Mukilteo’s next mayor makes plans for a major change

MUKILTEO — Usually when a victorious politician sees the need for a transition team, it’s at the level of president or governor or mayor of a big city like Seattle.

In this city of about 20,000, Jennifer Gregerson thinks it can work at any level. Once the ballot tally from the Nov. 5 election is official, she likely will take over from incumbent Mayor Joe Marine and has recruited four public officials for advice.

“I just thought it was a good idea to seek out ideas and perspectives on my vision and my new role,” said Gregerson, 35, who has served on the City Council for 10 years.

“Gathering more information is good, and I’m looking to people who have experience. It’ll be part of me growing into the new role.”

The election won’t be official until Tuesday, but Gregerson is on her way to defeating Marine. She currently leads by 521 votes, roughly 54 percent to 46 percent.

In the week following the election, Gregerson announced that state Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, Snohomish County Councilman Brian Sullivan, Mukilteo School District Superintendent Marci Larsen and city of Mukilteo Planning Director Heather McCartney would help her plan the move to her new job.

Liias served on the Mukilteo City Council in 2006 and most of 2007 before he was appointed to the Legislature to replace Sullivan, who was elected that year to the County Council. Sullivan, also a Democrat, served as mayor of Mukilteo from 1990 to 1997.

Liias, a Mukilteo native, said he knows the players and can provide a perspective backed with inside knowledge.

“Jen’s style is to bounce things off people and be a good listener,” he said.

The transition group has had one meeting so far. Gregerson said she’s seeking input on issues such as her planned restructuring of the city’s upper management, intergovernmental relations and general leadership.

Gregerson campaigned in part on eliminating the city administrator position, contending that the job — which pays $117,000 a year — is not necessary with an elected mayor running the show. The mayor’s position pays $70,800 and the term starts in January.

Gregerson said she met after the election with Joe Hannan, who has held the administrator job for six years. She wouldn’t say if she told Hannan he won’t be retained.

“The executive management of the city was a big part of the campaign, and I’m looking to implement a different vision and I want to take the time to do it in the right way,” she said.

Hannan could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Assuming the city will eliminate the administrator job, officials with the state, county and other cities will need new contact points in addition to the mayor, Liias said.

“The city and the state have had a good relationship to this point,” he said, “and we don’t want to lose sight of that relationship.”

Gregerson said she could shift some of the responsibility to department heads.

One of those officials, McCartney, is retiring at the end of the year.

Gregerson, McCartney said, “already has recognized that the waterfront is going to be one of the key issues of the next five years.”

The state plans to build a new $140 million ferry dock on the former Air Force tank farm. In an agreement with the state and the Port of Everett, the city will receive some small parcels along the waterfront, and the hope is to build parks and a walkway.

The key will be to pursue grant money and make sure the city’s interests are well represented in the planning, she said.

Gregerson said she sought Larsen in part because of her experience in the school district and, later, leading the large organization.

Larsen said she told Gregerson it’s important to be clear with staff about her plans for the city.

“When you change seats within the organization, your role is different, your perspective is different, the skill set you need will be different,” said Larsen, who was director of teaching and learning at the school district before becoming superintendent 11 years ago.

“I found it fascinating that after all of that and with people having known and worked with me for three years, as soon as I had a different title they asked me, ‘What do you believe, what do you value?’”

Gregerson said Marine, who has held the mayor’s job for eight years, has been helpful as well.

“He’s really opened up City Hall to me and given me the flexibility to start meeting with the department heads,” Gregerson said, adding that she’s attending staff meetings.

She and Marine “had a good relationship through the campaign, and I think that will make this transition easier, as well,” Gregerson said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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