Sally Nelson, One Of Burien’s Founders, Retiring After 16 Years
Call her a Founding Mother. In fact, she was present before the â€œcreation.â€
Sally Nelson, a leader in the community effort that saw Burien finally become an incorporated city in 1993, is retiring from the city council after 16 years.
Nelson is the last â€œcharter memberâ€ of the council still in office.
Although her term officially ends on Dec. 31, Nelsonâ€™s final regular meeting was Dec. 14.
â€œI wish you well,â€ she said in a parting comment to fellow council members and city residents prior to adjournment.
Now Nelson looks forward to a new year in which meetings are replaced with travel â€“ trips to Mexico, Turkey, New York and Hawaii are on her itinerary â€“ and volunteering at the Frye Art Museum on Seattleâ€™s First Hill, where she can pursue her â€œpassion for artâ€ and teaching.
But while she no longer must devote large blocks of time to budgets, planning and zoning, downtown development, and other matters of local and regional policy â€“ she has been Burienâ€™s representative on the Suburban Cities Association and actively involved with the Puget Sound Regional Council â€“ Nelson still will have a strong interest in city council actions.
â€œI hope they will approve and move forward on the [multiplex] movie theaterâ€ that has been proposed for Town Square,â€ she recently told The B-Town Blog. â€œI hope we can support the cinema â€¦ we have an entertainment gap in Burien.â€
And, Nelson continued, â€œIâ€™m hoping the council focuses on the redevelopment of [Southwest] 153rd St.â€ That project, she said, â€œshould not be a cookie-cutter copy of 152nd, but should reflect â€œthe diversity, the international natureâ€ of businesses along this street.
Another concern she has for Burienâ€™s future is the rising cost of police services. Burien is one of 12 cities that contract for police services with the King County Sheriffâ€™s Office.
â€œThis is not an issue of whether the sheriffâ€™s office is doing a good job,â€ Nelson said. â€œI think King County is doing an excellent job.â€ Instead, itâ€™s a matter of whether the guild that represents sheriffâ€™s deputies is willing to rein in salary and benefit increases in its current contract.
She said a 5 percent-plus increase through 2012 is â€œnot sustainable,â€ and if changes arenâ€™t made, Burien will â€œhave to look at alternatives.â€
Nelson worked as a teacher and counselor in Kansas City and Alaska before moving to the Seattle area, where she â€œjumped from psychology to real estate. The many hats I wore became a good beginning for me to be what I consider to be an excellent council member, and a good negotiatorâ€¦.
â€œIt is very helpful to have a broad range of experienceâ€ for someone when they begin serving on a city council,â€ she added. â€œ
After serving a year as an interim member of the new Burien City Council, Nelson was elected to her first regular term in 1994. During her tenure, she was mayor from 2000 to 2002, and twice served as deputy mayor.
She initially ran â€œbecause it was a time of change for Burien, and I understood that reasons for incorporation were solid, valid reasons for change.
â€œKing County wanted to continue to inundate Burien with high-density, low-income housing â€¦ essentially we had no control over our community.â€
Nelson said she wanted be part of the new city council â€œto help shape the future of Burien. The future of Burien â€“ that, to me, became the rallying cry.â€
Looking back, her major regret as a council member is that â€œin these tough economic times, we couldnâ€™t go forward with a bond issue to build a new community center.â€ Plans for that facility are on hold until the economy improves. But, this â€œis not due to the councilâ€™s lack of vision or commitment.â€
On the other hand, she is â€œvery proud of my two years as mayor when I led the effort to change 152nd from a four-lane to a two-lane, pedestrian-friendly streetâ€¦. Town Center would not have happened without that project.â€
Nelson also led the effort to get Skateboard Park located at SW 146th St. and 4th Ave. S. â€œThe day of the ribbon cutting was a very proud day for me. Itâ€™s a good place for young people and teens.â€
And she feels â€œgoodâ€ about the $200 million in noise mitigation for Highline schools that Burien helped get from the Port of Seattle through the cityâ€™s involvement in the Airport Communities Coalition to secure concessions prior to construction of the third runway.
Beyond Burien, Nelson has been â€œa regional playerâ€ with the Suburban Cities Association, and a leader on the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Steering Committee of the National League of Cities, which is a â€œmost coveted positionâ€¦.
â€œI hope someone on the council will take my place in doing that, in doing all those things that make a difference.â€