Recently the Seattle-based digital news publication, The Evergrey, asked a very important question: We may know what each of candidates’ political platforms is, but what will they be as leaders? I worked in human resources for a decade. I understand how critical this is, yet I never questioned why we don’t do this in society. Why we don’t demand that debates include questions that urge candidates to reflect on their past work experience and share what they learned. How they failed and succeeded.
The opportunity to actually ask our mayoral candidates themselves these types of questions thrilled me. The Evergrey’s Leadership Lab was the opportunity. Along with a few other engaged members of the community, I sat down to 45-minute interviews with Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon. Again, our job was to steer them away from policy and push for information about how they lead. You can get the details on these two interviews, plus interviews with our four city council candidates at The Evergrey.
In this election, it’s sometimes difficult to make out the differences between two candidates. All of them are pushing for more taxes, bigger city government and no real solution to homelessness and housing affordability. For someone who believes in a fiscally conservative approach to our city’s problems, you may just want to skip voting altogether this election. But learning the leadership skills of each candidate has made me believe there will be a profound difference in how each of them tries to tackle their policies, and how people with our viewpoints will fair. Here are a few takeaways from each conversation.
I left my interview with Cary feeling like I understand her as a human being more, rather than just a politician with a specific platform. Hearing how Cary has approached her leadership roles in the past helps me to better predict what kind of mayor she would be. I think it would very different from what we’ve experienced in Seattle. There was such a huge emphasis on the systemic racism of Seattle, yet no specific evidence or data to support her claims. A leader wants data. A leader needs evidence to drive decisions and changes. I did not get much from Cary. There was another point in the conversation where Cary went on to discuss the time where she took over the family business at a factory in Michigan. The cultural differences were stark between Cary and the employees. Cary told us there was a point where someone referred to her as a “career girl.” After that, she made some changes and then everything was great. That’s it? Where were the pain points? Where did you clash? How did you decide what changes would benefit both the employees and company culture the most, and why? The details were skipped. The data was not shared. That worries me. Cary says she wants to be bold and pursue big ideas. Big ideas are great, but that’s after the boring, tedious, details are sorted out first.
Our conversation with Jenny Durkan was an interesting contrast. Speaking of data, I really appreciated one reflection on Seattle’s Decent Decree. As the U.S. Attorney who helped create it, Durkan has faced a lot of criticism for not taking the decree far enough. Her reasoning? She didn’t have the data to support it. Upon reflection, she would have looked for more creative ways to get it. I appreciate this approach. Leaders cannot just make changes based on gut feelings. There should be evidence-based strategies. Learning about Durkan’s work for LGTBQ rights in Washington state also left a strong impression on me. She is resilient. She understands how to work within the system and collaborate with people who have different viewpoints (Washington Republicans who did not support LGBTQ rights at the time) to make positive change. And, willing to come out of the closet while working as an attorney in the 90’s shows she can lead the way for others. Of course, I can’t forget that Durkan supports our city income tax, more housing vouchers and other policies that will give Seattle another fiscal hit. If elected, I hope she will reflect on her leadership in the past and use data, systems and ALL people to help drive her policy.