By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Democratic Party’s top contender to lead Snohomish County government is making his transition plans clear, even as uncertainty clouds the anticipated changeover in the executive’s office.
Sheriff John Lovick announced Friday he’s assembling a cross section of leaders to guide him, if he’s appointed as the next county executive.
The job is expected to become vacant May 31. That’s when Aaron Reardon two months ago said his resignation as county executive would take effect.
“I look forward to the opportunity and privilege to serve the people of Snohomish County in this capacity, and I will be ready and organized to begin that service immediately,” Lovick said Friday.
His advisory group includes Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and former County Executive Bob Drewel. He also wants to invite leaders from the spheres of business, education and organized labor. The goal is to formulate a plan for the first 30, 60 and 90 days in office.
Lovick also said he’s settled on a choice for his second in command: Mark Ericks, the former Bothell police chief and state lawmaker who since 2010 has served as U.S. marshal for the Western District of Washington.
Ericks, who lives in Clearview, said he would love the chance to serve Snohomish County as deputy executive, however much he enjoys what he’s doing now.
“As honored as I am to have this job, I would be glad to join John’s team,” he said. “It’s where I started, it’s my community and where I live.”
Added Ericks: “Whether I’m along for the ride or not, John’s the right guy for the job.”
Reardon made his announcement about leaving office during a Feb. 21 speech to the business community. The executive said he had tired of defending himself and his family after a series of scandals that began before his election to a third term in office, in November 2011.
The most recent blow to his administration had come a week earlier, when The Herald published details of anonymous public records requests, attack websites and spoof emails that were traceable to Reardon’s staff. Those on the receiving end said the clandestine efforts were being used to harass county employees, their spouses, and others in the community viewed as Reardon rivals.
The County Council cited that activity Feb. 20 when it made an emergency decision to remove the county’s tech services from Reardon’s control, and place its management under County Auditor Carolyn Weikel. The council and Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe later asked the King County Sheriff’s Office to investigate whether any laws were broken by Reardon’s staff.
Reardon has denied directing the activity and defended the right of his employees to seek public records. He has refused to discuss the lengths his staff went to disguise who was seeking the records under the alias “Edmond Thomas.”
Because Reardon is a Democrat, it’s up to the Snohomish County Democrats to pick three nominees to succeed him. The County Council will make the final choice.
In addition to Lovick, state Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, also is interested in the job. Another politician who’s eyed the post is Reardon’s friend state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens. Hobbs’ former staffer and his brother-in-law are the two Reardon aides at the root of the executive’s latest trouble, which led to his decision to resign.
A formal resignation letter from Reardon would allow the appointment process to get underway.
None had materialized as of Friday, though Reardon has said he plans to submit one. The absence of any such letter, two months after the resignation announcement, has left doubts about Reardon’s plans.
In his February resignation speech, Reardon promised to ease the way for whoever takes over in June.
“Between now and then I will continue to serve the good people of Snohomish County and will assist the interim executive with a seamless transition into his or her new job,” he said at the time.
Lovick said he’s been unable to connect with Reardon on that score.
“I’ve called his office several times asking for a time to meet,” Lovick said. “Last time I ran into him on campus (a few weeks ago), he told me he would call. I realize he’s very, very busy, so I’m just waiting for him to call.”
Snohomish County Republican Party Chairwoman Billye Brooks-Sebastiani won’t have a role in the upcoming appointment, but is extremely disappointed in how it’s playing out.
“What concerns me is that there is chatter than he may not even resign,” she said. “The voters of Snohomish County are the ones who are being disenfranchised by this.”
She said voters are being subjected to lack of leadership and deserve better.
“All of this is just a huge distraction when we could be building on our strengths,” she said.
The timing of Reardon’s expected May 31 resignation means voters here won’t get to cast ballots for a county executive until 2014. If he instead opts to resign before mid-May, candidates from both parties would be able to file to run this November.
The special county executive race in 2014 will be for a one-year term, followed in 2015 by an election for the full, four-year term.
Lovick, 61, of Mill Creek, was first elected sheriff in 2007. Before that, he worked for more than 30 years as a Washington state trooper and served in the U.S. Coast Guard on active and reserve duty.
Lovick for nine years represented Washington’s 44th Legislative District as a House member and served for five years on the Mill Creek City Council.
Ericks, also 61, grew up in Marysville and Sultan. He landed his first law enforcement job in Snohomish County, before joining the Bellevue and Bothell police departments. In Bothell, he was police chief for more than 11 years and then assistant city administrator for another three. He was elected three times to represent the 1st Legislative District covering south Snohomish and north King counties.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, firstname.lastname@example.org.