By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
EVERETT — John Lovick says he’s worked to restore integrity to his office of Snohomish County executive since being appointed last year.
Voters get their first chance to assess his performance during the Aug. 5 primary election.
Lovick, the former county sheriff, faces two opponents: Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick, a Republican focused on supporting small businesses, and Lynnwood attorney James Robert Deal, a Democrat with an activist bent.
The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 4 special election to compete for a one-year term.
“We have been tested and we have performed well,” he told The Daily Herald editorial board Thursday.
Lovick was appointed as executive in June 2013 by local Democrats and the County Council. He replaced Aaron Reardon, who had resigned the month before after a series of scandals.
A former Reardon aide, Kevin Hulten, earlier this month was sentenced to a work-crew program for tampering with evidence during a criminal investigation into the former executive’s administration.
Reardon and Hulten remain under investigation by the state Public Disclosure Commission for activities during the former executive’s 2011 re-election campaign. The commission can level fines for campaign misconduct.
When asked what’s changed over the past year, Lovick points to the management culture he’s brought to the job.
“It has to start with leadership,” he said.
He gives credit to the county employees under him.
“None of this is about me — it’s about the great work that they do,” he said.
Before becoming executive, Lovick worked for 31 years as a state trooper and was elected county sheriff twice. He previously served nine years in the Legislature and five years on the Mill Creek City Council. He was in the Coast Guard for 13 years. Both Eslick and Deal make it clear that they’re not in the race to take any personal shots at Lovick; they’re offering different ideas.
Eslick does criticize Lovick for not doing more to cut back spending in the face of financial uncertainty. Drags on the county budget include the enormous cost of responding to the Oso disaster and settling wrongful death suits involving the county jail.
Eslick faults Lovick’s administration for giving some upper managers 10 percent raises.
“That was very wrong,” she said.
She also believes the county should hold off on building a new courthouse and instead should look at remodeling the existing 1967 building. A majority of the County Council rejected the remodeling plan, reasoning that it wouldn’t fix a lot of the problems with the old courthouse building. Instead, they chose to build a $162 million building mostly on county land about a block away.
Even before becoming executive, Lovick strongly advocated for building a new courthouse. He now says would have preferred picking a different location for the project: the plaza immediately north of the old building, which would have cost about $30 million less. When council members last fall asked which option Lovick favored, he said he would support whatever choice they made.
Eslick owned and ran the Dutch Cup restaurant in Sultan before entering politics, first on Sultan’s City Council and later as the city’s mayor. She also helped found the local chamber of commerce and now runs a nonprofit that works to promote small business.
Running for county executive “is a big leap, I know it,” she said. “But I come to the table with 30 years of business experience.”
Deal, an attorney for 36 years, works with homeowners facing foreclosure.
He’s best known locally for his opposition to adding fluoride in drinking water. He also backs an assortment of other causes, including raising the county’s minimum wage, lowering the voting age to 16 and banning chemical pesticides.
“The county needs an attorney with a vision in the top spot,” he said.
Deal blogs about mass transit and has written a cookbook about “the theology of food.” He also wants to stop freight trains from carrying highly flammable crude oil through the county in flimsy container cars, as well as uncovered loads of coal.
“I’m the progressive candidate in this race,” he said. “I am the one with positive vision for what this county can be.”
Deal has no experience in elected office. He ran unsuccessfully for Lynnwood City Council in 2013 and lieutenant governor in 2012.
The county auditor mailed 411,000 primary ballots Thursday.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; email@example.com.
Meet the candidates
About the job: As Snohomish County’s top administrator, the executive is elected by voters to oversee a bureaucracy with more than 2,700 employees and an annual operating budget of more than $200 million. Pay for next year is $161,114. The current election will determine who fills out the unexpired final year of a term. Another election for the full four-year term is scheduled in 2015.
John Lovick (incumbent, appointed)
Experience: Executive, 2013 to present; county sheriff, 2008 to 2013; state Legislature for nine years; Mill Creek City Council for five years; retired Washington state trooper; U.S. Coast Guard
Experience: Sultan mayor, 2008 to present; Sultan council member, 1995 to 2001; owner of the Dutch Cup restaurant, 1981 to 2001; local chamber of commerce co-founder; founder and director of GROW Washington, a nonprofit that promotes small businesses
James Robert Deal
Experience: attorney for 36 years; author; activist; blogger; 2013 candidate for Lynnwood City Council; 2012 candidate for lieutenant governor.