Dave Somers navigated the road less traveled, from citizen-candidate to principled lawmaker. He’s an inspired exception to a dispiriting rule.
In politics, values often fall away. Core beliefs are jettisoned or ideology morphs into ineffectiveness.
On the Snohomish County Council, Somers has remained true to his values as a natural resources and land-use wonk, mastered the mechanics of government, and learned how to get things done. He strongly deserves re-election to a final, four-year term.
The mostly rural fifth council district stretches from Bothell to Snohomish and includes Monroe, Sultan, Gold Bar, Index and Lake Stevens. It’s a conservative, quasi-libertarian district that values authenticity and performance over party label. Over the years, Somers, a Democrat, has managed to woo skeptics as the longtime chairman of the council’s planning and community development committee. He cut his teeth with the county’s critical areas regulations and salmon recovery (Somers is a fisheries biologist) and moved on to rural cluster subdivision codes (a plus for rural communities) and the shorelines master program.
More recently, he worked to enhance the county’s transfer of development rights program, making Snohomish County part of a regional system. (With his growth management experience, Somers also is poised to be a critical voice in the ten-year update of the county’s comprehensive plan in 2015.)
It’s a record that earned Somers a lions-and-lambs endorsement from both the Master Builders Association and Washington Conservation Voters.
Somers supports Executive John Lovick’s operating budget, as well rebuilding the county’s reserves ($800,000 appropriated in the current budget.) Somers’ opponent, Republican Chris Vallo, an enthusiastic and committed conservative, largely supports Lovick’s budget minus four new positions, including a county ombudsman to police citizen complaints. Somers has advocated for an ombudsman for more than a decade, and he’s right.
Vallo, a Lake Stevens real estate broker, is focused on limited government, economic development and transportation. He has the amiable manner of someone well suited to serve on a city council and learn the minutia of local policy, but he doesn’t provide a compelling case to unseat Somers.
Both Somers and Vallo agree on a sustainable plan for a new county courthouse. As Somers notes, the original $75 million proposal was a brainstorm backfilled into a figure. The best course is to start anew, raze the current courthouse and build on the old footprint.
Dave Somers is emblematic of what a public servant should be — knowledgeable, tireless and grounded in politics as the art of the possible. Were there only more like him.