A Leading Question: Staadecker and Textbooks on Vashon

Aug 2, 2013

Editor's note: KPLU has asked all nine candidates in the Seattle mayoral race to tell us about a time when his or her leadership skills were put to the test. One candidate's answer follows.  

As a fourth generation Seattleite with careers in hotels and real estate, as well as his penchant for the arts, Charlie Staadecker has been dubbed “traditional.”  But that doesn’t mean the bow tie-wearing candidate doesn’t enjoy a little bit of campaign fun.

The candidate’s series of YouTube ads parody a Dos Equis commercial.

Staadecker traces his roots in Seattle business back to the early 1900s when his family owned a millinery company. As a commercial real estate broker, he helped Nieman Marcus find a location in Bellevue.

The time Staadecker says his leadership was tested, though, comes not from his business resume, but from his time as school board member on Vashon Island.

“Being on a school board is politics on the streets, and believe me, when you’re in the market and shopping for vegetables, people don’t mind stopping you and saying, “Charlie, let me tell you about my child,’” he said.

Staadecker moved to Vashon so his kids could grow up with a rural experience. He recalls the time a group of parents brought a textbook to the school board, complaining.

“(They said,) ‘This is beyond high school. You’re teaching college science.’ And our response was, ‘We understand your issue. We will go through this, but we want to set the bar high.’”

Staadecker says the textbook review followed a rigorous process. But in the end, the textbook stayed, and parents understood why.

“Vashon is a very diverse community in terms of thought, and to bring that community into collaboration is a fabulous stepping stone,” Staadecker said.

If Staadecker sounds like he has small-town values, he doesn’t seem to forget that Seattle will keep growing. He favors tall, pencil-thin buildings over short, squatty ones.

“And they don’t have light. They don’t have places to relax,” he said.

Staadecker says as mayor he’d like to incentivize developers to invest more in exterior architecture. His family business proves the point. The original building where the Staadecker hat company started more than a hundred years ago now has historic landmark status.