SEATTLE — Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson will resign April 5, triggering an appointment process and perhaps hyper charging the 2019 election.
The announcement comes just a day after Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed Johnson’s signature piece of zoning legislation.
“The timing is great, because it allows me to get this giant legislative accomplishment done and go back to being a dad,” said Johnson in an exclusive interview with KING 5.
“I'm definitely interested in going back to the private life,” he said. “This has nothing to do with timeline of future employers with NHL Seattle.”
Instead, Johnson characterized the move as a family decision. The married father of three young girls had served as the head of the Transportation Choices Coalition before leaving in 2015 to run for council and often talks about his family at council meetings. Yet, he is often one of the more soft-spoken members and says his style is more about “working on collaboration and good government” than grandstanding.
“The national conversations has bled into a lot of our local conversation too, which means tempers are at an all-time high,” Johnson said. “So someone like me with young kids and a spouse who wasn't in love with me being in politics in the first place, the idea of getting this legislation done on Monday and be a capstone on my career was too good of an idea to pass up.”
Johnson says he's proud of some of his other legislation, including getting the Families and Education Levy on the ballot and extending community center hours in particular.
The announcement prompts a special appointment process smack dab in the middle of an election cycle. The council will by city charter be forced to appoint a new member within three weeks. In 2017, in the wake of then Mayor Ed Murray’s resignation and transition of Councilmember Tim Burgess to the top office, it appointed Kirsten Harris-Talley for the rest of the term. That was for a city-wide position, and Johnson’s will be limited to District 4.
Nine different people have filed paperwork to raise money for the 2019 election and the council seat. It is possible the council could look to those candidates or appoint someone on the pretense of a short-term role. Abel Pacheco, who was the runner up to Harris-Talley in the 2017 appointment, has filed with Ethics and Elections in this cycle and received praise from council members while interviewing during his last attempt.
However, Council President Bruce Harrell said the option of selecting a current candidate is not likely.
“I believe we should appoint an experienced ‘caretaker’ who agrees not to seek election to the Council this year,” Harrell said.
Johnson says whomever takes over should likely have land use experience, as they’ll be leading that committee, which means “tree protection ordinances, like quasi-judicial rezones with regularity, so this person will have to shepherd legislation.”
Johnson is also relinquishing his role on the Sound Transit Board, which will trigger another whole process involving King County Executive Dow Constantine.
Johnson says he’ll take some time off before starting his new gig.
“The (new) arena in and of itself is going to create a lot of opportunities,” he said. “I’m really excited to start working with them.”