OLYMPIA, Wash. — Olympia’s next mayor will come from a diverse group of candidates: a city council member, a business owner and a mother who lived out of her car with her seven-year-old daughter.
Cheryl Selby, Olympia’s mayor since 2016, announced last December she will not seek a third term this November.
Selby has endorsed Olympia City Councilmember Dontae Payne, an Army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan. Payne currently works in Gov. Jay Inslee’s policy office and was elected to Olympia City Council in 2021.
“I have a well-rounded understanding of how government works,” said Payne.
Payne said he is proud of his work to require police officers wear body cameras and his support of the expansion of affordable housing in the city.
He said he knows more work needs to be done to help those experiencing homelessness and to clean up encampments.
“The work is happening. Continue to be patient with us,” said Payne. “Give me a chance. I’ve only been on the city council for 18 months.”
Candidate David Ross, a former Olympia business owner who worked with the homeless in Thurston and Mason counties, said the city has enabled those experiencing homelessness to establish unsafe encampments across the city.
If elected, Ross said he would move to ban encampments while building more shelters and affordable housing. Ross said those receiving benefits and housing from the city would have to be held accountable.
"We're going to put you on a clock on making some progress with us and those will be baby steps and we'll help you all along the way,” said Ross. “But if you refuse help, we're not going to be a community that enables you anymore."
Candidate Desiree Chantal Toliver has no governmental or elected experience.
“But I’ve held a position as an advocate,” said Toliver.
Toliver said she and her seven-year-old daughter Aiyanna lived out of their car from October 2022 to the end of January 2023. She said she was able to get housing and a job by fighting for her family and figuring out what services were available.
Toliver said she would like to bring that firsthand experience to Olympia’s city hall to help others in need.
"When people fall into these cracks, underneath that crack is a huge gaping sinkhole full of other people who have fallen in and do not know how to get out," said Toliver.
The office is nonpartisan.
The top two vote-getters in the Aug.1 primary will face off in November.