Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus announced last week she will run for re-election.
“It has been an honor to serve Auburn for the past three years as mayor, and also for the 10 years prior as a member of the Auburn City Council,” said Backus, whom voters elected in 2013 as the first female mayor in Auburn’s 120-plus-year history.
Two weeks ago, Auburn City Councilmember Largo Wales became the first to formally announce for the position.
Throughout her term as mayor, Backus said, she has been a strong advocate for issues important to Auburn on the local, regional, state and national levels, among them: fiscal responsibility, economic development and public safety, affordable housing and human services.
Backus chairs the Valley Regional Fire Authority Board of Governance and the South Correctional Entity (SCORE) Board of Directors, is vice chair of Valley Communications (the local 911 system), treasurer of the Executive Committee of the Economic Development Council of Seattle & King County and the immediate past President of Sound Cities Association.
Backus serves as well on the Sound Transit Board of Directors; the All Home Coordinating Board; the Association of Washington Cities Large City Advisory and Legislative Committees; the King County Children & Youth Advisory Board; King County Flood Control District; Puget Sound Regional Council Executive and Operations Boards; South Sound Behavioral Health Coalition; Safe Energy Leadership Alliance (SELA); and with the U.S. Conference of Mayors on the Tourism, Arts, Parks; Entertainment & Sports Committee; Community Development & Housing Committee and the Veterans Affairs Task Force.
Yes, she said, she believes creating and serving strong relationships regionally returns significant benefits to Auburn, but added she never loses sight of the work that needs to be done at home. During her first meeting as a member of the Sound Transit Board, she said, she made the successful motion to dedicate funding to the construction of a second parking garage in downtown Auburn.
“I knew that we should have that second garage, but without establishing strong relationships and bringing solutions to Sound Transit, we were never going to get it,” Backus continued. “I began working on the garage issues my first year as mayor, and I wasn’t willing to give up. I was proud to be invited to join the Sound Transit Board to represent South King County because of my willingness to work collaboratively and be creative.”
Bringing back business
Backus said she has also focused on creating opportunities for small businesses to grow and thrive in Auburn, such as launching the Downtown Façade Improvement Program in 2014. As of last week, she said, more than $200,000 had been awarded in grants to downtown businesses to preserve and enhance the charm of Auburn’s downtown urban center.
During her tenure, the new commercial construction valuation almost doubled from $66 million in 2015 to $120 million in 2016, she said, and multi-million dollar expansions of The Boeing Co. and MultiCare Auburn Medical Center have been kicked off. Businesses such as Panera Bread, Big 5, Green River Cyclery & Busted Bike Cafe, The Quarters, Gor Gai Thai, expansion of Gosanko Chocolates, and Geaux Brewing have either opened or are about to open.
Unemployment rates in Auburn are among the lowest in the state, she said. The Trek Apartments are at nearly 100 percent occupancy, and Merrill Gardens is ahead of schedule on leasing its soon-to-be opened building downtown.
Backus said middle-income, family wage jobs are another area of focus, and she has been working with surrounding cities, businesses, local and regional elected officials, the Auburn School District and Green River College to help create and grow good-paying jobs in the community. She said she believes that partnerships and collaboration with stakeholders will achieve the best results for Auburn.
Backus said she continues to look for creative ways to increase the number of police officers serving Auburn. She brought forward a proposition to the City Council early last fall that allowed for the hiring of six additional police officers. Since holding office, Auburn has added 14 new officers to its ranks. She notes that Auburn has launched a highly successful traffic court program that allows cited drivers to attend a safe driving course rather than receive a citation. Feedback from those attending the class has been overwhelmingly positive, she said.
Backus launched a homelessness task force last year that issued 56 recommendations to address homelessness in Auburn. More than 40 of the recommendations are currently being worked through her office. Since the report was issued last spring, Auburn has increased the available nights in its overnight emergency shelter and convened the organizations in Auburn that serve the homeless to better coordinate services and outreach. Her regional work has helped secure King County funds for Auburn programs to expand their services to those in need, she said, and those efforts included working with first-responders, local nonprofit and faith-based organizations and others to provide wraparound resources for the unsheltered in Auburn.
“Together, we have accomplished a great deal, and I am very proud of what we have done, but there is always more to do. I hope that through my efforts I have earned your trust and support for a second term,” Backus said.
Backus has been married to Kemon, a Boeing employee and member of IAM local 751 for almost 20 years. They are the proud parents of an 18-year-old daughter, Lucky, who is attending Green River College and is the captain of the Gators’ soccer team.