The Seattle mayor's race is months away, but candidates are not wasting any time trying to gain name familiarity. One candidate who has joined the race but is not well known in political circles is Charlie Staadecker.

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Charlie who?

Two months before a slew of political heavyweights declared their interest in the Seattle mayor’s race, commercial real-estate broker Charlie Staadecker announced he would challenge incumbent Mike McGinn in 2013.

A successful businessman, Staadecker isn’t widely known beyond the circles of downtown Rotarians and arts patrons. But he’s raised $58,000 for his campaign, hired a campaign staff, commissioned a theme song and produced buttons with the same upbeat sentiment: “I believe in Seattle.”

“When you see your city headed in a direction that’s combative and divisive, it’s time to stand up. People are desperately looking for a leader with authenticity to rebuild trust,” said Staadecker, a Seattle native who turns 70 in January.

Since he announced his candidacy in September outside his alma mater, Franklin High School, people with greater name familiarity and political experience have jumped into the race. City Councilmember Tim Burgess declared in late November. State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, formed an exploratory committee earlier this month. Former City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck is contemplating a run.

Staadecker is undeterred. He said he brings more than 30 years of business experience, including recruiting firms from around the country to expand or relocate to Seattle. He said he understands the importance of a strong economy to fund core city services and support its most vulnerable citizens.

His platform relies on four pillars: jobs, education, basic city services, including public safety, and quality of life.

Staadecker acknowledges that Seattleites may be wary of an amateur mayor after McGinn’s contentious first term, but he said that political experience isn’t necessarily a guarantee of effective leadership.

Staadecker faults McGinn for hiring a staff with limited experience in management and city government and said he would seek more accomplished managers.

Staadecker has a lengthy résumé of civic involvement. He served two terms on the Vashon Island School Board and is vice chairman of the Puget Sound Educational Service District, an umbrella organization for 35 school districts in the region.

He said he salutes Seattle voters for renewing the Families and Education Levy at a time when the school district was in turmoil, but he questioned whether its programs are too diffuse. He’d like to see more focus on early learning and literacy by the third grade.

He and his wife have commissioned works for the symphony and theater, a pursuit he says is not limited to the wealthy. He said it’s what he does instead of taking a cruise or traveling in Europe.

Having a vibrant arts scene, he said, is an important part of the city’s identity.

“It’s what separates us from Tulsa,” he said.

Staadecker acknowledges he has a steep hill to climb to gain name recognition. He’s put out a meet-Charlie call on his campaign website to any group that wants him to stop by.

Despite being a relative unknown, he insists, “I don’t have to be a career politician to lead the city.”

Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or

On Twitter @lthompsontimes.