Greg Nickels

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Greg Nickels
51st Mayor of Seattle
In office
January 1, 2002 – January 1, 2010
Preceded byPaul Schell
Succeeded byMichael McGinn
67th President of the United States Conference of Mayors
In office
Preceded byManny Diaz
Succeeded byElizabeth Kautz
Member of the King County Council
from the 8th district
In office
January 1, 1988 – January 1, 2002
Preceded byBob Greive
Succeeded byDow Constantine
Personal details
Born (1955-08-07) August 7, 1955 (age 68)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
SpouseSharon Nickels
ResidenceWest Seattle
Alma materUniversity of Washington (attended)

Gregory J. Nickels (born August 7, 1955) is an American politician who served as the 51st mayor of Seattle, Washington. He took office on January 1, 2002 and was reelected to a second term in 2005. In August 2009, Nickels finished third in the primary election for Seattle mayor, failing to qualify for the November 2009 general election, and losing his bid for a third term as mayor. He left office on January 1, 2010.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Nickels, the oldest of six siblings, was born in Chicago to Bob and Kathie Nickels.

In 1961, his family moved to Seattle, where he graduated from Seattle Preparatory School and attended the University of Washington, but left before graduating to pursue his passion for politics.


Nickels was legislative assistant to Seattle City Council member and future mayor Norm Rice from 1979 to 1987. Nickels was elected to the King County Council in 1987, defeating longtime incumbent Bob Grieve, and reelected in 1991, 1995 and 1999. In 2001, he was elected Mayor of Seattle (defeating Seattle City Attorney Mark Sidran) and was re-elected in 2005. Nickels ran for a third term in 2009, but he failed to advance to the general election after coming in third place in the primary election held in August 2009.

Nickels has had several notable events during his tenure as mayor of Seattle. In 2003, he helped to break ground for the Sound Transit Link light rail project in November, and signed an executive order in 2004 giving equal rights to everyone who is married and works for Seattle city government regardless of sexual orientation.

Nickels' popularity began to decline in July 2008, when the Seattle SuperSonics NBA franchise relocated to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma after a lawsuit against the team's ownership group was settled out of court – an outcome in which Nickels' administration, as well as Washington State lawmakers were faulted by many Seattle sports fans for not doing enough to keep the team in Seattle.[2]

In December 2008, Nickels was criticized after an unusual snowstorm blanketed the city with the greatest snowfalls it had seen since 1996. The Seattle "snowpack", which began accumulating on December 13, did not melt until December 27, the longest period of time snow had remained on the ground in Seattle since the mid-1980s. Seattle did not use salt to clear its roads, citing environmental concerns, which led to severe problems with the city's public transit system.[3]

Due to disapproval of Nickels' handling of illegal tent cities in Seattle, a tent city community in the Seattle area was known colloquially as "Nickelsville".[4]

A late 2008 poll of likely Seattle voters reflected dissatisfaction with the incumbent mayor, showing that 31% approved of Nickels's performance as mayor while 57% disapproved.[5] Nickels' low popularity numbers did not recover by August 2009, when he was defeated in the primary election in his bid for a third term as Seattle's mayor. In Nickels' concession defeat, he thanked Seattle voters and noted, "Twice they gave me the honor of doing this. They want a new generation of leadership."[6]

Shortly before his defeat in his re-election campaign he had been appointed the 67th President of the United States Conference of Mayors earlier in 2009. With his defeat Elizabeth Kautz filled the remainder of his term until 2010.

Nickels left Seattle to pursue a teaching position at Harvard University.[7]

In 2012, Nickels ran for Washington Secretary of State as a Democrat. He received 15.85% for third place in the August 7 top-two primary, behind Kathleen Drew (D) and Kim Wyman (R).[8]


Nickles at a 2008 rally for Barack Obama

Nickels is a member of the Washington State Democratic Party and served as the President of the United States Conference of Mayors, but left that post on the day he left office as Seattle mayor. Nickels served on the board of directors of Sound Transit. Since 2003, he has also been the chair of the Transportation and Communications Committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and served on the Conference's Board of Trustees.

Nickels is a member of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition,[9] a bi-partisan group with a stated goal of "making the public safer by getting illegal guns off the streets." The Coalition is co-chaired by then-Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

He was the key negotiator for the City of Seattle in accepting $45 million up front from the Bennett Group to move the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA to Oklahoma City.[10]

Environmental record[edit]

Mayor Nickels with former Vice President and environmentalist Al Gore

In 2005, Nickels announced an "Environmental Action Agenda" with the goal of protecting air quality and public health. The primary goal of the agenda is to reduce Seattle's greenhouse gas emissions "to meet or beat" the levels stipulated in the Kyoto protocols.[11] Nickels spearheaded the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, an accord between over 600 US cities committed to reducing greenhouse emissions.[12][13] Nickels won the 2006 Climate Protection Award from the Environmental Protection Agency, the 2006 Edgar Wayburn Award for Environmental leadership from the National Sierra Club, and the 2006 National Conservation Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation.[14][15][16]

Personal life[edit]

Nickels lives in West Seattle with his wife Sharon. They have two children, Jacob and Carey. Nickels is a Roman Catholic.


  1. ^ "New.Seattle.Gov". Archived from the original on November 21, 2009. Retrieved November 18, 2009.
  2. ^ Jim Brunner (July 6, 2008). "The deal: What was the city thinking?". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 5, 2009.
  3. ^ Emily Heffter (January 1, 2009). "After storm of criticism, Seattle mayor reverses no-salt policy for snow". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 5, 2009.
  4. ^ Susanna Pehrson (May 21, 2008). "Here comes Nickelsville". Real Change. Retrieved November 10, 2009.
  5. ^ Erica C. Barnett (November 3, 2008). "And Now for Some Election News". The Stranger. Retrieved January 7, 2009.
  6. ^ William Yardley (August 21, 2009). "Incumbent Loses 3rd Term Bid as Seattle's Mayor". The New York Times. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
  7. ^ "Harvard University Institute of Politics - Greg Nickels". Archived from the original on June 17, 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
  8. ^ "Secretary of State". Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  9. ^ "Mayors Against Illegal Guns: Coalition Members". Archived from the original on November 17, 2007.
  10. ^ "Sonics Leave Seattle, Part I: Bennett's Group to Pay City up to $75M". Archived from the original on March 17, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
  11. ^ "OSE Home - Environment -". Archived from the original on February 3, 2007. Retrieved July 22, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ "Climate of hope: US cities lead the way". BBC News. February 15, 2007. Retrieved May 4, 2010.
  13. ^ Mayors Climate Protection Center: The Agreement Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "2006 Climate Protection Award Winners - Climate Protection Partnerships - US EPA". Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  15. ^ Team, Citywide Web. "Nickels and Sims Receive Prestigious Sierra Club Award". Retrieved July 22, 2018.
  16. ^ "Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels Honored for Conservation Leadership – National Wildlife Federation". Archived from the original on August 25, 2009. Retrieved July 22, 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of Seattle
Succeeded by