A new day for the county

It’s a good day when bad people leave public life.

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, emblematic of character as destiny, spent the past three months of a tainted reign not showing up for duty. From Sound Transit, to the Puget Sound Regional Council, to preserving aerospace jobs, he failed the people of Snohomish County.

AWOL for weeks, Reardon’s sanctimonious farewell message was a laundry list of look-at-me platitudes, minus an apology. It was as empty and insincere as its author.

Goodbye to all that. Thanks to the investigative reporting of The Herald’s Scott North and Noah Haglund, citizens learned the truth about an unaccountable, philandering executive, about State Patrol investigations, about Public Disclosure Commission probes, about rogue staff. Reardon’s dereliction sapped the county’s political and private-sector clout. He diminished the public sphere. And those slammed hardest were the county’s public servants, women and men dedicated to the greater good.

On Friday, Reardon’s key card was deactivated. We begin anew.

The County Council taps a new county executive Monday. The appointee will serve until a fall election in 2014 because Reardon decided to hang on past May 13, the deadline for scheduling a 2013 election. This final injustice is impetus for the new executive to be inclusive and nonpartisan. The litmus test of county policy is whether it dovetails with the public interest. Principles before partisanship.

The new executive’s appointments will be a leadership barometer. As one County Council member observed, “Who you surround yourself with, that says it all.” It’s a lesson gleaned from Reardon’s ignoble example.

Then, the real work. The new executive will need to rapidly get up to speed on all things Sound Transit. Everett City Councilmember Paul Roberts and Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling have done an exemplary job carrying the water and filling the Reardon vacuum. An inspired executive will give voice to the transportation needs of Snohomish County and invigorate regional leadership.

Beyond transportation, the new executive will need to breathe life into an all-hands push to land the 777X. Step one is getting appointed to and ideally co-chairing the Governor’s task force on permit streamlining led by Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson.

The County Council has kept the ship anchored, and each member — Wright, Koster, Somers, Gossett, and Sullivan — merits special thanks for weathering the biggest crisis in the history of Snohomish County government.

Things are about to get better. It’s a good day.

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