City Council 2017

Fremont Brewing Owner Sara Nelson Joins Race for City Council

The small business woman says her experience working in both the private and public sectors prepared her for the seat.

By Hayat Norimine April 20, 2017

Sara nelson city council kznjcr

Sara Nelson, Fremont Brewing owner and a former staffer of longtime council member Richard Conlin, is running for City Council.

Nelson is joining the race for Tim Burgess' at-large position 8 seat and running against 10 other candidates—including Jon Grant and Teresa Mosqueda, who are both far-left candidates with strong support among progressives. (They've both raised nearly $100,000, according to the Public Disclosure Commission.) Burgess won't be seeking reelection.

"The bottom line is that I am a policy wonk, and I miss public service. And I’ve used my business as a soapbox to affect positive change on the local, state, and federal levels," Nelson said. "Sooner or later I was going to get back into policy full-time. This was an opportunity."

Nelson, 51, worked under Conlin starting in 2002, for most of his stint as a council member before Kshama Sawant took his seat in 2013. Fremont Brewing won King County's Small Business of the Year award in 2014, largely for its sustainability practices, and Nelson has made environmentalism central to her platform. During her time at City Hall, she helped Conlin develop policies on urban planning and the environment. 

But Nelson said every business is different and would be weary to push more environmental regulations; rather, she wants more programs that would incentivize small businesses to implement greener practices. "Make it easier for us to do the right thing," she said, "that would be a big help."

Nelson—who lives in Green Lake and is a mother of two—is a Democrat and considers herself progressive, but she aligns more centrist than her high-profile opponents. She's listed concerns about the $15 minimum wage and paid family leave, particularly its effect on small businesses.

"One-size-fits-all laws about wages, or scheduling, or paid family leave, they just don’t work." She said she supports the policy but thought businesses were left out of the $15 minimum wage conversation. "I really hope that as [paid family leave] goes forward, that they have a real conversation with Seattle businesses."

She won't be participating in the democracy vouchers program because she said she's joined the race late, and it would take away from her ability to have more in-depth conversations with constituents. And she wouldn't be able to put much money forward to self-fund, she said. 

On development, she acknowledged a need for housing density and said "everybody's going to have to give a little" because growth was inevitable. She also said council should take another look at micro-housing.

"We just have to be smart about how we’re going to grow, but we’re going to grow," she said. 

Nelson opposed the legislation proposed by the ACLU on homeless encampment sweeps, which was brought forward by council member Mike O'Brien: "It's not good practice to have an outside agency to put forward a piece of legislation with no fiscal note. I don’t believe in that process. I think it was too fast."

She's been endorsed by Conlin and former mayor Greg Nickels.

"I’ve worked for the City Council and I’ve worked with the City Council," Nickels said in a released statement. "The Council works best when there is balance. Sara, with her years of experience as a neighborhood small business owner and her level-headed approach will make the Council’s voice stronger for the all people in our community."

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