"Visionary" appointed to Everett council seat

He had always thought he might run for elective office someday, but Drew Nielsen was stunned by how fast he found himself Everett's newest council member, he said.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, Nielsen was being interviewed by the City Council for the position left vacant by Doug Campbell, who had left the council the day before to move to Nebraska.

By noon, Nielsen was taking the oath of office.

Standing in his new ninth-floor council office overlooking Port Gardner Bay, the Everett attorney said he had long been preparing for the job.

"I think without realizing it, I've been training for this for over a decade," he said. "And I've always wanted a view of water."

Nielsen, 53, was chosen over two other candidates, Robert Strickland and Jim Staniford. Nielsen received four of the council's seven votes.

"The others didn't have the same level of relevant experience," Councilman Mark Olson said.

Nielsen's résumé reads like that of someone who has been readying himself for elective office.

He has been sitting on the Everett Planning Commission, Tree Committee and Vision Team, and working as the treasurer of the Northwest Everett Neighborhood Association. He was recently involved with the city Shoreline Public Access Advisory Committee, Council of Neighborhoods and Charter Review Committee.

"He has a real grasp of the issues," said Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher, who had served with Nielsen on the Planning Commission.

Nielsen will miss his first official council meeting today because of a long-scheduled vacation. He will face Class 3 and 4 rapids as the leader of a rafting trip down the Rogue River in Oregon.

Nielsen's river-rafting skills are just one of the ways he exhibits leadership, said Peter Dervin, who also sits on the Tree Committee and recently went on a rafting trip with Nielsen.

"Drew is a visionary; he sees some great vision for the city of Everett," Dervin said.

"He's very easygoing and easy to talk to, and he has a sly sense of humor. He has great passion, and he steps forward to make sure things get done. Especially when he wants to make sure someone gets tossed from the boat," Dervin said, laughing.

Nielsen was born and raised in Everett. His firm specializes in real-estate and business law in Everett, where he has practiced since 1976. He received an associate's degree from Everett Community College in 1971 before attending the University of Washington, where he received his bachelor's degree. He earned a law degree from the UW School of Law in 1976.

Nielsen had considered running for council before but decided against it because he had wanted to make time for his two sons, Alec, 18, a freshman at the UW, and Nate, 16, a junior at Everett High School.

Nielsen said he already knows that he wants to keep his council seat, and he plans to run for the position when it is subject to a special election in November 2005. That election will determine who has the council position for the remainder of the term, which expires in 2007.

"I'm excited. It's sinking in what a commitment it will be," Nielsen said. "I enjoy the process of gathering information, particularly in concert with others.

Rachel Tuinstra: 425-783-0674 or rtuinstra@seattletimes.com