By Shayleen Schutz
TL/DR: Sometimes change takes a generation. But it should only take one. I’m voting for Nikkita Oliver for Mayor of Seattle because we can’t sleep on this election when our dream candidate can win.
I’m voting for Nikkita Oliver for Mayor of Seattle and I’d love to tell you all the reasons why but I don’t have that kind of time and you might not have that kind of attention span. Instead, I’m going to tell you a little about me.
I am the first woman in my family to graduate from college. My brother and I are proud to have put ourselves through college—every damn dime—and regret that our mom didn't live to see us finish. But she was with us at commencement as much as she is with me today as I prepare to cast my vote for the first female Mayor of Seattle in 91 years.
For the first 10 years of my career in public safety, I worked with an amazing team helping upwards of 35 states and territories prepare for every possible type of emergency. I was always treated with respect. Some people know a little of what I experienced professionally after accepting a position in my home state. Some know a lot. But no one knows all of it, simply because I haven't had the time. That story will be written, and I will be the primary source.
Not all my family, friends, and colleagues knew or understood or agreed with every decision I made in the last few years and that's okay. I don't live my life for them and sometimes I can't live my life for me. Sometimes even my faith is not strong enough to sustain me. I live my life in a way I think would make my mother proud to know me as an adult, that even if I wasn't her daughter, she would want to be my friend.
I was told many times that the harassment I witnessed and experienced happens everywhere and will never change. It's absurd for someone who's never left Boston to tell someone who has worked everywhere from Alaska to Puerto Rico what it's like everywhere. As far as things that will never change, I hear that statement in the form of a challenge, and I accept it.
My mother never finished college and she died in her sleep at the age of 55 after not having any healthcare coverage for 15 years. I paid to take the SATs and college application fees making minimum wage, worked three jobs throughout my time at George Mason University, finished in 4 years, bought my first home at 22, and eventually planned emergency preparedness workshops and exercises for The White House during the Obama Administration. Sometimes change takes a generation. But it should only take one.
I’m voting for Nikkita Oliver because she is already effecting change and she’s a once-in-a-generation candidate.
I’m voting for Nikkita Oliver because she will help people who want to stay in Seattle do so, inspires people in the PNW to move back into the Emerald City, and brings together people who want to get informed, get off the sidelines, and get involved in local politics because elections matter and, as we say in Boston: this is our fucking city.
I’m voting for Nikkita Oliver because there were a lot of great points made by every candidate at the mayoral primary debate. Every time they parroted her ideas, her words, and even her speaking style. My friend's neighbor said he thought the establishment candidate made a gross miscalculation by promoting Nikkita Oliver, thinking she's beatable in the general election. The establishment candidate might be poor at math, but that's the only poverty she's known, and math isn't her worst subject.
I'm voting for Nikkita Oliver because she's good at reading people but bad at reading signs like STOP, DEAD END, wait for (light to) change before you walk, and only people with prior paychecks from the government need apply. Every political virgin needs to start somewhere. Seattle's lucky we get to elect her for her first time.
I'm voting for Nikkita Oliver because she stands for accessibility: accessibility to the city, accessibility to the officials we elect and are supposed to "represent" us, accessibility to transportation and housing and services, and accessibility to reproductive and maternal healthcare and support.
I’m voting for Nikkita Oliver because all I want for my city is a true leader with real vision, someone who listens to everyone and everything except the words no, can't, and never-change. We see your safe bet and we raise you one honest-to-goodness Progressive.
I’m voting for Nikkita Oliver because all I want for my daughter is to grow up during the Oliver Administration, the way I feel privileged to have worked for the Obama Administration.
I’m voting for Nikkita Oliver because all I want for my 102-year-old grandmother who missed out on so many opportunities because of what society told her she should do and who her family told her she should be—she wasn't even allowed to be lefthanded!—is to tell her that we won.
I’m voting for Nikkita Oliver because all I want for my mother's memory is a politician who would have protected her as a child, made sure she had health coverage as a divorcee, and enabled her to live to see us graduate from college, witness the Red Sox win the World Series, and meet her granddaughters.
I’m voting for Nikkita Oliver because when people say something can't be done, I hear that as a challenge, and I accept it. They say she's not ready, they say we're not ready, they say she can't win. She is, we are, and she's gonna.
And for any of you who think being told what my fuckability factor was every morning was worth a 6-figure income plus generous benefits and a pension from a powerful state agency: your fuckability factor is zero.
Nikkita Oliver is a lifelong youth mentor, educator, and artist. She always told her students she wouldn't ask them to do anything she hadn't done herself. When she assigned them to enter a poetry slam, they pointed out that she had never competed in one. So she did. And she won. (Then she won the regional and statewide competitions. More than once.)
Many of her students have been touched by the criminal justice system. When she'd ask what happened in court, they frequently didn't know. So she started going with them. And she didn't understand the proceedings either. These were hearings and rulings that determined their custody, their legal status, sometimes their permanent criminal record. These kids needed an educated advocate. So Nikkita became a lawyer.
When the People's Party was clamoring for a mayoral candidate who is progressive, intelligent, compassionate, experienced, educated, passionate, eloquent, incisive, queer, black, white, a renter, an artist, an educator, a lawyer, pragmatic, realistic, and optimistic; a candidate who will not only fight for accessibility to the city but guarantee accessibility to the mayor's office; a candidate who not only rejects the status quo but the very premise that it represents progress; a candidate who not just listens but hears us, there was only one option, because there's only one Nikkita.
She's not trying to represent us. She is us. She's not trying to change the way this city operates. She is changing the way this city operates. She's not shaping her personal narrative to appeal to a broader swath of likely voters. She's living it. She's not shutting out alternative viewpoints, she hears them and incorporates good ideas into her administration's plans whatever their source. She speaks to us and for us.
Do not wait until after the primary to pay attention to this race. Seattle is at the most critical juncture in this city's political history. The next Mayor has an opportunity to save lives, reduce barriers to residents remaining residents, improve transportation, increase affordable housing, propagate a realistic living wage, hold our city infrastructure and agencies accountable, and govern in a time of plenty in preparation for times of scarcity.
That's why Nikkita has my vote as well as my unequivocal support, my valuable time, my focused attention, and my considerable talents.
We need Nikkita Oliver and she needs our primary votes and our vocal support.
Shayleen Elizabeth Schutz is an emergency preparedness, process improvement, project management, and strategic messaging consultant now based in Seattle. She is a recovering East Coaster and it’s been 1 year 3 weeks and 4 days since she left Boston with half a tank of gas, a glove compartment full of maps, some healthy snacks, and three pairs of sunglasses. She is not affiliated with the Nikkita Oliver for Mayor campaign or the Seattle’s People Party though she does enjoy their company and finds them to be of above-average intelligence, wit, and adorableness.