New year, new mayor


Victoria Woodards, the future mayor of Tacoma, chats with Upper School students after the mayoral candidate forum hosted by Annie Wright in October.

Allison Fitz

Victoria Woodards, Tacoma’s future mayor, will officially take office in January 2018.

Moving to Tacoma at a young age, Woodards attended Lincoln High School and then joined the US Army. She was elected to the City Council in 2009 and currently works as the Director of Community Development for the Tacoma Rainiers.

In an interview with Inkwell, Woodards identified some of the most important issues in Tacoma and discussed how she plans to fix them.

Woodards believes the biggest issue facing youth is unemployment, especially for those who go away for college and then return to Tacoma. “The kids who come back home are worried about where they will actually work,” she said.

The lack of wealth distribution among neighborhoods is another issue Woodards mentioned. “I don’t think all things are equitable in our city,” she said. “We need to do a better job making sure that all kids and families have access to the same things.”

Woodards sees investing in Tacoma’s youth as an effective method to fill these economic gaps. She specifically praised the Graduate Tacoma program that works to help children succeed in college or in their careers, but she would like to see the same academic and social programs that are offered at Jason Lee Middle School in the Hilltop neighborhood also offered at Giaudrone Middle School in South Tacoma.

City Growth
According to an article published by The News Tribune, Tacoma’s population grew nearly 2% from the year 2016-17. As the Seattle area and living costs grow, Tacoma is seen as a more affordable option. But will a growing population and increased urbanization force current residents to leave? Woodards claims  that Tacoma can achieve a balance.

Woodards believes that city growth and economic affordability are not mutually exclusive. To Woodards, affordability means that a grocery store is within walking distance from one’s house. It means that public transportation is efficient and convenient, and it means that the city is accessible to all residents.

The current problem, though, is that while most Tacomans are employed, they still don’t make enough money to support themselves. “When we talk about attracting family wage jobs,” said Woodards, “We’ve got to make sure we are attracting the family wage jobs where people can get up and go to work one job a day and be able to make enough money. Then things become more affordable.”

Home Ownership
Woodards won’t set a strict percentage goal to reach regarding home ownership in Tacoma. She realizes that some people don’t want to own homes – renting might be a preferred option.

“Talking about homeownership is not just about teaching someone how to own a home. It’s about removing so many barriers,” she said.

As a first-time home owner, Woodards pointed out that buying a home is not limited to the down payment, but rather it is affording the next 30 years of mortgage payments and the other maintenance expenses that inevitably follow.

Liquefied Natural Gas Plant
Woodards’s stance on this controversial topic is a complex one. Primarily, Woodards supports the safety of Tacoma.

Currently, said Woodards, the large Tacoma shipping company Tote is burning a “dirty bunker fuel” on the Port of Tacoma. “They are under a federal mandate that if they don’t get rid of the fuel they’re burning, we could lose hundreds of jobs from Tote,” she said. “When we talk about building more family wage jobs, well a lot those jobs are coming from the Port of Tacoma. Providing Tote with some certainty that they can stay in business is what this [LNG Plant] does.” So, in that sense, Woodards supports the plant.

She also mentioned, however, that she will oppose any progress of the plant if it threatens the safety of Tacoma’s residents. A method Woodards proposed is to monitor all actions by Puget Sound Energy and to ensure that the safety standards are met. “I won’t sleep at night not knowing that,” Woodards said about the safety of the plant. She trusts people like the fire chief to openly and honestly assess the potential risks.

As far as the environmental impacts, Woodards doesn’t want Tacoma to become “the fossil fuel industry capital of the world.” She praised the beauty of Tacoma’s waterfront and the investments made to expand the area.

She concluded with her main priority: “To keep up with technology where it makes sense and to make sure that it’s better for our workers and our businesses.”