Most mayors view members of the business community as important constituents, and former Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall was no exception.
But for Kendall, business people were more important than they are for most politicians. Kendall told me years ago that he considered himself a businessman, not a politician, and acted accordingly.
Kendall, who recently retired to spend more time with family, ran for mayor after retiring as president of sales and marketing for Crown Image. In many ways, he shifted to a new position as marketing manager for Marysville, selling its virtues to the business community.
Taking office in 2004, he immediately tried to get more restaurants to come to town so that residents didn’t have to go somewhere else to dine out. He called Applebee’s Restaurant officials regularly to say, “You should come to Marysville.”
Because of Kendall’s efforts on behalf of business, it was no surprise that the Greater Marysville-Tulalip Chamber of Commerce gave him what it called a roast last Friday morning. It was more of a love fest than a roast, although there were a few half-hearted jokes about bad golf.
Mary Swenson, the former Marysville city administrator who retired at the end of March, was one of many to talk about the important role Kendall played in improving relationships between the city and the Tulalip Tribes.
She told a story of a hot and sweltering day when officials from both governments signed an alliance at a large road project and Kendall was given a tribal blanket to commemorate the event.
“They draped it over his shoulders, and he didn’t know what to do with it,” Swenson recalled. “He didn’t want to offend anyone by taking it off so he sat there dripping with sweat, We thought he was going to pass out.”
Mel Sheldon, tribal chairman, continued the story. “We’d never seen the mayor sweat and thought this was a great opportunity,” he added. “We were going to make it an electric blanket, but the cord ran short by about 25 feet.”
Sheldon said he and other tribal members appreciated Kendall’s efforts to forge a partnership with the Tulalips.
Several years ago, Kendall talked to me about his efforts to improve the city’s relationship with tribal members, and it’s certainly one of his major accomplishments.
Even at the time, he said, he didn’t view the tribal casino, its outlet mall and other businesses as a threat or a big competitor. He saw the tribal businesses as an opportunity.
“My feeling is that competition breeds business and that there’s always a niche for somebody,” he said. “If you can’t compete with them, you complement them.”
He noted that the tribes don’t sell their land, they lease.
“If somebody wants to own their property, they send them over here,” he added. “If they want to lease, we send them there.”
Rep. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, a tribal business manager who worked closely with Kendall, said Friday that the mayor worked hard to improve the relationship between the two governments.
McCoy noted that he usually asked mayors of the communities in his district what they wanted from him during each legislative session. “Dennis always said ‘Don’t hurt us,’” McCoy said.
Mayors from other cities also had good things to say about Kendall, saying he was all about developing partnerships to get things accomplished.
Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson called him a relationship builder with a lot of energy. Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson said he was “one of the good guys you meet in life” and thanked him for the communities support of Naval Station Everett and its sailors.
Jon Nehring, sworn in last week as Marysville’s new mayor, called Kendall a great ambassador for the city and lauded him as its “chief salesman.”
“It’s been a great ride,” Kendall said after the roast. “I’m confident that the new mayor and council will continue to support these partnerships. That’s what it’s all about.”
Mike Benbow: 425-339-3459; firstname.lastname@example.org.