Olympia Mayor Doug Mah bids farewell, though not ruling out return to politics

By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly

Doug MahAfter 10 years in Olympia — four as its mayor and six as a city councilmember — Doug Mah finished his mayoral term at the end of last year. Mah was the second person of color to serve on the city council. He was also the first Chinese American in the country to serve as mayor of a capital city.Olympia’s constituents had known since January 2011. At that time, Mah announced that he would not seek re-election. He told The Olympian at that time that he was excited to complete his final year without the added complexity of running a re-election campaign.When he first joined the city council, one of the most meaningful projects he was involved in was the Olympia–Yashiro Friendship Bridge project, which was completed early in 2010. The project was years in the making though, as the original structure was destroyed in an earthquake in 2001.Olympia-Yashiro Friendship Bridge (Photo by Robert Cortright/Structurae)

“This was an important project. It taught me that size matters,” Mah said, somewhat jokingly, at the Sept. 19, 2011 meeting of Rotary Club of Olympia. “Size matters here because it was a big meaningful definitive project. It was more than just a bridge because it enabled us to connect our community. It was more than just a bridge because it enabled us to promote the values of this community. … It showed us how we were going to do projects, how we were going to do outreach.”

The bridge came in $750,000 under budget and was finished ahead of schedule. The bridge was named after Olympia’s sister city, then named Yashiro (now called Kato).

Artist illustration of Olympia's new Hands On Childrens Museum, slated to open in Summer 2012. (Photo from olywagov.com)

During his term as mayor, Mah was known for brokering a deal between the Regional Athletic Complex near Lacey and the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia.

Mah told The News Tribune he thought it was time to leave. He frankly told the Tribune that he wasn’t as passionate about his job in politics as he used to be, though he’s not ruling out a potential return later on down the line.

“I just feel it’s a good time to take on some different challenges,” Mah told the Tribune. “I just feel I need a little break.”

Mah was replaced by Stephen Buxbaum, a councilmember.

Mah earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminal Justice and his Master of Arts in Sociology and Demography from Western Washington University. A native Washingtonian, Mah moved to Olympia in 1989 to accept a job with the State Office of Financial Management following graduation from Western Washington University. He has held positions in state government as a research, policy, and budget analyst. He is currently employed as a policy manager with the State Department of Information Services.

Mah currently volunteers on the nonprofit Board of Directors for the Thurston County Foodbank and United Way of Thurston County.

Mah is married and has a 17-year-old daughter. The family lives in southeast Olympia. Prior to running for public office, Doug played drums with the Blues Torpedoes, a local blues band. The band’s locally recorded CDs can be found at any Timberland Regional Library. (end)

Stacy Nguyen can be reached at stacy@nwasianweekly.com.

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