BLOG: Will Lee be Bellevue mayor again?

Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee

Bellevue Mayor Conrad Lee, the first ethnic mayor for the City, will end his two-year term on Jan. 6. He’s also the only person of color at the City Council. Lee, 74, wants to be mayor again for another two years.

The trouble is that five other Bellevue council members are also interested in the No. 1 seat.

Bellevue City Council will elect its mayor on Jan. 6 at its first meeting of the year in City Hall. The mayor’s job is largely ceremonial and does not run the city. The city manager runs the city.

So why do council members fight for the job even though the pay is only $1,950 (including car allowance) a month? It’s almost a full-time job.

“It’s a position that people look up to, even though it doesn’t have any authority,” said John Stokes, Bellevue City Council member who wants to be mayor. “We (Bellevue) have a weak-mayor-and-strong-manager system, as opposed to Seattle’s strong-mayor system.” Seattle doesn’t have a city manager.

Another Bellevue City Council member, who wants to be mayor, but downplayed her intention, is Claudia Balducci. “I am very qualified for the job,” she said, referring to her decade of involvement in the city and community. She said other council members are just as “capable and strong-minded.”

The mayor has the power to run city council meetings and set agendas. The seven council members will decide among themselves who will be the next mayor. Council member Kevin Wallace was being confirmed as the temporary chair for the Jan. 6 Council meeting. The winner will need four votes to get the seat, including three votes from his colleagues and his or her own vote.

Lee, who won 78 percent of the vote in his fifth term as city council member in November, has been quietly campaigning to retain the mayor’s job. He said he is responsible for bringing many Chinese investors who have brought millions and billions of dollars in residential and commercial investment. Lee said the Chinese invested their money because of him.

Lee’s campaign intern has been sending out letters to different media outlets stating that Lee deserves another term due to his leadership in bringing Chinese investment money to Bellevue.

The newly elected Council Member Lynn Robinson told the Asian Weekly that she might be the only one who has no ambition for the job. However, she knows her vote will be important to help the new mayor to achieve a majority vote.

The “vote” has always been political at the council. It’s like horse-trading, with implications that the council members will get something in return for their vote. They aren’t voting for the leadership of the candidate. (end)

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