With the close of 2017, two remarkable terms of public service end in Snohomish County, the 14-year tenure of Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and the seven years of leadership of Edmonds Community College President Jean Hernandez.
To honor that service, we’re turning the page over to those who worked most closely with Stephanson and Hernandez to offer their thoughts on their contributions and what they’ve meant to their communities and Snohomish County.
Fortunately for us, Ray Stephanson returned to his hometown after a very successful career as an executive with GTE.
Instead of retiring, he decided to apply those leadership, executive and organization management skills in the public sector as a way of giving back to the community he loves.
He surrounded himself with talented people who shared his vision and cultivated a strong working relationship with his city council and other governmental institutions throughout our region and state.
Through his dynamic leadership and vision our economy has prospered, and new services and initiatives have help make Everett a better place to live.
One of his lasting gifts to our community is the establishment of Washington State University’s presence in Everett. He felt strongly that we needed a research university here. So he took the initiative to reach out to WSU President Elson Floyd several years ago, and that led to the designation of WSU as the lead university for the University Center of North Puget Sound and the dedication of the first new WSU Everett building on North Broadway this summer.
His vision is alive and promises our citizens the opportunity to get their college degrees right here at home. That gift will continue to grow into the future.
Larry Hanson, Herald publisher emeritus
What a delight it has been to work with Dr. Jean Hernandez these past several years. As a member of the selection committee that forwarded your name to the Board of Regents for consideration, I believe we made a positive, far-reaching choice. With your selection, our communities and the region have been richly rewarded.
Your leadership on a number of fronts has elevated even further the reputation of Edmonds Community College. Your relationship building with other community colleges and universities has broadened the horizons for thousands of students. While your willingness to introduce new and far reaching programs has opened doors for students and adults alike.
Seeing the EdCC Foundation growth has been an inspiration. And watching you advance the academic and vocational programs has been a treat. The college’s expanded support for veterans has opened-up new horizons for them and added depth to your commitment to offer opportunities for all.
Personally it has been a pleasure and great fun to work with you on small to large projects. From your speech at my first State of the City Address, to our service together on the Board of Economic Alliance Snohomish County, I have grown to appreciate your wisdom, expertise and sense of humor on many different levels.
Let me thank you for your friendship and knowledge these past years and wish you well as you move on to your next “assignment.”
Dave Earling, Mayor of Edmonds
Naval Station Everett would like to congratulate Mayor Ray Stephanson for his successful tenure as mayor of the city of Everett. From the thousands of sailors and civilian personnel who work at Naval Station Everett, now and throughout the 14 years of your time in office, thank you for all you have done for the community that we share.
You have helped give our Everett Navy homeport the reputation as one of the most highly requested duty stations for our sailors. That is a result of the outstanding support from you and our local community in Everett and throughout Snohomish County. This strong community support matters to the Navy, but more importantly it is felt by the service members and their families who make this place their home. Great community partnerships are fundamental to sustaining war-fighter readiness. Quality of life and family support are essential to the Navy’s overall effectiveness. Support from our family, friends and neighbors will always be integral to enabling our war-fighters, and enable continued protection of our critical Northwest natural resources and surrounding communities.
Mayor Stephanson, you have been a true friend to the Navy and we all want to wish you and your family all the best as you continue on to your next step in life. Bravo Zulu for a job well done!
Capt. Mark Lakamp, commanding officer, Naval Station Everett
Congratulations to Dr. Jean Hernandez on her upcoming retirement as president of Edmonds Community College. Jean has been a tremendous asset to Snohomish County on a multiple of issues from education to economic development. She has special interest in improving the quality of life of youth and their families which is demonstrated by her involvement on the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County Board of Directors.
Bill Tsoukalas, Executive Director, Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County
I met Dr. Jean Hernandez in her first few weeks in her new job. This was a courtesy call to say “welcome to Snohomish County” and to let her know we all work together here for a better community and county.
I fondly remember the meeting as quite special. She was engaging, warm, genuine and wanting to do all she could to be a part of the community. I sensed that she wanted to make a difference at EdCC and in the community. I also immediately knew she was a champion of diversity and inclusion.
Halfway into her tenure, I became a trustee at the college and began to work with her more closely. EdCC is a very big and complex organization that needs exceptional leadership. Dr. Hernandez served EdCC throughout her term with amazing distinction, determination, and grace. Faculty, trustees, staff and the community knew she was totally committed to student success, but not just academically. She led the charge to support students with all of the support they needed. One example was her leadership in developing the EdCC Veterans Resource Center on campus to support veterans entering the college. She led a community initiative to raise over $1 million to make that happen. This is the first in the state, and one of the first in the country.
We’re so lucky to have had Dr. Hernandez a the helm of EdCC. But she’s also been a leader on the state and national level. She is respected throughout Washington state as one of the best community and technical college leaders we have. And, on the national level, she’s recognized as an innovative leader.
Lastly, what a champion for people. Everyone who works with her knows she’s respectful and supportive of all people. That inclusive spirit is evident and robust at EdCC, and has much impacted the area and state.
How lucky are we to have had Dr. Hernandez leading one of our most important institutions, and sharing her zeal for student success, people in general, and the community.
We wish you well, Dr. Hernandez, and thank you for your amazing years at EdCC and in our community.
Carl J. Zapora, EdCC trustee
There is no one prouder than a father of a son. Over the years, at scores of community events, I watched as Ray Stephanson Sr. would light up a reception hall, a conference room, a ship or a classroom, with unabashed pride over the accomplishments of his son, Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson.
Thank you for this opportunity to publicly express appreciation and gratitude to Mayor Ray for his decades of service to the citizens of Everett and Washington State.
His legacy of courage, tenacity and grit will benefit generations to come. Be it setting the city’s course, ensuring a robust local Navy fleet, standing with Boeing’s future, exceeding higher ed horizons with WSU, or dogged insistence on highway and rail improvements, Mayor Ray stood poised, articulate and decisive.
With great appreciation, we likewise recognize the support, patience and insight of his wife Vikki and family for sharing Ray with us.
As Mayor Ray leaves office after 14 years, our city’s longest serving mayor, we borrow some of that pride from his father. Thank you Ray, for a job well done with integrity, dignity, determination and courage.
Pat McClain, Everett
The end of 2017 marks the retirement of two great leaders in our greater community of Snohomish County: Mayor Ray Stephanson and Dr. Jean Hernandez.
Each have lead significant advances in making our county and cities a place where families want to live, work and play. They have supported advancement in health care and especially seeing the need to focus on the social determinants of health through partnerships in housing and education and other key areas.
Each in their own vocations have supported the growth of a strong economic base through advancement of our infrastructure and support to key business partners. But above all else they are genuinely great human beings that care about others and have provided years of servant leadership to all of us.
I am very happy that each will remain in our community and continue to serve in other capacities over time after a well-deserved rest. On behalf of Providence Health and Services, I would like to say congratulations and thank you!
Preston M. Simmons, interim CEO, Providence Health & Services Western Washington
When historians recount Ray Stephanson’s contributions, they’ll no doubt focus on the physical evidence: a growing College and University District along North Broadway; production in Everett of 777X jetliners and their composite wings; passenger jets flying business and leisure customers from a terminal at Paine Field; world-class health-care facilities anchored by a modern hospital; or fast, dependable light-rail connections from Everett.
I hope their accounts will also note the reason for your persistent and often thankless leadership in such efforts: to create opportunities for the people of Everett and Snohomish County to thrive and prosper, now and for generations to come.
Having closely watched you make a positive difference in so many ways for the past 14 years, I know that it was the deep love you feel for your city and its people that drove your decisions — and your determination to see things through.
All Everett residents, young and old, present and future, including those who face some of life’s harshest challenges, will benefit in ways large and small from your good work.
Bob Bolerjack, Everett
“High quality schools equate to high quality of community life.” Among Mayor Ray Stephanson’s guiding principles was his commitment to the important relationship between the community and its schools. In 2013, Mayor Stephanson led city support to lay the foundation for Everett Public Schools to become a K-12 STEM district. Boeing, the city of Everett, Frontier Communications and Providence Health and Services committed $180,000 to launch our district-wide STEM approach to provide access to all rather than limiting students to science, technology, engineering and math experiences at only certain schools or specific grade levels.
Today, the impact of Mayor Stephanson’s landmark leadership lives on: Building upon long term K-12 STEM investments, made possible in 2013, the district’s partnerships with regional leaders is developing new student internship and apprenticeship programs. If approved by voters in the Feb. 13, 2018 bond, badly needed vocational STEM learning labs will be created in each comprehensive high school.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Mayor Stephanson; he’s helped lay the foundation for students to live and work in this community in the future, and to ensure the quality of our schools and improve our quality of life. We wish him a wonderful retirement!
The bridge from high school to college can be precarious unless high schools and colleges help students cross the divide. From the moment she stepped into her role as president of Edmonds Community College, Dr. Hernandez did more than maintain her side of that bridge. She crossed it and invited Everett Public Schools and other districts to link programs, to combine resources, and to ensure high school graduates achieved success after high school.
For example, together we convened a group to help students bridge that sometimes difficult transition from high school to college, and she was always a willing and wise voice of hope. She always said “yes” to any invitation to help students, to work together, and to strengthen pathways to success for our youth.
To our Everett team, Dr. Hernandez exemplifies what it means to “walk the talk.” In our experience “student success” is at the core of all she does and believes. She understands the transformational power of education and the possibilities education can open for our children, and its power to transform our world. As she retires, we will miss her leadership in our community!
Gary Cohn, Superintendent, Everett Public Schools
On behalf of Economic Alliance Snohomish County, please accept our most sincere congratulations on your fruitful careers as leaders in Snohomish County. Our county will not be the same without your leadership. However, the legacy that you leave is significant and the impacts of your work will continue to benefit our community for generations to come.
The many assets that will continue to grow economic prosperity in the county were as a result of the work you, your teams or organizations that you have committed your time over the past decade. In particular, educational opportunities for learners of all ages are more numerous, necessary investments in our transportation system are secure, and our existing and emerging industries are poised for continued growth.
While we are confident that you will both find ways to stay engaged in the community, we sincerely hope that you get the time with your spouses, children and grandchildren that you deserve. Good luck in your new adventures and thank you and your families for everything you have done for Economic Alliance and residents of Snohomish County!
Patrick Pearce, Economic Alliance Snohomish County
It has been an honor and a privilege to work with Jean Hernandez over the past six years. I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn from her and benefit from her more than 35 years of experience in higher education. I consider her a colleague, a mentor and, best of all, a good friend.
It has been a pleasure working with her to improve educational access for all students. I have learned a lot about what true leadership requires from observing Jean. She have an internal spirit that is warm, friendly, and collegial. She is able to develop partnerships and friendships that bring people and communities together in support of students. At the same time, she maintained clarity and focus on the goals and objectives she established for herself and her organization. She has made Edmonds Community College a place where people launch dreams and reach achievements that once seemed unattainable.
Jean, you are laser focused on your commitment to students, but you take the time to laugh and make others laugh. Your effective and compassionate leadership in the field of higher education is inspiring and infectious. Our community and the state have benefited from your extraordinary leadership. In my work with you, it has been evident that helping students achieve their academic dreams is your vocation. It is work you would be involved in regardless of title or institutional affiliation. You are an exemplar for leadership in higher education, and it has been a great pleasure to work with you. Congratulations on a well-deserved retirement.
I could not pass up an opportunity to add a public and well-deserved thank you to Ray Stephanson for his service to the city of Everett, to the North Puget Sound region, to Washington State University and to the Great State of Washington.
Ray, you should be proud of the tremendous impact that you have had on this region. Everett is enjoying a kind of renaissance because of your tremendous contributions. In this city’s growth and economic success, we can see the imprint of your vision and leadership. Your steady, guiding hand has supported Boeing’s success and vibrant health. This includes the growth of companies that make up Boeing’s supply chain. You have also have had an impact on the Navy’s strong presence and the planned growth on the waterfront. We owe you a debt of gratitude for helping to bring Washington State University and its intellectual resources to Everett. All of These things, and many more, will be part of your lasting legacy.
Mayor, you have built a strong foundation for leadership and inspired economic growth that will benefit our city and neighboring communities for generations to come. I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to work with you and your team. I have benefited greatly from your wise counsel and friendship. Thank you so much for being a visionary and a good steward of the city of Everett and of the public trust. On behalf of Washington State University Everett, congratulations on your well deserved retirement.
Paul E. Pitre, Chancellor, Washington State University Everett
Great communities need balance. A balance of concern, confidence and vision. Great leaders provide the foundation for this balance.
Mayor Ray Stephanson and President Jean Hernandez are two such leaders. Over the the last number of years they have by hard work,solid judgment and vision provided the solid ground to provide an environment for success. Most would agree that our form of government works the best with an educated citizens.
Ray provided the economic leadership, Jean provided the educational leadership to provide the balance for our success. The same is true with addressing homelessness. Ray starts the journey of hope, Jean provides the strongest requisite for success, education.
The visionary leadership, fueled by the belief that government and education leaders see the sunrise as yet another day of building for the future and the sunset as yet another day well done, is perhaps the strongest measure of these two remarkable leaders.
For those of us having the pleasure of knowing and working with you and for the tens of thousands you will never know but have benefited, Bless your hearts and enjoy the future.
Remember you helped create it, thanks so very, very much.
Bob Drewel, Arlington