Rep. Mike Sells, D-38, is the recipient of this year’s Henry M. Jackson award. The award recognizes a visionary leader who through partnership, tenacity and a strong commitment to community has created lasting opportunities to improve quality of life and positively impact the regional economy. Photographed in Everett, Washington on April 29, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Rep. Mike Sells, D-38, is the recipient of this year’s Henry M. Jackson award. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Rep. Mike Sells: He fought for WSU Everett and worker rights

The retiring legislator is the recipient of the Floyd Award from Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

This month’s Herald Business Journal highlights three people and one company whose achievements have helped create a better community or advance economic interests in the region. The four are recipients of Economic Alliance Snohomish County’s annual awards.

EVERETT — In 1967, Mike Sells was a new teacher in the Everett School District.

Two years later, he was elected president of his union, the Everett Federation of Teachers.

Sells, an Everett lawmaker since 2004, has always has two or three jobs.

When the federation merged with the Everett Education Association in 1981, he was chosen to be its president, a post he held until 1998.

From 1976 to 2014, he served as secretary-treasurer of the Snohomish County Labor Council.

When a vacancy arose in the 38th Legislative District in 2004, local leaders asked him to run for the seat.

“I told them no four times,” Sells said. “The next thing I know, I’m out door-belling.”

Sells, 76, a Democrat, is retiring this year and won’t be seeking re-election.

He leaves an impressive legacy and is the recipient of this year’s Elson S. Floyd Award, which is named for the former Washington State University president who played a key role in establishing the WSU Everett campus. The award recognizes a visionary leader who through partnership, tenacity and a strong commitment to community has created lasting opportunities to the improve quality of life and positively impact the regional economy, according to Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

Sells was instrumental in cementing Washington State University’s presence in Everett, launching a nursing degree program at University of Washington Bothell and strengthening workplace protections and collective bargaining rights across the state.

Bringing a four-year university to the area was a “huge step for this community,” Sells said. WSU Everett continues to expand. “You’ve have these new medical and engineering programs come in. These are great opportunities for people that will help the community grow.”

Since 2011, Sells has served as chairman of the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee. He also serves on the College and Workforce Development and the Capital Budget committees. A graduate of Central Washington University, Sells is also a trustee for that university.

Sells was “the leading force in making the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center at Paine Field a reality,” wrote Charlotte Murry, one of five people who nominated him for the award. Murry is secretary-treasurer of the Snohomish and Island County Labor Council. He was successful in restoring a bachelor of science nursing program to Everett Community College University Center and WSU Everett, Murry added.

“He has served for 25 years as a chair/vice chair on the Everett Housing Authority Board, which oversees federal housing programs in the City of Everett. He has been a member of the Snohomish County Economic Development Council for nearly 20 years, and has given his time to many other advisory and boards throughout his career,” Murry noted.

County Executive Dave Somers, another nominator, called Sells a “quintessential public servant” and who has had a “significant impact on our region and state for decades.”

“He has advanced opportunities for everyone in our community and ensured the next generation has more opportunities for training, education and family-wage jobs,” Somers wrote. “Our community is a better place to live because of the work he has done.”

Said Sells: “It’s nice to be recognized, but I always adhered to what Sen. Warren Magnuson used to say — you can get a lot accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

“Being in the Legislature is a process,” said Sells, reflecting on his political career. “It involves constant movement, constantly seeking people to work together. The most important thing is the relationships you build. I think that’s been one of my strengths over the years.”

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097;; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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