EVERETT — Judy Tuohy is a native of Everett and when you’re running for mayor that can mean a lot.
In fact, she’s the only candidate in this year’s race who was born and raised in the city, a footnote of personal biography she shares with the current mayor, Ray Stephanson, and his predecessor, Ed Hansen.
“A lifelong connection is very important, especially when I talk to citizens,” she said. “Understanding how the city has evolved and changed over time to where we are today and where we hopefully will get to in the future.
“It really adds that perspective that I think is very important when you have to make great decisions for the city,” she said.
It’s not only the added perspective.
When you’ve grown up in the city and held the same job in town since 1995, as she has with the Schack Art Center, many locals know you. They’ve helped Tuohy, 63, win two city council elections in the past four years and provided her a bulkhead of campaign funds ahead of the Aug. 1 primary.
“I have a track record of getting things done and I think people like elected officials that get things done,” Tuohy said.
In this election, she is one of four candidates competing to succeed the retiring Stephanson. The others are City Councilwoman Cassie Franklin, Snohomish County Councilman Brian Sullivan and substitute teacher Shean Nasin. The top two finishers in the primary will advance to the general election in November.
As of Tuesday, Tuohy had raised $56,838, the vast majority from current and former Everett residents. Sullivan leads all fundraising with $118,625 followed by Franklin with $60,601. Nasin reports $10,860.
At stake is a four-year term as the top administrator of and political voice for Snohomish County’s most-populous city. The mayor guides a municipality with nearly 1,200 employees at full staffing and a yearly general-fund budget of about $132 million. The job pays about $182,000 per year.
It’s a much larger city than when Tuohy’s parents moved here from Aberdeen in 1953. Tuohy attended public schools, graduated from Everett High School in 1972 and earned a teaching degree at Central Washington.
She taught in elementary and high schools before pivoting into retail, working in management posts for the Frederick & Nelson department store. Since 1995, she’s served as executive director of Schack Art Center, formerly known as the Arts Council of Snohomish County.
She hasn’t lived her entire life in Everett. She and her husband, attorney Tom Tuohy, raised two children while living in Snohomish. She moved back to Everett after her husband died in 2007.
Tuohy attempted to join the City Council in 2013 when she and 11 others sought an appointment to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of councilman Shannon Afholter. The council picked Rich Anderson.
The next year she ran against Anderson, and beat him, and went on to finish the rest of Afholter’s term. Tuohy was elected to a full term in 2015 and earlier this year her colleagues elected her council president. She will remain a council member should she lose the mayoral race.
“I’ve never worked with someone who is more collaborative and hard working,” said city Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher, the longest-serving council member and a Tuohy backer. “She knows what she doesn’t know and goes out to get the information. Her ability to listen and take in information is really, really important.”
Hansen, the former mayor, said that’s critical because the mayor is “going to have to make some tough decisions” and Tuohy has the “moxie and judgment” to do so.
Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, another supporter, said Tuohy is a tireless worker who “quietly gets things done without a lot of fanfare.”
Tuohy’s backers laud her talent in converting a vision into reality as exemplified with the Schack Art Center.
Under her leadership, the center has experienced steady growth in its size, reach and reputation. A highlight came in 2011 with the opening of the multi-purpose art center with its premiere glass hot-shop on the site of a former city parking lot.
She is credited for the successful capital campaign that raised more than $6 million in the midst of one of America’s worst recessions. The center later expanded to add work space on the mezzanine level and in 2014 received the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Arts Organization in the State of Washington.
Stonecipher recalled the city conducted a feasibility study before leasing the land to the nonprofit. The conclusions were negative as the consultants didn’t think the group could garner the money needed to pull it off, she said.
“Judy raised every bit of the money they needed. They had a crane in downtown when nothing else was happening,” Stonecipher said. “She showed great leadership. Her management skill is outstanding.”
Tuohy said skills honed at Schack translate well to addressing the variety of challenges facing the city.
Everett got “off on the right foot” with the Community Streets Initiative initiated by Stephanson. Now, she said she will look to further bolster housing aid, social services and treatment facilities for those battling homelessness and opiate addiction. She endorsed development of low-barrier supportive housing and suing Purdue Pharma to force the manufacturer of the powerful painkiller OxyContin to start paying to repair the damage done to the community.
Opioid abuse disorder is a regional problem, she said, so conversation on building a second methadone clinic should not be focused solely on an Everett location.
“We need to do it but where in the county do we need to do it?” she said.
She also wants to amplify the involvement of neighborhoods in the decision-making process of the city. She backs district elections and would like to see it on the ballot in 2018.
Tuohy cited her role in establishing council liaisons with 19 distinct neighborhoods. She said it can serve as a starting point to prevent the kind of frustration and anger incited by the council’s limited advance notice of decisions on where to build low-barrier housing.
“We need to do much more for neighborhoods,” she said, adding that “moving forward she would put in place policies and procedures to site burdensome projects.”
If elected, she said, she’ll work to boost the presence of police in the downtown core, support the small businesses in the city while working to bring new enterprises to town. She’s backed commercial air service at Paine Field and the passage of the Sound Transit 3 expansion plan to bring light-rail service to Everett.
City leaders are in the midst of writing a long-term plan to accommodate future development of housing and business. It is critical, she said, the result is “Everett is what we want it to look like in 10 years.”
She said she knows what she wants visitors to find when they arrive in the community.
“I would like them to see a very clean city. I would like them to see we have some great amenities, that we spark their interest and wondering of, ‘What is that? Did you see that?’ ” she said.
“I want people to feel safe,” she continued, “that they see an active community with people walking and riding bikes and that they stumble on some great community parks. And also the city is easy to navigate so one can go to the riverfront, the waterfront or downtown and find everything that they’d want.”
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @dospueblos.
Judy Tuohy is the second of four Everett mayoral candidates to be profiled in The Daily Herald this week.
Tuesday, July 18: Brian Sullivan
Thursday, July 20: Cassie Franklin
Friday, July 21: Shean Nasin