Next mayor hopes for a fresh start for Lynnwood

LYNNWOOD — Nicola Smith is ready for a change — in her life, and in her city.

The longtime Edmonds Community College administrator is set to take over as Lynnwood’s mayor Jan. 1. She was sworn in Monday night during a brief ceremony at the City Council’s last meeting of 2013.

Smith, 54, grew up in south Seattle. She’s worked at the community college for more than 25 years. She also spent time running youth foreign exchange and international studies programs, and she worked at a travel company.

Smith has been a member of the Rotary Club of Lynnwood for 10 years, serving as president in 2007.

She first floated the idea of running for mayor at Rotary about four years ago, she said.

“They were like, ‘You have to do it,’” she said.

Smith received phone calls this spring encouraging her to run, she said. She first met with Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, EdCC President Jean Hernandez and other local leaders to see what she was getting into.

“They just had such a fun time, and felt like they really made a difference,” she said Tuesday.

The campaign became “this overwhelming grassroots support that just ballooned and really gave me the energy and enthusiasm,” she said.

Smith has been talking with city department directors. She’s also kept a list of city issues she heard about during her campaign. She’s scheduled to sit down with outgoing Mayor Don Gough Wednesday to talk about the transition. Gough shook her hand during Monday night’s ceremony.

Smith already has been hearing rumors about who she supposedly is keeping at City Hall and who may lose their jobs. It’s not that simple, she said. She wants to get to know city employees and figure out “what is working and what is not working,” she said.

“There might be some shuffling,” she said.

Controversial issues ahead include the city’s fireworks policy and its use of traffic enforcement cameras, Smith said. During her campaign, she heard plenty from adamant supporters and opponents on both topics.

She wants Lynnwood to feel more welcoming, citing examples of confusing medians, dirty streets and wayward weeds. She’d like to see more community festivals, too.

At the same time, Smith said she knows she’ll be starting with the city’s two-year budget already set. The police and fire departments have needs, and the city still is hurting from the economic downturn, which cost arts and culture programming, she said.

Smith earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in Danish language and literature. She earned a master’s degree from Western Washington University’s Everett campus in adult education and administration.

Smith and her husband, Del, have lived in Lynnwood about 15 years. That time was punctuated with an additional eight-year stint “homesteading” in Granite Falls in the late 1990s. The couple has two grown daughters, Emily, 27, and Tia, 21.

Smith also enjoys gardening, cooking and hanging out with her grandchildren, she said.

She also devotes a lot of energy toward Rotary service projects.

Smith, two family members, and other Rotary folks traveled to northern Haiti for five days last week. They visited a medical clinic and school in Plaine-du-Nord, north of the capital of Port-au-Prince. They built a new kitchen and new toilets, and they installed a water purification system that will serve an estimated 6,000 people. The volunteers slept on yoga mats on the concrete floors of a classroom, she said. They rode a school bus from the airport.

Smith plans to retire from EdCC at the end of the year. Since the election, she’s mostly been thinking about what’s next.

“I want to see a new culture in City Hall,” she said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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