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Sol’s Civic Minute keeps Seattle up to speed on local politics

Today we want to give a shout-out to someone who’s been a bit of an inspiration to us here at The Evergrey since before we launched our beta back in August. Meet Sol…

Sol Villarreal wants Seattleites to be better informed about their city. That’s one reason the Texas native turned Seattle real estate agent started Sol’s Civic Minute, a weekly email that rounds up Seattle news – especially as it relates to local politics.

Democracy only works when everyone comes out and participates,” he says.

Sol started the newsletter in November 2014, soon after he got his real estate license. He thought it could be a good way to both help Seattleites stay up to speed on city goings-on and promote his new business.

But he had a knack for following local news well before he started Civic Minute. As community engagement coordinator for former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, he would track what was happening in neighborhoods across the city and send regular roundups to his colleagues.

After he left the mayor’s office, he realized he missed putting together that resource, and that it could be valuable to other Seattleites. So he started beta testing the newsletter with 50 close friends, and to help monetize it, he included a section of real estate-related news and contact information for his services.

Today he has more than 2,000 subscribers, and he hopes the Civic Minute is giving Seattleites ways to better engage with their city, especially when it comes to local elections.

If I had a tracker that told me how many people voted in the 2015 election cycle who wouldn’t have voted without the Civic Minute, that would be my trophy,” he says.

Sol spends about six to eight hours a week reading stories and writing the Civic Minute, which aims to be a minute-long read. But after the election, Sol has been putting in even more time to round up national news on Donald Trump’s transition.

“I thought it was going to be a turnoff, but people loved it. It showed me there’s a big appetite for it out there,” he says.

He’s now started a separate newsletter that links to the latest news on Trump. (You can see the latest one here on Medium).

Sol’s one message to Seattleites?

Vote in local elections,” he says. “Even in this post-Trump era, most of the things that impact your life the most are local decisions that are being made everyday by people who are elected by 50 percent of their cities.”

Would he ever become a journalist or run for office?

Being a real estate agent is like someone took a copy of my soul and turned it into a profession,” he says. “Somebody asked me once what my biggest professional fear was. I said, someday in the future not being able to do what exactly I’m doing now.”

Want to check out Sol’s Civic Minute? Subscribe to get it in your inbox here. You can also find the roundup on Facebook and Twitter.