EVERETT — The 10th floor, corner office of Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin holds sweeping views of downtown, the waterfront, Port Gardner and beyond.
One of the walls is dominated by artist Shepard Fairey’s “We The People” series, the red-, blue- and white-prints of three women, including one wearing a stars-and-stripes hijab.
The desk is cluttered with papers and reports, but the bookshelves remain mostly empty on this day, just a couple of weeks into the Franklin administration.
One shelf contains the entire Wetmore Forest collection of Funko Pops!, collectible figures with names such as Butterhorn, Snuggle-tooth and Tumblebee. The series of original characters is named after Wetmore Avenue in downtown Everett where the toys and collectibles company moved last summer.
One side of the office contains a couch and a chair. Tucked in a corner is a mini-refrigerator bought by her husband, David, who is worried that she’s not getting enough to eat. She’s been too busy to fill it.
As mayor, Franklin leads the largest city in Snohomish County, a municipality that employs 1,200, which makes it the 22nd largest employer in the county.
She steps into a role as one of most prominent voices not just for the city, but the region. It’s a position that retired Mayor Ray Stephanson used to help convince Boeing to build the 777X in Everett and to advocate for the opening of Washington State University Everett.
Franklin soon will face a host of issues that could shape the economic future of the region. Will Boeing build its new plane, unofficially called the 797, in Everett? Will Olympia put dollars and effort into expanding WSU? How will this administration tackle crime and social issues that plague business owners and residents?
She spent part of one morning talking about how she envisions herself in the job and what she hopes her administration can accomplish. The following Q-and-A is edited for length and clarity:
Broadly, what do you hope your administration will mean for the business community?
I hope that we, as an administration, can build off the work of the previous administration, but use this new energy and fresh perspective to jump-start business growth in a way we haven’t seen in our local city.
I think we’ve done an excellent job in partnering with Boeing and maintaining a strong aerospace presence here. We’ll work hard to build the next airplane here in Everett. But I think we have an opportunity to bring new industries to our city with the colleges and work force programs we have.
Our current economic development director (Lanie McMullin) is retiring Feb. 20 and she’s done amazing work for our city and region. We certainly wish her well and it’s sad to lose her; and it’s an opportunity to build a department that probably is broader in scope and scale.
Stephanson played an out-sized role not just for the city but for the larger community. How do you see yourself in the political landscape?
It’s one of the reasons I recruited a deputy mayor, because this is a very large city. If you’re only focused on the region and externally, you lose sight of the local and so Nick Harper, who is my deputy mayor, can help balance some of that work.
I absolutely will be working on regional priorities, working with partner cities across Snohomish County, working with partner cities across the Puget Sound.
Whatever benefits the region is definitely benefiting Everett — I believe wholeheartedly in that. So that’s what Nick will help with.
What are you doing and what can you do to convince Boeing to build the 797 here?
Our community needs to demonstrate how important they are and how valued they are to this city and this region.
I will do everything I can to maintain that level of partnership with them and strengthen our partnership. I will work with (Snohomish County Executive Dave) Somers; he just called together a task force to focus on how we can build the next plane here.
I think we need to be a really strong voice and advocate for why it needs to be built here. I think the state will work on bringing it anywhere in the state. We need to focus on why it needs to be here in the city.
We have all of the resources, we have the port, all of the aerospace partners. This is the best place for them to build that plane.
So you believe that Everett and Snohomish County already have the infrastructure to build planes and that would benefit —
It’s a huge benefit. We’re already their greatest fans. We have the partners and resources they rely on to do the work. We have the location. And we have the support of the community, who wants them here.
What happens if Boeing decides to build the 797 elsewhere?
I don’t see that happening. I’ll fight fiercely to build it here. If they were to do that elsewhere, it’s working to ensure the work that is in place continues to thrive and grow.
And that the aerospace partners that are already here and the work they’re doing are getting the support they need from this administration and our department of economic development.
It’s important that we diversify our big job providers. I think we have enormous opportunity with the work that Mayor Stephanson has done with WSU and our outstanding educational institutions and our public schools. They’re focusing a lot more on workforce development as well.
It’s not new to Everett, but it’s new to downtown — Funko. They’ve got a creative vision for how we could build additional employers around them that are all creative, supportive, interested partners.
That’s a great example. What other types of industries would you like to see move into Everett?
We have to look at sustainable energy. That’s a growing area in our state. That is something that I’d like us to explore.
I know Puget Sound Regional Council is even exploring the opportunity from the space industry into this region. There’s huge opportunities, because of where we’re located in the world and the port and the waterfront and the aerospace industry that’s already in place.
The opening of our commercial airport, which is extremely exciting, and the hubs that have already been identified… Those planes are going to go into the high tech areas of California. So you’ve got to look at the tech industry and think about how we can recruit some of those folks up here.
If you could hop on a plane right from Everett into the heart of Silicon Valley, it’s a no-brainer to think this is where we should be focusing some of our recruitment efforts.
How can you entice a high tech company to move a satellite office here?
Businesses want to see a high quality of life for their employees. We have a quality of life in Everett and the Northwest that’s above and beyond where they’re located.
This is truly the best place in the world to live. It’s got incredible weather and incredible opportunities for recreation and outdoor life. We’ve got arts and culture and parks.
They also want to know they have a workforce there. So we’re working with our educational institutions, our K-12 as well as our community college and WSU, to ensure they are developing the programs for the future workforce for the companies we have and envision to have here in Everett.
What can the city do to help WSU grow?
I think we can be a strong voice and advocate alongside them in Olympia to help them grow. I think we can work with them to identify where that expansion can be.
Historically, Olympia seems to have dragged its feet when putting higher education in Everett. How can you change that?
I think we saw a change when we finally got WSU here. I think we get over-shouted by King County and UW and all of the institutions in that part of our region.
Being very outspoken and partnering with (Economic Alliance Snohomish County) and other regional institutions that care deeply about higher education and making sure it’s not just the mayor of Everett, but it’s the mayors of all Snohomish County cities.
This is a priority for all of us, because it will benefit every city in Snohomish County, strengthening our campus and college district.
Is the Baker Heights property a place for WSU to grow?
It could very well be. I think that’s an ideal property for growing the campus. It’s kind of a longer-term vision, because it’s not right next to the campus.
It’s kind of part of a larger campus that you can envision out 20 to 30 years. I think it’s one of the best opportunities of that area. Yeah, I would love to see WSU acquire that property.
Shifting gears a bit, Everett has had a low rate of home ownership. What can you do as mayor to reverse that?
I don’t think we’ve had the diversity of housing options we’d like to see in our city. Everything from extremely affordable, low-income housing to moderate housing to (higher-end) housing.
We also need to have housing for executives of Boeing, who like the beauty of this region. We have some of those neighborhoods that are just beautiful.
A lot of Everett is built out, but not all of it. I think we need to look at multifamily housing in the downtown core, which we have in our metro plan, which really expands the growth potential of downtown. I think people forget how many people would actually choose to live in a multifamily dwelling or in an apartment as their residence.
Along with providing affordable housing is raising the income level of our citizens. We need to ensure that people who are going to K-12 here, who are graduating from Everett Community College and graduating from WSU have opportunities for a living wage, family wage job here in Everett, but also looking at our apprenticeship programs that lead into really fantastic, local blue-collar work.
I think we have far too many residents who work for minimum wage or in the service industry and that’s just not conducive to them owning a home.
What do the housing developments at the waterfront with the Port of Everett or along the Snohomish River mean for the city?
We’ve been so excited about those projects for so many years and they were on hold for so long after the recession.
Just like so many things we’ve been talking about, it’s an opportunity now. We have two developments that we’ve envisioned for many, many years that are finally coming to fruition. It allows for some of the growth we need. It also, I think, brings some people to the most beautiful parts of our city.
(Shelter Holdings) made a commitment to bring at least 400,000 square feet of commercial space to the riverfront. How can the city make them keep that commitment?
We’re working with them on their proposal for that commercial space. As the department heads are bringing me up to speed on all of the issues we’re working on in the city, it’s definitely come up a few times.
I’m excited about what I’m hearing on what that commercial space is going to look like. I do believe they’re going to do it. It’s a property that’s not without its challenges, but it’s also a great opportunity.
I know it’s a priority for the residents that are already buying into that area and I know it’s a priority for our city.
Write-in opponent Gary Watts sent a message about crime with the “Welcome to Tweakerville” sign at his business at the entrance to Everett. Does he have a point?
I understand his frustration. I think we have a number of businesses and neighbors and property owners who are frustrated with some of the street-level social issues we’re seeing that are related to the opioid crisis, homelessness, behavioral health challenges.
It is a challenge in every city across our country. And not just in urban centers, but small cities across the country. Speaking from experience in talking with fellow mayors and council members across the country, we’re ahead of the curve in addressing these challenges.
We may not always feel that. Everett is a unique size where we’re not so big like Seattle, where we have all of these other things that kind of hide the problem; but we’re not so small that there is only that one encampment over there.
We’re just at that perfect size, if you will, where you can really see and feel this problem. We have all the county-based services here. We’re the county seat, so we’re always going to see this challenge. We’re taking really positive steps to address it.
We’re not going to end homelessness. We’re not going to end addiction. But I think as a city we can ensure we have systems in place where we’re responding quickly and proactively that the moment people begin to struggle that they have opportunities to get the support they need.
At the end of your term, how should the business community measure your administration?
How are we doing in economic development? Do we see new businesses and industries in our city? Are we creating additional opportunities for our residents with family-wage and living-wage jobs? Do businesses see Everett as having all the resources they need to bring that job center to our city? So that is what we should be measured by.
One of the main goals of an administration is providing a safe environment for the residents and a high quality of life. What steps have we taken to reduce gang and gun violence in our city? Do people feel safer walking to the park, walking to school or walking home at night or driving around town?
What are we doing to serve those most in need and support the neighbors and businesses that are impacted by individuals who are experiencing homelessness, addiction or behavioural health issues? The city cannot do all of that work, but we can help facilitate and collaborate.
Lastly — I heard this loud and clear throughout my campaign — how are we engaging our citizens and residents? People want to be a part of the work that’s happening and improve the city. They want to engage with their local government. Sometimes it’s work to bring people into this and it’s worthwhile work.
What’s the most mayor moment you’ve had?
Mayor moment? That’s a great question. Let’s see. Maybe it’s just my first team meeting with my department heads sitting in the mayor’s conference room, bringing the whole team together and realizing, ‘Wow, this is an incredible team.’ We’ve got talent, experience, dedication. It’s kind of exciting and daunting.
When did that happen?
That was the second. Jan. 2. I came in Jan. 1. I was alone. It was a holiday, but I came in and sat at my desk and started taking some notes on work that I wanted to do (the next day). I put a couple of pictures up. I spent a moment in my office — it was more than a moment — it was a couple of hours to prepare for the next four years.
What else would you like to tell people, especially the business community?
I’m excited to have our new economic development department build on what we’ve been doing, but also partner with the business community.
I think we have outstanding business leaders locally who I would love to advise (our) strategy and I think we’d be crazy not to include them in our economic development plan and get their input.
And it’s that diversity of voices, too, because I want to hear from Boeing and I really want to hear from our new local small business in south Everett across from the mall.