One of the owners of a Seattle brewery is hoping to earn a seat on the Seattle City Council
Sara Nelson is one of the people behind the scenes at Fremont Brewing. She is one of the owners. She is a co-founder. But Sara’s face is not the face of the brewery. Even the most enthusiastic and passionate beer lover is not likely to recognize her, but Sara Nelson is responsible for a lot of the day-to-day minutia of operating a business. Not the sexy, fun, or interesting part of the beer biz, but the real, unavoidable, work of running the company.
Sara Nelson just announced that she is running for Seattle City Council. She hopes to fill the at-large position currently held by Lorena González, who announced yesterday that she will vacate the position and run for mayor.
Tomorrow at 4:30 PM (Friday, February 5th) Sara Nelson will join me on Facebook Live. Tune in here. There and then, she will share her vision for Seattle and explain why she is the right person to fill the position for which she is running.
She has a lot to say and would dearly appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about her ideas. It is unrealistic to think that an article on this blog or a two-minute interview on TV is enough to share her vision. So think of this as an introduction, but tune in to get a better idea of who this candidate really is.
Think of Seattle as a Brewery
I recently spoke with Sara about her candidacy and gained some insight as to why she is willing to take on the seemingly thankless job of serving on the Seattle City Council.
In a way, you can think of the city as a brewery. Fremont Brewing is one of the largest and most successful breweries in Washington. No doubt, the brewery’s reputation is largely based on the quality of its beer, but the brewery’s success is based on a lot of the unseen, critical stuff that is largely unrelated to beer. Sara stuff.
A city works much the same way. Soundbites and slogans do not keep libraries open, fill potholes, create housing equity, or feed hungry children. Cheerleading does not get the real work done. Soundbites and slogans may attract people and even, unfortunately, earn their votes, but in the end, it is the policy that gets things done.
Sara is a policy wonk. She is a policy nerd. “I watch The Seattle Channel for fun” she told me.
She is not a newbie. She knows the ropes. In the past, Sara Nelson worked in Richard Conlin’s office. Conlin was a member of the Seattle City Council from the late 1990s until he was replaced by Kshama Sawant in 2013. Sara also serves on the Board of Directors at the Brewers Association, the national organization that represents the interests of the craft beer industry. She’s been involved with things like changing tax policy on the federal level. Serious stuff. She’s also worked as part of the Washington Brewers Guild. More serious stuff. She’s not a newbie. She knows the ropes.
It’s not about the beer, it’s about the beer
There’s a saying in the beer biz: it’s not about the beer, it’s about the beer. I take it to mean that it’s not about the fluff, but rather about the substance. Not about the TV commercial, but about the actual beer.
Sara understands that standing up in front of a crowd and yelling “rent control” may get the attention of voters, but in the end, that really doesn’t accomplish anything. Policy and process are what will create equitable housing opportunities, for instance.
Sara says that she worries that too many people in power don’t understand that. The most popular thing to say is not always the best thing to do. The truth, the reality, it’s not nearly so sexy or easy as chanting an appealing slogan.
She told me that the problems facing the city are hard and will not be solved by pleasantries and platitudes. The real work is much more difficult than simply leading a chant or shouting simple phrases that people want to hear.
There is a lot of work to be done in Seattle right now. Sara says she is ready to roll up her sleeves and get at it. Not just work on putting out the many fires currently burning in Seattle but also work towards building a better Seattle along the way.
“Crisis breeds opportunity,” she told me. “We have an opportunity to work together, towards livability. To stimulate the economy and also vitalize the city. It’s not all doom and gloom; we need to vitalize our community and add some brightness.”
Businesses are partners, not demons
My personal take, and I’m not sure she’d describe herself this way, is that Sara Nelson is way more pro-business than many others who serve on the Seattle City Council. Yes, it would be unfair to categorize her as anything but liberal, but for a Seattle candidate, she could also be categorized as a centrist. Liberal though she may be, I get the impression that she thinks the center of Seattle politics has slipped too far to the left.
Personally, I agree.
She explained to me that she sees businesses like Fremont Brewing as a vital part of the community. AND she believes businesses like Fremont Brewing want to be involved in the solutions. They want to help make Seattle a better place to live.
“It’s a privilege and a joy to have an opportunity to be space-makers in this city,” she said, speaking of the role of Fremont Brewing and so many other breweries in their communities. “How many breweries have energized streets or entire neighborhoods simply by opening, by creating a gathering space for neighbors? How many breweries are giving back to the community in so many ways?”
“Businesses should not be seen as the enemy, but as partners,” she said, pointing out that real people with real families are behind every small business in the city, businesses like Fremont Brewing.
Please, someone fix the damned bridge!
But its not all about business. Seattle is about the people who live here, and Sara understands the struggles that real people are going through. Everything from homelessness and addiction, to home-schooling and commuting. Traffic. Police reform. Infrastructure. The West Seattle Bridge. Lordy, the list is long.
Partly because she’s a business owner but more so because she’s a real person with a real family, she understands the challenges. She’s watched her employees struggle to make ends meet in Seattle. She’s watched them save to buy houses in a market where working people struggle to even pay rent for a modest apartment. She gets it.
Sara says she remembers a time when members of the Seattle City Council worked in unison to solve problems, when they actually spoke to each other, when they understood more than the needs of the neighborhoods that got them elected, but the needs of the city and the region. She hopes to bring that kind of energy and positive momentum back to the Seattle City Council.
I strongly encourage you to tune in and see what she has to say about all of this and more.