Ron Sims

Ronald Cordell Sims
Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
In office
May 8, 2009  July 2011
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Roy Bernardi
Succeeded by Maurice Jones
6th King County Executive
In office
January 15, 1997  May 8, 2009
Preceded by Gary Locke
Succeeded by Kurt Triplett (interim)
Personal details
Born (1948-07-05) July 5, 1948
Spokane, Washington, United States
Nationality American
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Cayan Topacio
Children Douglas Sims
Daniel Sims
Aaron Sims
Residence Mount Baker, Seattle, Washington
Alma mater Central Washington University
Occupation Politician
Religion Baptist
Website King County Executive
Sims speaking at a Proposition 8 protest in Seattle

Ronald Cordell "Ron" Sims (born July 5, 1948) is the former Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, having served in the position from May 8, 2009[1] to July 2011.[2] He is also the former King County Executive. Sims ran unsuccessfully for higher office twice: United States Senator in 1994 and for Governor of Washington in 2004.

Early life

Sims was born in Spokane, Washington, to Reverend James C. Sims Sr. and Lydia T. Sims. He graduated from Lewis and Clark High School and attended Central Washington University in Ellensburg, where he earned a B.A. in psychology. Between graduation and his election to the King County Council he worked in the office of the Washington State Attorney General, for the Federal Trade Commission, for the juvenile offenders program of the city of Seattle, and as an aide in the state senate. He is an ordained Baptist minister.

Political career

In 1985, Sims was elected to the King County Council, being reelected in 1989 and 1993. During his first term, he and fellow Councilman Bruce Laing successfully led a campaign to have the county rededicate its name in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.,[3] a change not officially recognized by Washington State until July 25, 2005).[4]

In 1994, he was defeated by Republican incumbent Slade Gorton in an election for the United States Senate.

In 1996, he was appointed King County Executive after the previous holder of the office, Gary Locke, was elected governor of Washington. He was re-elected in 1997, 2001 and 2005.

On July 29, 2003, he announced that he would seek the Democratic nomination for Washington state governor in the 2004 elections. Sims made news in the campaign when he proposed replacing the state sales tax and business and occupation tax with a progressively graduated income tax. In the primary election held on September 14, 2004, Sims lost to state Attorney General Christine Gregoire.

On February 2, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Sims to become Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, being confirmed by the United States Senate on May 6, 2009 and sworn in on May 8, 2009 [5]

On June 14, 2011 - less than two years after accepting his HUD appointment - Sims announced his resignation and intent to return to Seattle, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.[6] Sims' announcement followed the release of official travel records to Americans for Limited Government that showed Sims had spent 45 of 128 travel days during his tenure on trips to Seattle,[7] a statistic that the group said raised "questions about the legitimacy of these trips." A HUD spokesperson denied the travel records indicated malfeasance on Sims' part, noting that "every trip taken by Deputy Secretary Ron Sims was in response to a formal speech or forum participation request."[8]

King County issues

Brightwater sewage treatment plant

The Brightwater sewage treatment plant built by King County across the county line in neighboring Snohomish County caused a number of issues, including a lawsuit between the counties over impact mitigation; cost overruns; and concerns over earthquake fault lines running through the site.

Tent City 4

On April 29, 2004, Sims announced his intention to temporarily locate a tent city on county-owned land near Bothell, Washington and gave the King County Council 90 days to determine a more permanent location within the county for the tent city to be located. Opponents of the plan filed a lawsuit that resulted in the move being cancelled. In May 2005, the council voted to have a one-year moratorium prohibiting the siting of homeless encampments on public land pending a review of the availability, suitability, and appropriateness of using county-owned land. Sims never conducted this review, and the moratorium remains in place, but the homeless encampment is currently moving from church property to church property throughout east King County.

Critical Area Ordinance

On October 26, 2004, the King County Council passed the controversial Critical Area Ordinance (CAO) to protect environmentally sensitive areas (such as wetlands and streams) and restrict development in hazardous areas (such as floodplains and landslide prone steep slopes). The plan drew the ire of many property rights groups, rural landowners, and developers as the ordinance prevented land owners from developing areas of their property that met the critical area definition. This included a requirement that landowners in rural areas that haven't already cleared their land must keep 50% to 65% of their property in its "natural state".[9] Three referenda to repeal the ordinance gathered over 17,000 signatures each, far more than the 6,900 required to qualify to be on the ballot.[10] However, a lawsuit filed by King County and a pro-growth management group prevented the referendum from being put on the ballot, and the state Supreme Court ruled that a state law requiring local governments to protect critical areas prevented local referenda from overturning critical area ordinances.[11] On July 7, 2008, a Washington State Appeals Court found that the portion of the CAO known as the clearing and grading ordinance is an indirect and illegal "tax, fee, or charge", and that prior to restricting the clearing of land for lawn or pasture, King County must demonstrate how that act could cause harm.[12]

Rails to trails proposal

On May 16, 2005, Sims announced a controversial plan to purchase the 47-mile (76 km) Woodinville Subdivision railroad that runs through the east King County roughly parallel to Interstate 405 and replace most of its track with a bicycle trail.[13] Although there is support for purchasing the railroad in order to prevent its current owner, BNSF Railway, from selling off the right of way piecemeal, the plan to remove the tracks has raised concerns from rail transportation advocates, environmental groups, and the owners, employees and customers of the popular Spirit of Washington dinner train (which ran on the tracks). It has also resulted in the formation of a grassroots movement, Eastside Rail Now!, which is aimed at stopping the removal of the tracks and at using them to begin a rail transit service in addition to their current freight and dinner train functions. In 2007, the Port of Seattle, King County, and BNSF signed a preliminary agreement in which the Port would purchase the rail line from BNSF and then exchange the line plus $66 million to pay for removal of the tracks and replacement by a bicycle trail for Boeing Field[14]

Boeing Field airlines proposal

In July 2005, Southwest Airlines formally proposed plans to spend $130 million on a passenger terminal and other facilities and move the airline's operation from Sea-Tac Airport to Boeing Field after several months of negotiations with Sims. The proposal from Southwest prompted Alaska Airlines to announce it would seek a similar agreement with the county.[15] The proposals were met with opposition from residents of Georgetown, the Seattle neighborhood north of Boeing Field, many of Washington's state and federal legislators, and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.[16] After months of pressure from the opposition, Sims killed Southwest's and Alaska's proposals in October 2005, stating that while the area around Boeing Field might have been able to support Southwest's bid with only minor road improvements, it could not support both the Southwest and Alaska proposals without major infrastructure improvements.[17]

Armen Yousoufian and Qwest Field

On May 30, 1997 Armen Yousoufian, the owner of the University Plaza Hotel in Seattle, requested documents from Mr. Sims’ office concerning the upcoming election (June 17, 1997) about and financing documents for Seattle’s Qwest Field. It took Mr Sims's office nearly four years to provide Yousoufian with the documents. Yousoufian eventually sued to be given the documents, and was also awarded five dollars a day for the delay, plus $87,000 in attorneys’ fees. In 2005, after further appeal by Yousoufian, the amount was increased to 15 dollars a day bringing the total to $122,000, plus a further $171,000 in attorneys’ fees, which some claim to be the highest such fine ever assessed in state history.[18] Yousoufian appealed further, and in January 2009 a divided Washington Supreme Court agreed that the $15 a day fine was insufficient. Two justices recommended that the King County Superior Court award $100 a day, the maximum provided for under the law.[19]


Sims and his wife, Cayan Topacio, live in the Mount Baker neighborhood of Seattle. They have three sons: Douglas, Daniel, and Aaron.


  1. "(HUD No. 09-055) "Ron Sims Sworn In As HUD's Deputy Secretary"" (Press release). United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2009-05-08. Retrieved 2009-06-08. Ron Sims was sworn in today as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  2. Brunner, Jim (June 14, 2011). "Sims leaving HUD, says he's not running for governor". The Seattle Times. Retrieved August 27, 2012.
  3. Metro-King County motion at the Wayback Machine (archived March 6, 2000)
  4. Washington State bill information
  5. HUD news release
  6. Brunner, Jim (June 14, 2011). "Ron Sims to leave Obama administration, return to Seattle". The Seattle Times.
  9. Seattle Post-Intelligencer: 'Critical areas ordinance' provokes bitter 'rural vs. urban' dispute
  10. Seattle Times: Critical-areas ordinances challenged
  11. Seattle Times: Justices reject local vote on critical-areas rules
  12. Seattle Times: King County's rural-land restrictions go too far, court rules
  13. Facts on King County’s Efforts to Save the BNSF Eastside Rail Corridor
  14. Seattle BizJournals: County, port and railroad sign preliminary land-exchange deal
  15. Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Southwest's $130 million plan for Boeing Field
  16. Seattle Times: Lawmakers against Southwest's proposal
  17. Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Plan won't fly: Sims kills Southwest's Boeing Field hopes
  18. Seattle Times: Right to know, Part 1: a county's negligence
  19. The Olympian: Large fine may deter records withholding
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ron Sims.
Political offices
Preceded by
Roy Bernardi
United States Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Succeeded by
Maurice Jones
Preceded by
Ruby Chow (D)
King County Council (District 5)
Succeeded by
Dwight Pelz (D)
Preceded by
Gary Locke (D)
King County Executive
Succeeded by
Kurt Triplett
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