John Lovick hopeful in first state-of-the-county speech

EVERETT — A new leader stood at the front of the room.

Snohomish County Executive John Lovick delivered a message of healing and transition during his first state-of-the-county speech on Thursday.

“When I started speaking, I made reference to, ‘what a difference a year makes,’” Lovick said. “The truth is, what a difference we all made together in less than a year.”

The annual address highlighted new and revamped initiatives since Lovick took office June 3. They include creating a county ombudsman’s office, launching a program to train public-service interns, and re-orienting the county’s economic-development director toward international trade.

Lovick thanked the county’s 2,700 employees for persevering through political transition.

“They have endured a season of challenge — through no fault of their own — and they’ve come out the other side with grace and strength,” he said.

The chain of events that led to Lovick becoming executive was set into motion exactly one year ago.

Former Executive Aaron Reardon announced on Feb. 21, 2013 his intention to resign. That came a week after The Herald published stories linking members of Reardon’s staff to harassing public records requests and online surveillance targeting the executive’s rivals.

Reardon left office at the end of May and Lovick took over a few days later. The former county sheriff, Lovick was the top nominee of local Democrats to fill the partisan job and gained the unanimous support of the County Council for the appointment.

Lovick on Thursday gave two speeches. In addition to a reservation-only breakfast speech to the business community, Lovick broke from tradition by giving a public address a couple of hours later. County employees and elected officials filled a hearing room.

“Today, I am here to speak to your hopes, not your fears,” Lovick said.

The atmosphere was light, with County Councilman Brian Sullivan introducing the executive as “a really dear friend of mine.”

During his speech, Lovick defended the decision of a divided County Council to build a new county courthouse at an estimated cost of $162 million. That choice was a big factor in a property-tax hike that will add an extra $20 this year for tax bills of a home assessed at the county average of $223,000.

“The current courthouse simply doesn’t work – neither in space, nor safety,” Lovick said.

The executive also touched on another point of contention — Boeing machinists’ narrow vote this year to give up defined pensions and make other concessions in exchange for the company’s guarantee to build the 777X in Washington state. Boeing this week announced plans to build the next-generation jetliner’s carbon-fiber composite wings at Paine Field, next to the existing 777 plant.

“We were at risk of losing these jobs to another state if we didn’t land the 777X,” Lovick said.

Lovick, 62, is a retired state patrol trooper who lives in Mill Creek. In addition to county office, he’s also been elected to the state House and the Mill Creek City Council.

To retain his post as county executive, Lovick must win a special election this fall and run again for a full four-year term in 2015. So far, he’s the only person to file paperwork with the state to raise campaign money for the office.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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