RENTON — By the end of the future mayor of Renton’s tenure, the city of 104,000 residents could look very different.
A new development on Renton’s southeast shores of Lake Washington is expected to lure 5,000 tech employees to the city. Housing costs will likely rise as newcomers look for a community equidistant from Seattle and Bellevue. Sound Transit is planning a new transit center in the south part of the city.
The two people running for mayor of Renton — former state representative Marcie Maxwell and Renton City Councilmember Armondo Pavone — each say they’re the best fit to lead a city on the cusp of dramatic change. But their approaches differ.
Maxwell, who represented the Eastside’s District 41 for five years as a state representative, said she would take a regional approach to address the issues that are facing Renton — and the opportunities provided there. She points to her time in Olympia and roles on several regional organizations, where she says she focused on the needs of Renton. She also worked as a senior education adviser for Gov. Jay Inslee, served on the Renton School Board for eight years and owns a real-estate business.
“When we look at Renton and the major problems that we have — housing, homeless, traffic, transportation, crime and public safety — when we look at those things, they aren’t just Renton’s problems, they are things that neighboring cities are experiencing and the same things would hold true with opportunities,” Maxwell, 64, said.
Pavone, who was elected to the City Council in 2014 and owns and operates the Melrose Grill in downtown Renton, stresses his years working in the center of local politics and his lifelong connection to the city. He grew up in Renton, graduated from Renton High School and is the son of a Renton police officer.
“When you get as close to the city as I have, you see the things we already do well, as compared to others,” Pavone, 57, said. “I don’t want to lose that.”
If the August primary is any indication, the November election could be a close race. The two candidates traded the top spot among four candidates each day the votes were tallied, with Maxwell finally overtaking Pavone with just 12 votes.
Maxwell has raised more money, with $90,378 as of Oct. 14, compared with Pavone, who has raised $68,539. Her contributions have mostly been from individuals, while a significant portion of Pavone’s are from businesses.
Maxwell has garnered big-name endorsements, like Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and state schools Superintendent Chris Reykdal. But Pavone’s endorsement list includes the top officials in Renton: Mayor Denis Law, as well as four current members of the Renton City Council.
Law, who decided not to run again after three terms, said he’s worked with Pavone and Maxwell, and both care deeply about their city. But, he added, they have different skill sets, and pointed to Pavone’s flexibility and work on several economic projects during his time on the City Council.
One focus within the campaign has been on Sound Transit and the fact that Renton doesn’t have light-rail service despite residents paying millions in Sound Transit taxes. Pavone acknowledged that residents feel like they are paying a lot in taxes with no return in investments and that he would make sure that they are “better looked after” in the future. Maxwell said the city hasn’t taken a leadership role on Sound Transit issues and that it needs to play a larger part in regional transportation issues.
“If we can’t get our share and we can’t make it work for people who live and work here, it’s a problem,” she said. “We need transportation for our growth. We’ve got to be fully engaged, not partially engaged in these discussions with Sound Transit.”
Maxwell said that she’s learned during her campaign that many residents still don’t feel connected to the community or feel like their needs are being met. She has a track record, she added, of connecting with diverse communities through advocacy organizations and listening.
“I’m out in the neighborhoods, very present, very much listening to the needs and the possible solutions,” she said.
Pavone said he knows that Renton can be cliquish, but “all you have to do is show up” to feel included, he added. “There’s no outsider mentality.”