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Servant leadership: The civic dignity and results of Tim Burgess

October 28, 2015


In seven years in elective office I’ve learned the ease with which our society gravitates to the anti.  Anti-government rhetoric flows freely and consistently even when it is occasionally undeserved.  Our democracy can take it.  But today’s candidates at virtually every level of government take positions on the extreme pretending it’s without implication and it’s the new common sense.

Yet, somehow through it all, governing on the local level continues and garbage trucks arrive when promised, pot holes are filled, electricity turns on, water is safe to drink, firefighters respond to a 911 call, and teachers embrace the learning of their students in the classroom.

Today the challenge is to quietly sift the ‘anti’ from the deeper nuance of an engaged local government that respects civic society.  To me, few people represent the integrity of what local government can be when it is responsive, reflective, strategically focused on quality of life more than Tim Burgess.

Tim Burgess is more than my colleague in public life, he is the representation of what we say we want from our civic leaders.  To me, as I’ve watched him tackle major public policy issues and hear the silence as well as the noise of politics, I’ve come to believe deeply that Tim reflects the dignity and quiet integrity that is the very soul of servant leadership.

I’ve engaged in late-night phone calls with Tim about complex policy problems worth hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars impacting both Seattle and Olympia;  I’ve listed and learned that his servant leadership is about being in favor of solutions not pretending there is an easy way out;  I’ve seen him move the agenda forward not just on the front page issues of the day but the complex, unglamorous details behind the scenes that make a city work and help real people living real lives.

My personal hero in political life was Warren G. Magnuson.  His favorite notion of politicians was that there are workhorses and show horses.  Tim Burgess is a workhorse.  But much more he’s a dignified servant leader who cares deeply about–and delivers unprecedented results on–the pressing issues of our day.

The honor of your consideration for your vote for Tim is deeply appreciated.

Your partner in service,


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Melissa Westbrook permalink
    October 28, 2015 9:31 pm

    Reuven, I respect you and your work. And naturally, people of good faith can disagree.

    In Tim Burgess, what I have seen is someone who will not take a stand on issues in order to help his own standing (see charter schools). That’s not political courage. At least Sally Bagshaw had the courage of her convictions to answer that question (and that was long ago, not when she was running for office).

    I have seen a person in Burgess who made promises to voters about the pre-k program that were not really true (there will NOT be 2,000 NEW seats – they are just repackaging existing ones) and now the two City-enrolled pre-K in SPS buildings are woefully underenrolled (even as a waitlist exists). Taxpayers are paying for two full-time employees in two classes that each have about 11 students.

    I have seen a person who didn’t want voters to hear all sides of the pre-k issue when he sought, in front of me, to have me taken off a panel at a forum at a senior center. He was fairly dismissive of me but the League of Women Voters host said, no, my thoughts on the issue were worthy of discussion especially since I represented neither side.

    Under his guidance, the Families and Education Levy has taken a hard tone and, this spring, staff sought to take grants away from two Seattle Schools just because their principals got changed. That is not something that those school communities could control nor should the City try to influence those decisions by taking promised grants just because the Superintendent needs to exercise his responsibility in principal placement.

    I see a different person but I am also looking thru the lens of public education. And I don’t like what I see.

  2. tpchairbarbara permalink
    October 29, 2015 4:54 am

    “Anti” may be common but it isn’t sense. It’s a consequence of Capitalism and Individualism . . . TV & consumerism. Good for you for this post. I like learning from people who are in the thick of things.

    I am using an expression of Socialism to *anti* the

    *anti:* *. . .* for the sake of each other .

    *. .* Barbara

  3. October 29, 2015 5:15 am

    Melissa, you are a strong voice in education, you study the issues to the most remote footnote, and your views carry weight. Even when we disagree I acknowledge fully and respect deeply that your citizen activism moves community thinking. Truman said the most important public office of all is that of citizen, and you live that example. To me, Tim has that same sense of resolve and work ethic to bring the best public policy to the table. Thanks for engaging.

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