EVERETT — When the year began, Cassie Franklin figured to be rooting on Mayor Ray Stephanson in his pursuit of re-election.
Then he phoned her to say he had decided to not run again and encouraged her to get into the race.
Two weeks later she did. The 45-year-old first-term City Councilmember also secured his endorsement though she is emphatic about not being a political clone.
“I am proud to have his endorsement. I think he’s been an outstanding mayor. I am a candidate of change who will build on his legacy,” Franklin said. “I am not Mayor Stephanson 2.0.”
She is one of four candidates competing to succeed Stephanson. The others are City Councilwoman Judy Tuohy, Snohomish County Councilman Brian Sullivan and substitute teacher Shean Nasin. The top two finishers in the Aug. 1 primary will advance to the general election in November.
As of Wednesday, Franklin had hauled in $60,601 for her campaign, according to filings with the Public Disclosure Commission. Sullivan led in fundraising with $118,625, followed by Franklin, Tuohy at $56,838 and Nasin at $10,860, records show.
At stake is a four-year term at the helm of the most-populous city in Snohomish County. The mayor is the top administrator of a municipality with a $132 million general fund budget and nearly 1,200 employees at full staffing. The job pays about $182,000 per year.
Born in Twin Falls, Idaho, Franklin grew up in Eugene, Oregon, and moved to Everett four years ago with her husband, David, a computer engineer, and their daughter. They live in the Port Gardner neighborhood.
She said she worked as deputy director of Cocoon House in Everett from 2005-09 and left to consult for social service providers. She returned to the nonprofit in 2011 when she was hired as its chief executive officer.
Cocoon House provides housing and supportive services to homeless and at-risk young people, including their children and their parents. She said she oversees a staff of about 100 and a roughly $5 million annual budget.
Franklin said when she became CEO the nonprofit was “facing pretty significant” challenges coming out of the recession and was teetering on economic collapse. She carried out a reorganization resulting in layoffs, pay cuts for managers and hiring of front line staff.
“I had to make some really tough decisions,” she said. “But we turned the organization around, which was necessary or otherwise we might not have a Cocoon House today.”
Franklin won a seat on the City Council in 2015 when she beat longtime incumbent Ron Gipson.
Running for mayor “was something that I thought I might do a few years from now,” she said. “But considering what Everett is facing I believe I am the most qualified candidate to address the challenges.”
Opioid addiction and homelessness are the most significant and ones that she deals with daily at Cocoon House as well as on the City Council.
“It is a crisis in our community,” she said. “I have the street-level experience in developing proven solutions to that issue.”
While the city should focus on boosting public safety, improving infrastructure and creating a climate for job growth, dealing with the “crisis” is in the way of all those things, she said.
“This is a big challenge and has to be one of the top priorities of the next mayor,” she said.
It’s not the only issue Franklin is focusing on in the campaign.
Franklin said she wants to help Washington State University continue expanding its presence and will “be bold” in bringing new investment for economic development at the waterfront.
Increasing the housing stock is another objective of hers. She said she’s interested in the potential of upzoning properties in the downtown core — which could mean taller buildings — and in some neighborhoods.
When city planners made a presentation on the subject to the council, she said “there was a lot of resistance from my fellow council members. I was excited about what they were proposing. People were concerned with views being blocked and I’m concerned with the housing crisis that we have.”
It can’t all be in high-rises in downtown, she said. And it can’t be a multi-story apartment building stuck in between single family homes but could mean adding a few townhomes in some places, she said.
“We’re going to have some upzoning in other areas as well,” she said. “As long as we are doing it in a way that we are preserving the culture and feel of a neighborhood while we are growing that neighborhood. It can be possible.”
Speaking of neighborhoods, Franklin is open to electing some council members by districts. But she considers the proposal circulating now “inherently flawed.” Her preference is to conduct an advisory vote to ask residents if they want the change and, if they say yes, the city can take the lead.
On other hot button electoral issues, Franklin backed the Sound Transit 3 expansion plan and is “thrilled” that commercial air service will soon be offered at Paine Field.
Stephanson, who has been mayor since 2003, said he’s been impressed by Franklin’s performance on the council.
“She’s got the energy and tremendous community support,” Stephanson said. As a council member “she studies the issues. She makes informed decisions. She’s shown a lot of independence.”
And her ability to turn around the situation at Cocoon House is a testament to her administrative talents, he said.
“She has a very impressive track record,” he said. “She’s had to live in that world of limited dollars and deal with it the best you can.”
The mayoral position is nonpartisan but it’s no secret Franklin, Tuohy and Sullivan are Democrats. All three are backed by prominent members of their party, though only Sullivan enjoys the sole endorsement of the county party and the Democratic organization in the 38th Legislative District which includes Everett.
Franklin is endorsed by well-known Democrats including Stephanson, former Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel and state Sens. Steve Hobbs, of Lake Stevens, and Guy Palumbo, of Maltby.
But, more than her opponents, Franklin can tout public support of some of the county’s better known Republican political figures. Among them are Everett Councilmember Scott Bader, Everett businessman Shawn O’Donnell, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling and former Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine.
Garnering support from such a broad spectrum of political views and interests speaks to her independence, Bader said.
“I think that’s an attractive thing. I think she will listen to everyone in the city,” he said. “I’m confident she can make tough decisions and not be unduly influenced by any single interest group.”
Cassie Franklin is the third of four Everett mayoral candidates to be profiled in The Daily Herald this week.
Tuesday, July 18: Brian Sullivan
Wednesday, July 19: Judy Tuohy
Friday, July 21: Shean Nasin