By Noah Haglund and Scott North Herald Writers
EVERETT — Local Democrats voted Saturday to pick Sheriff John Lovick as their top choice to become Snohomish County executive.
About half of the county’s Democratic Party precinct committee officers showed up to select nominees to replace Aaron Reardon, who resigned Friday after a series of scandals.
Some of the loudest applause Saturday came when the top two candidates made clear they plan to lead differently than Reardon, who they never mentioned by name.
“It is very, very clear that we need to return respect, honor, dignity and integrity” to the county executive’s office, Lovick said.
“What this office needs is integrity brought back,” said state Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip.
Out of 94 ballots counted, Lovick landed the most support with 69 votes. McCoy took 18. The third candidate, Everett attorney Todd Nichols, received seven votes. In his remarks, Nichols, a longtime party stalwart, made clear that he was a big fan of both front runners.
In keeping with state law, the Snohomish County Council on Monday is set to interview the three nominees. Because Reardon is a Democrat, all of his potential replacements needed to come from the same party. Although Saturday’s vote carries weight, it is up to the council to decide whom to select to replace Reardon.
Neither Reardon nor any members of his staff were at Saturday’s meeting.
Others, though, made clear that they are ready for new leadership.
“I’m really, really looking forward to a new day in Snohomish County,” said County Councilman Dave Somers. His comments drew cheers and applause.
As Snohomish County’s top elected official, the executive is the chief administrator, lobbyist and advocate for more than 700,000 people. The county executive oversees more than 2,600 employees and an operating budget of more than $200 million.
The county departments directly under the executive’s control include: planning (zoning, building permits, code enforcement); public works (road maintenance, surface water, solid waste); the airport at Paine Field; human services (social work, assistance grants); parks; the medical examiner and human resources.
The executive also takes a lead role drafting the county budget for the coming year and has veto power over the County Council’s revisions.
Pressing issues await the appointee. There’s preparation for commercial air service at Paine Field, including the construction of a passenger terminal. And demand for county planning services, including permitting and enforcement, will rise if the economy continues to improve.
All of the candidates know they’re expected to make the county a friendly environment for desirable businesses. A current priority is persuading the Boeing Co. to locate its new 777X assembly line in Snohomish County.
Both McCoy and Lovick said their biggest job as executive would be encouraging job growth. McCoy pointed to his work in developing the Quil Ceda Village retail and resort area on the Tulalip Indian Reservation as evidence of his skills in fostering successful businesses.
Both candidates also emphasized that as executive, their administration would earn a reputation for good governance and ethical leadership.
“You will never, never, never be embarassed by the things we do in that office,” Lovick said.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, firstname.lastname@example.org.