Edwards Looks to Fend Off Lacey Democrat in County Commission Race

Incumbent Commissioner Gary Edwards, left, is facing Democrat Michael Steadman.

There’s a pretty good chance that as a kid Lacey City Councilor Michael Steadman was a lousy kick-the-can player. And perhaps that’s why he doesn’t want to revisit the grownup version of the pastime as he runs in a tight race for Thurston County Commissioner District No. 2.

“Essentially the message is I get things done,” Steadman said in a recent phone interview with the Nisqually Valley News. “I don’t kick the can down the road, and I don’t make excuses.”

His Nov. 3 general election opponent — District 2 incumbent Gary Edwards — isn’t getting his kicks on Route 66 either these days. He’s right here, he says, and eagerly accessible to the citizens of Thurston County. 

“I’m in touch with our community, and I make that a priority,” he said in a recent interview. “I have always prided myself on that. I feel that it is very important to be available to the public that’s paying your wages. I pride myself on not being a bureaucrat. I don’t work for the government. I work for the residents and taxpayers of Thurston County.”

Edwards and Steadman — who is in his seventh year on the Lacey City Council — are vying to capture the easternmost of the three Thurston County commissioner districts, which encompasses parts of Lacey, Yelm, Rainer and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Edwards handily beat Steadman in the Aug. 4 primary election, 57 percent to 42 percent, with the vote limited to residents in District 2. The two candidates will appear on the ballots of all three commission districts for the Nov. 3 general election.

Edwards, 73, was elected to the Thurston County Board of Commissioners in 2016 and before that served 37 years in law enforcement — 20 of those as Thurston County sheriff. He served in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1968 and is a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Edwards is no stranger to District 2, having graduated from Yelm High School before attending universities out of state and graduating from the National FBI Academy.

Steadman, 50, was elected to the Lacey City Council in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. He graduated from Milpitas High School in California in 1989 and was in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves from 1991 to 1999. He currently owns Steadman Properties, a commercial leasing company in Lacey. 

According to the state Public Disclosure Commission, Steadman had as of Monday, Oct. 12, outraised Edwards $101,776 to $24,595, though Steadman’s expenditures have dwarfed Edwards’ $54,243 to $926. 

Steadman contributed $17,000 to his own campaign, received another $2,239 from the Washington State Democrats and counted a variety of other donors who contributed $2,000 each or less. Edwards has relied on a host of donors who have contributed from $1,000 to $100.

To entice voters, Steadman is relying on his ability to take charge and push through projects and legislation. He doesn’t think that’s been happening in the current Thurston County Board of Commissioners and believes Edwards is one of the main culprits holding progress hostage.

“Gary is in trouble,” Steadman said. “Gary will not win this election, and in the future the can will no longer be kicked down the road. We need real leadership that will stand and take on the fiduciary responsibilities that public officials are responsible for.”

According to his campaign literature, Steadman maintains distinct views on a variety of matters that could affect Thurston County.

They include: concentrating growth in Urban Growth Areas; avoiding sprawl and ensuring rural areas stay rural by encouraging transit and preserving farmland; keeping bus fares free of charge; ensuring Thurston County champions its recreational economy; investing in a new, regional county fairgrounds; expanding alternative criminal justice options; and improving mental health services, especially as it relates to homelessness.

Steadman also proposes a variety of ideas to enhance the region’s economy: decreasing demand for automobiles and investing in sidewalks, urban trails, bike lanes and commute trip reduction programs; marketing and promoting Thurston County’s sports economy by enhancing the area’s Regional Athletic Center; and maintaining a strong commitment to the arts that drives the economy for restaurants, theaters, museums, hotels and other businesses.

Steadman also wants to maintain the area’s farmland so people have access to locally grown food; reduce the cost of affordable housing through better transportation infrastructure, access to transit, increased housing options, increased density and competitive wages; ensure sustainable county budgets that focus on innovation, inclusion, and infrastructure; and improve the effectiveness and ease of county permitting through innovative online and digital access.

“The county is just putting Band-Aids on things and just getting by and not even scratching the surface on what they should be doing,” Steadman said.

And that includes trying to maintain an aging county courthouse Steadman believes should be replaced.

“You’re talking at least $50 million to repair the current courthouse,” Steadman said. “It’s way cheaper to start with a property where you don’t have all these problems rather than putting Band-Aid fixes on them. It’s not just a coat of paint that’s needed.”

And in addressing the COVID-19 crsis, Steadman had this to say in a previous NVN article: “There is no hiding that we face a long and difficult recovery from this crisis,” he wrote. “If elected, I will seek the advice of experts throughout the scientific and medical communities, as well as work with county staff and other jurisdictions to get input and adhere to best practices,” he wrote.

Edwards lists his main objectives for a second term on the Thurston County Board of Commissioners as: creating a balance between economic health and the well-being of our citizens; reducing regulatory roadblocks to revitalize businesses; addressing adequate treatment for mental health addiction that will help reduce homelessness; and ensuring public safety and support for law enforcement.

“I want to make Thurston County the best place to live and work that it can possibly be,” Edwards said last week. “I want to create good jobs here in the county so people don’t have to commute to Seattle just for their jobs.”

And to make it the best place to live and work means “living safely.”

“I’m not one of these people who want to defund law enforcement,” he said. “If you want a safe community, defunding law enforcement is not the way to get there. I want the people of Thurston County to feel protected and safe, and we can do all of that at the same time we take care of the environment.”

Edwards other campaign stances include: remodeling the existing county courthouse and using adjoining property to enhance it; allowing citizens to utilize their property without damaging the environment or hurting others; addressing adequate treatment for mental health and drug addiction while holding people accountable for their lifestyle choices. His stance includes creating job opportunities for people that build self-esteem and independence.

Edwards also seeks to offset potential county budget shortfalls by adjusting regulatory restrictions and accepting financial assistance from the federal government that should allow the county to continue current services.

In addition, he wants to ensure Thurston County Public Health and Social Services continues to share vital information about the COVID-19 pandemic. “I would always like to be guilty of sharing too much information rather than not enough because it builds community trust,” he wrote in his campaign literature.”

In his race against Steadman, Edwards believes his experience will help him prevail come Nov. 3.

“I think experience counts, especially today with this whole COVID-19 thing,” he said. “I’m familiar with the bureaucratic process, and that will help with activities on the commission.”

According to his campaign website, Edwards is endorsed by The Affordable Housing Council, the Thurston County Realtors Association and the Washington State Farm Bureau PAC.

His individual endorsements include 2nd Legislative District Rep. Andrew Barkis, former county commissioners Diane Oberquell and Kevin O’Sullivan, Yelm City Councilor EJ Curry and a host of other individuals.

Steadman’s campaign website lists endorsements by such organizations as Olympia Invisible, Lacey Professional Fire Fighters, Thurston County Young Democrats, the Sierra Club and SEIU Healthcare, among others.

His individual endorsements include a variety of current and former elected officials that include Legislative District 22 Sen. Sam Hunt, County Commissioner Tye Menser, County Assessor Steven Drew, Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder, Port Commissioner Joe Downing, Tumwater Mayor Pete Kmet, Deputy Lacey Mayor Cynthia Pratt, and Lacey City Councilmember Carolyn Cox.

 

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(2) comments

HowieG

Gary Edwards is one of the few Thurston County commissioners, over the years, to put pressure on Tacoma Power to run Alder Lake Reservoir at safer wintertime levels. The February 7, 2020 flood should have been better mitigated and Gary has pointed that out. Tacoma Power allowed the reservoir level to rise to TWO feet below capacity at the end of January 2020, when they could have easily kept it at ten feet below

HowieG

Gary Edwards is one of the few Thurston County commissioners, over the years, to put pressure on Tacoma Power to run Alder Lake Reservoir at safer wintertime levels. The February 7, 2020 flood should have been better mitigated and Gary has pointed that out. Tacoma Power allowed the reservoir level to rise to TWO feet below capacity at the end of January 2020, when they could have easily kept it at ten feet below

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