But the conversation needs to be about what will happen if the state doesn’t invest in infrastructure, Leavitt said. What will happen to job growth without a robust system that can handle the traffic required to move freight?
“The state won’t succeed,” Leavitt said, answering his own questions.
“Laying the brickwork, getting into the nitty gritty — as we are doing now — isn’t entirely sexy, but the fact is that we are building a strong foundation, building that infrastructure necessary to ensure that our community, and that our city, thrives as the economy returns,” Leavitt said.
Mayoral races are nonpartisan. So far, Leavitt is the only announced candidate.
Republican County Commissioner David Madore, a businessman who recently spent $300,000 of his own money to win office, said this week that he would back candidates against Leavitt, whom he has criticized for supporting the Columbia River Crossing project.
Madore and Commissioner Tom Mielke recently voted to halt funding to the Columbia River Economic Development Council, an organization that tries to recruit new businesses and help existing businesses expand, because the organization supports the CRC.
“To those who prefer to say ‘no we can’t,’ I ask you to say, ‘yes we can’ and ‘yes we will,’” Leavitt said to the crowd of approximately 45 people. “To those who prefer to cut apart our community, I ask you to say enough. We’ve had enough. And, to those outsiders who want to take control of the future of Vancouver, I ask you to tell them to dictate somewhere else.”
Leavitt closed his speech by saying, “You should know that I will go toe-to-toe with anybody that challenges the values of, and disparages the importance of, reasoned decisions being made today for our future. I will not be bullied.”
Leavitt, who grew up in Vancouver, joined the city council in 2003. In 2009 he defeated Royce Pollard, who had been mayor since 1995. Leavitt’s detractors insist he won in 2009 because he said a new Interstate 5 bridge could be built without tolls.
After his speech, Leavitt dismissed as rhetoric the claim that he won only because he ran on an anti-toll platform. He said in his travels around the community, people tell him they voted for him for a lot of reasons. He said that for many people, the CRC isn’t a priority. They are more concerned about city services and what the city can do to attract jobs.
The mayor’s job in Vancouver is part-time and currently pays $26,624 a year.
Councilors earn $21,372 a year, and per city charter those salaries are set by a salary review commission.
Leavitt, 42, works as an engineer at PBS Environmental + Engineering.
Candidates can file to run May 13 through May 17, and the general election is Nov. 5.
If more than one person files to run against Leavitt, candidates will face off in an Aug. 6 primary and the top two finishers will advance to the general election.