A passion to serve and connect with the military community is driving Tacoma City Councilman Anders Ibsen to temporarily leave office to become an officer in the Marines next month.
“I love my community, I love the place I call home and I want to do what I can to protect it,” said Ibsen.
Ibsen, who is two years into his first term in office, consulted with family and friends before ultimately making his decision. Many family members have military ties, including his wife who serves in the Army National Guard.
Colleagues, including Mayor Marilyn Strickland, learned of his announcement recently.
“People are a little taken back because it’s such a novel thing. It hasn’t happened with an elected official since World War II. If you’re committed to making a difference, you step up and make that difference,” said Ibsen.
With a huge military presence in south Puget Sound including in Tacoma, the councilman believes becoming one of them is the best way to understand their needs and advocating for them -- a relationship that Ibsen hopes will boost the area economically.
“That direct connection with someone can make or break the difference between getting an economic development project and getting that new company to locate here,” he said.
Ibsen learned he was accepted into the officer training program weeks ago, after receiving a perfect score on what was a grueling physical exam.
“The Marines Corps are no slouches when it comes to physical performance,” said Ibsen.
Among the requirements: 20 pull ups, running three miles in 18 minutes or less and doing a hundred sit ups in two minutes.
At 27, Ibsen is the third youngest Tacoma Councilman ever, but will be among the older Marines recruits.
Although Ibsen is physically eligible, he received an age waiver to join the officer training program. He will turn 28 in March before he reports to Basic School in Virginia.
Ibsen will leave his seat for up to a year, but won’t have to give it up thanks to a state law.
RCW 73.16.031 grants leave to elected officials who go into active military service or training, allowing them to return to complete any unexpired portion of their term.
Under the city’s charter, council members will temporarily fill the vacancy by appointment with a majority vote.
Ibsen is pushing for Jordan Rash, a local homeowner in his district who is also the Conservation Director for Forterra, the largest land conservancy and community building non-profit in Washington State.
“He’s intimately aware of the issues I’ve been working on he’s been thoroughly brought up to speed,” said Ibsen.
According to Ibsen, Rash shares similar passions for the city including: an effort to adopt a citywide sick leave ordinance, an anti wage-theft ordinance and the creation of a historic conservation district for the West Slope neighborhood.
“This is a great opportunity for Anders. For me to be able to step up and facilitate the ability for him to serve our country is important to me,” said Rash.
If Rash’s appointment is confirmed by the council, he plans to work with Ibsen over the next few weeks to familiarize him with the council member legislative priorities, but he also hopes to push for economic growth.
“Tacoma has an ability to shake off the recession and see new development come into the city, especially the downtown and east side areas,” said Rash.
When Ibsen returns, he will still serve one weekend a month at one of four locations across the state. He jokes at what members of the community may call him.
“Lt. Councilman? Ha ha I don’t know,” said Ibsen.
Ibsen will formally announce his leave at the December 3rd council meeting. His last meeting before training is December 17th.
The councilman plans to give up city pay and benefits like vacation and retirement during his leave.
He reports to Officer Candidates School January 6th.