by James Whitely -
SGN Staff Writer
The name Wade Schwartz might not ring a bell to most readers - he may be more recognizable as Sister Abba Cadabra, of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Abbey of St. Joan. The reverse may soon be true, however, if Schwartz, who's been a business owner in downtown Kent for the last four years, is successful in his campaign for Kent City Council Position 2.
FAR FROM HER ABBEY
Schwartz has been very active in Kent since he relocated there from Seattle's Crown Hill neighborhood four years ago, particularly around the growing problem of homelessness in Kent's downtown core. Schwartz asked the council to form a task force on homelessness in the community and he's also gotten involved in a more personal way, by volunteering to do laundry for those in need. He also offers free haircuts at his salon on Sundays.
Two years ago, he and his partner, Billy Walters, founded Kent's Pride celebration. Through his experience working with the national nonprofit Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), he's helped to initiate programs for assisting and reaching out to LGBT elderly citizens of Kent. Now, the city is looking into how it can extend such programs to LGBT youth.
About five years ago, Schwartz started 'X-Rated Bingo' at a now-defunct bar called Swank. For three and a half years, the event raised $400 to $500 each night - sometimes much more - for a variety of nonprofits, until the bar closed.
'We've lost every Gay bar in Kent, and we're the sixth-largest city in the state,' Schwartz told SGN.
As we go to print on Friday, July 19, Schwartz is bringing the event back at Nashville's Sports Bar (114 Railroad Ave. N.). All funds raised will be donated to the Kent food bank.
'We [Schwartz and Nashville's owner, Kent Morrill] ordered two Pride flags to hang outside the bar,' Schwartz told SGN. 'And his business has never been better.'
Dedicated Gay bar or no, Kent has an LGBT community that wants to be united. This is precisely why Schwartz began to feel a strong connection to the city of Kent even before he relocated there.
For his Sister novice project, Schwartz staged a fundraising event in Kent that raised $4,500, an impressive amount for any Sister function, let alone one staged by a novice. He credits the success partly to his Abbey mother, Sister Castrata Stigmata Banana Fana Fo Fata.
'I love my mom,' said Schwartz. 'She was fabulous, she really cared about me.'
'[The fundraiser] told me that there's a community down here that needs nurturing and love and wants to know that it's OK to come out and be loved,' said Schwartz. 'You're dealing with a town that's grown very rapidly and a lot of people still have that small-town mindset.'
For her part, Sister Castrata thinks he'd make a fine councilman.
'He's obviously very concerned with not just the Gay community, but his own community at large. That's want you want out of any local politician,' said Sister Castrata.
SCHWARTZ VS. BERRIOS
If that sounds like a boxing match you might see on pay-per-view, it's because the race for Position 2 may very well be an interesting fight to watch. Schwartz will be running against Jim Berrios. Both are Kent business owners who have been serving their community for the past few years, both are fairly well known, and both appear to have a real shot at winning.
Berrios is the president of the Kent Chamber of Commerce and served on the Kent School Board from 2007 to 2011. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of the city in 2009, taking roughly one-third of the vote. His mayoral campaign is memorable partly because of the aggressive nature of some of his tactics.
While much of Schwartz's experience seems a bit more 'grassroots' than Berrios' service record, Schwartz has some professional accolades under his belt as well. In 2011, Kent's mayor asked Schwartz to be on the Human Services Commission, which he now chairs. He's also been invited to the boards of the Greater Kent Historical Society, the Kent Downtown Partnership (a business association), and the local Rotary.
When asked why Kent voters should choose him over Berrios, Schwartz said, 'I have an understanding of what's going on in downtown Kent,' said Schwartz, pointing out that Berrios' business is outside of the downtown core.
Schwartz said that the city is looking to rezone the downtown core, which would enable new construction and new businesses (likely corporate ones) to eventually come in. In his campaign for council, Schwartz is calling for a plan to help the businesses that are already there to grow. It's an idea that's fairly nonpartisan, which is why Schwartz's campaign is finding support from across the political spectrum. He's been endorsed by the 47th District and Washington State Democrats, but has also found support among Republicans.
'I don't want to say anything bad because I want the people of Kent to vote for the person that's going to do the best job, based on facts and not emotion,' Schwartz told SGN. Referring to his opponent, he continued, 'He wouldn't be a good fit for understanding how the culture of downtown could be revived.'
NO PRIMARY CAMPAIGN
Schwartz and Berrios are the only candidates running for Council Position 2, to replace incumbent Jamie Perry, who is not seeking re-election. Since it's just the two of them, they will skip the August 6 primary and proceed straight to the November 5 election. Schwartz said most of the downtown business owners he's spoken to seem to support him, and that his campaign is going 'really good.' It must be, as he's still coordinating fundraisers for various charities in addition to his own campaign fundraising.
'I just care a lot about the city of Kent. I love where I live and I've never been happier in my life. I just want to help this city grow in the right direction,' Schwartz told SGN.
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