By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
MUKILTEO — Mayor Joe Marine, seeking a third term, is facing his strongest electoral challenge yet in the city.
City Council members Jennifer Gregerson and Steve Schmalz are running for Marine’s position.
Four years ago, Marine was challenged by Pat Smith, who did not hold city office and wasn’t as well known around town as Gregerson or Schmalz.
Eight years ago, when first elected, Marine ran unopposed.
He says he deserves some credit for helping shepherd to fruition some long-debated and desired projects, namely the construction of the new Rosehill Community Center, a new City Hall and a makeover of Lighthouse Park.
“My whole theme is about leadership and results,” he said.
From the perspectives of Gregerson and Schmalz, that’s not enough.
They point to incidents such as an error that led to a meltdown of the city’s information technology system last year, and the hiring of a public works director this year who had been accused of harassment in his previous job.
“I just think there are ways to reorganize and look at how we’re managing the city,” Gregerson said. At a comparatively young 35, she’s still the longest-tenured member of the council, having been elected in 2003.
“We have a full-time city administrator and we spend a decent amount of money on the mayor’s salary ($70,800) and we don’t have an HR director,” she said.
Shirley Engdahl, the mayor’s executive assistant, also handles human resources duties.
Gregerson said she’s not sure if she would cut the mayor’s salary if she held that position.
She added that her experience in negotiating with firefighter unions regarding a possible merger with other departments would be an asset as mayor.
“I’ve worked hard to make sure we keep those options on the table,” she said.
Schmalz, two years into his first term, questioned whether the city needs a full-time mayor.
He said he’s running because he’s heard from people around town that they don’t believe they’ve been listened to by Mukilteo government.
“It’s from talking to folks around the city and wanting to give them a voice,” Schmalz said of his motivation to run.
He’s also concerned about recent increases in property taxes, both for the city and the emergency medical services levy.
Along with paying debt on the new community center, “we’ve got all these things that are hitting the taxpayer all the time,” he said. “I think we need a good manager of public funds. Let’s get a balanced budget and start from there.”
Schmalz, 49, said his business degree from Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania and experience helping his wife run the Art Workshop in town will help him guide city funds.
Gregerson said city property tax increases since 2009, totaling about 6 percent, preserved city services during the recession.
“We could have slashed and burned on salaries and laid people off but that’s not my vision for our city,” she said.
Marine said the IT incident, in which a huge chunk of city data was lost when the system overheated, was the result of a staff oversight. Most of the data was recovered and the city now contracts for IT services, saving about $40,000 a year, he said.
Marine, 50, has stood behind the hiring of public works director Rob McGaughey.
“I think the way we went about it was fine,” he said. “We could have spent money on a firm that actually does that. We’ve done even a more extensive background check.”
Regarding the executive department, “when I came on, it was very clear to me that we need a full-time mayor,” said Marine, whose career has been in insurance.
Of Gregerson and Schmalz, Marine said, “I’ll bet you neither of them will lower their salary if they’re elected mayor.”
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today: Mukilteo mayor; Monroe Proposition No. 1
Tuesday: Lakewood School District; Arlington Transportation Benefit District Proposition No. 1
Wednesday: Lynnwood mayor
Thursday: Camano Island Library Proposition No. 1; Lynnwood City Council Position No. 1
Friday: Lynnwood City Council Position No. 2
Saturday: Lynnwood City Council Position No. 3
July 29: Mill Creek City Council Position No. 1
July 30: Mill Creek City Council Position No. 2
About the job
The mayor of Mukilteo is elected separately from the city council and is not a voting member of the council except to break ties. The mayor oversees 138 employees. The base salary for the position is $70,800.
Name: Jennifer Gregerson
Experience: City Councilmember since 2004; independent sales representative for Herff Jones Yearbooks; master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Washington.
Name: Joe Marine
Experience: Mayor of Mukilteo, 2006-present; city councilman, 1998-2001; state representative 21st District, 2001; member of the Mukilteo-South Everett Rotary and Mukilteo Chamber of Commerce; also serves with several regional boards, commissions and associations.
Name: Steve Schmalz
Experience: City councilman since 2012; co-owner, Art Workshop in Mukilteo; bachelor’s degree in business from Susquehanna University, Pennsylvania.