By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The first West Seattleite to declare she’s running for City Council citywide Position 9 has campaigned for a council spot before.
Back in 2015, Brianna Thomas finished fourth in a field of nine during the first-ever District 1 primary election.
At the time, she had a resumé of political and community organizing. Since then, she’s learned about City Council work from the inside, as chief of staff for Council President Lorena González, whose run for mayor is opening the position Thomas is seeking.
We talked with Thomas by phone at midday today, a few hours after her campaign was announced.
What has five years of work at City Hall changed about her, since the last run? Thomas replied that she started with “a little naivete and a lot of enthusiasm” and while she has lost the former, she still has the latter. And she has come to know a lot about public service, dealing with responsibilities from negotiating policy to “listening to people rant and rave” while working on constituents’ issues.
How has she sought to change things from the inside? Thomas says she has tried to lead with a more collaborative, team-oriented approach. Her appreciation for teamwork also came through when we asked what she is proudest of: The interns she has mentored, she replied, and watching what they achieve as they go out into the world.
What would she bring to the council that it doesn’t have now? Her first reply: Lived experience as a Black person, Thomas replied. Especially during the upheaval of last year, she observes, the council’s lack of the Black perspective was glaring. As for other attributes she would bring, she mentioned the technical knowledge she’s amassed during her work as Council staff (no learning curve).
What would she have done differently – something she doesn’t support, that the current council has approved? The electric-scooter program, she said, seeing them as an impediment to pedestrian accessibility.
Speaking of transportation, Thomas told us in 2015 that she didn’t own a car, and says that’s still the case. “I am a HUGE user of the (Metro) C-Line.” She also is still a renter. Housing policy is something she hopes to work on, in an environmental-sustainability framework – policies that would continue making a difference “10, 20, 30 years from now.”
And before our short interview ended, we asked about another high-profile issue – public safety. “Investing in community-based solutions” is vital, Thomas said. What about bridging the gap until such solutions are up and running? Some already are, she said, through the City Attorney’s Office, for example. Choose 180, for example, was mentioned by City Attorney Pete Holmes during his recent West Seattle Crime Prevention Council appearance; Thomas said it’s recently expanded to work with youth 18 to 24 as well as younger.
Our last question: What do you hope to be talking about on the campaign trail, even if not asked? “How we’re going to be kind to each other again,” she declared. Negativity has flourished in the past year or so, but she hopes everyone will remember “this is a beautiful place to live.”
Thomas is one of seven candidates who have registered campaigns for Position 9 with the city, second of those candidates to send us an announcement. The field won’t be finalized until May; voting will start in July for the August primary election, which will send two candidates to the November general.