With solid lead in returns, Dave Earling aims for stability in Edmonds

EDMONDS — Dave Earling is running away in the mayor’s race and is expected to be sworn into office later this month.

The city has had its share of financial problems and drama over the past several months. Over the next four years, Earling, 68, hopes to accomplish much.

“It’s clear the city expects better from its elected leaders,” Earling said. “Now the task is to answer their call.”

Earling beat Mayor Mike Cooper by 2-to-1 on election night, and the numbers didn’t get any better for Cooper as more ballots were counted.

Since Cooper was appointed, Earling will be sworn into office Nov. 29 once the election is certified. A public swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for the Dec. 6 City Council meeting. The full-time job pays about $113,000 a year.

Earling said his first move as mayor will be to foster a feeling of stability for a city embroiled in controversy, especially in the last months of Cooper’s term.

In September, Cooper fired long-time human resources director Debi Humann, questioning her ability to do her job. Later, Kimberly Cole, Cooper’s executive administrative assistant, who is also a Lynnwood city councilwoman, claimed workplace harassment and attempted to resign but is now on paid administrative leave. The City Council voided her settlement agreement.

Earling, who served three terms on the City Council and ran unsuccessfully against Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon in 2003, wants to go through a series of briefings with city directors about ongoing issues, including the personnel fracas. He hopes to quell any concerns of the staff, residents and council about the stability of City Hall.

Next he hopes to tackle the budget, he said.

Even through Cooper has already prepared a balanced budget for 2012, Earling wants to challenge city leaders to think clearly about the future.

“Without a turnaround in the economy we have to evaluate how we will treat further challenges in the budget for 2013 and beyond,” he said.

During this election, Edmonds voters rejected three measures aimed at bolstering the budget, fixing roads and city buildings.

Earling opposed one of the three levies — the one that would have contributed $1 million per year for three years into the city’s general fund.

“As I doorbelled across the city it became apparent to me that residents didn’t understand how the city could ask for $1 million when they themselves were experiencing financial hardships,” Earling said.

He was disappointed with the failure of the other two measures.

“I think there was a lack of communication about the city’s need for infrastructure improvements that didn’t win votes for the other two measures,” he said.

Part of his job, Earling says, will be to get out and communicate the city’s problems to people in town. Financial forecasts, presented by former financial directors, all point to pending budget shortfalls, despite years of trimming the budget.

“We have to find ways to make ends meet,” he said.

But as the city tackles the challenges ahead, Earling said that he sees his first step will be to restore trust.

“I want Edmonds residents and business people to feel comfortable with the city’s leadership,” he said. “”We need confidence with the direction in which the city is going.”

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