Sheley Secrest says she’s running for Seattle City Council, “for the little boy out there on Alder Street.”
“He’s doing what we’ve asked him to do,” she says. “He’s staying out of trouble. I’m running because I want to make sure that we are doing things like finding more jobs for him, opportunities for him. Not building more jails. Not hiring more cops.”
The attorney, and vice president of the King County NAACP, has joined the crowded field to fill the at-large seat on the council which Tim Burgess will vacate at the end of the year. Though, Secrest says she would have challenged the incumbent had he not decided against seeking another term.
“We knew that right now, more than ever, the community needs to see activists into the political world,” she says. “They need to see those who’ve been on the front lines building power from the roots up and implementing the solutions, that we know what works.”
However, she’s no stranger to seeking public office.
In 2014, she ran for the 37th District state senate seat vacated by Adam Kline, winning 10 percent of the vote and finishing fourth in the six-way primary, behind eventual winner Pramila Jayapal.
After the departure of Sally Clark in 2015, who left to take a position at the University of Washington, Secrest was one of eight finalists for the appointment to fill the remainder of her term.
Last year, after Jayapal’s election to Congress, Secrest sought to fill her vacancy in the state Senate, but was not among the three names forwarded to the King County Council.
Secrest said her interest in public office comes from a commitment to serve, and to give back to a community that helped her succeed after having her first child at 19, and second at 21.
“Looking at the opportunities that were given to me, I couldn’t do it on my own,” says Secrest, who would go on to earn her law degree from Seattle University. “That whole myth of just pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, that’s gone. That’s never honestly been the American way of life. We’ve always been better together. I’m a reflection of community.”
Previously a policy analyst for the Alliance for a Just Society, and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, Secrest says she believes one of the best ways to address the gap between the “haves and have nots” is for the city to put more support behind small businesses.
“If we’re able to increase resources to them, then we’re going to be able to see more people prosper. We’ve done well with increasing the minimum wage, now let’s make sure that we’re looking at giving small businesses what they need to be able to afford to hire more people”
Affordable housing is another key issue.
“We’re losing way too many people out to Skyway, Kent, everywhere,” she says. “Keep that talent right here. Keep what we love about Seattle — the culture, and the neighborhoods — keep that right here. Making sure that people are able to grow, but still stay in Seattle to receive the benefits of that growth.”
Secrest also sees way where she diverges with much of the current council. She’s against the mayor’s proposal to hire 200 more police officers, saying those financial resources should go toward efforts that have already reduced crime in the city, and also opposes the county’s plan to build a new youth jail.
“I don’t believe in incarcerating our children, not when we know that black kids are five times more likely than their white counterparts to be held in incarceration,” she says. “We’ve got problems there”
While she’s in favor of body cams for police officers, she has questions about the implementation.
“I believe in putting tools in our hand where we don’t just have to rely on an officers word … I’m concerned though of body cams being served as surveillance tools.”
Along with seven other candidates for the position, Secrest is participating in the Democracy Voucher program, saying the previous reliance on corporations and other interests for campaigns is out of the picture.
“Now you really are held accountable by the people’s interests,” she said. “ … You’re beholden to those who actually put you in office, you’re beholden to those who actually paid your way. That is the way that politics should be.”
Her campaign, she says, is a true grassroots one.
“I’m looking to do politics in a different way than has been done before,” she said. “I want to make sure that I’m engaging people who couldn’t see their place inside of politics. I want to go up to the doors that have been ignored in the past, bring in the voices to the table that were told that they don’t belong.”
Secrest will host her campaign kickoff at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (104 17th Ave. S.) in the Central District on March 24, with a keynote by former Ohio state senator and Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner.
For more information on Secrest’s campaign, visit www.votesheleysecrest.org.