EDMONDS — Development, affordable housing, the Waterfront Connector and the Highway 99 corridor are just some of the issues the next mayor of Edmonds will encounter. Four candidates — three councilmembers and a city planner — are vying for Edmonds’ top job in the Aug. 6 primary.
After eight years as mayor and another 12 as a City Council member, Dave Earling is looking for a new challenge.
Edmonds is Snohomish County’s third largest city with a population of 42,170.
Johnson, who has been on the council since 2012, worked as a transportation planner for the city of Bellevue and King County.
She was part of the vote earlier this year on the Waterfront Connector project, which would provide an emergency route over the railroad tracks when stopped trains cut off the bustling ferry terminal, beaches and marina. Under consideration was a one-lane elevated road that would link Sunset Avenue to Brackett’s Landing North, the popular diving destination next to the ferry terminal.
Johnson voted against killing the plan as proposed. She said the council vote rejecting the plan wiped out funding from the state and Port of Edmonds for such a project. Opponents argued that it would be an expensive eyesore on the shoreline.
The council could have decided to look at other alternatives, Johnson said. She would be willing to consider short-term solutions identified in the access study.
“I think it was an untimely, rash decision,” she said. “Right now we have to rely on our safety plan in place and do the best we can.”
She was also a no vote on the city’s gun storage law, which requires gun owners to keep their firearms locked up and inaccessible to others, especially children. She said it wasn’t an appropriate use of the city’s powers, though she supports the state’s version. The city’s ordinance has been challenged in court.
One of her top priorities is to preserve as much as possible downtown and environmentally critical areas in the city. She wants to see multi-family housing built along Highway 99, where she said there is vacant land and untapped potential.
“I’m offering a different direction, a direction that tries to protect what we care about in Edmonds — the downtown, the natural areas,” Johnson said.
On the council since 2015, Nelson, 44, is the executive director of the Service Employees International Union Washington State Council.
A top priority of Nelson’s is to keep the city “livable,” which to him includes preserving the downtown while limiting growth there. To do that he would prioritize the Highway 99 redevelopment plan and add denser housing along the corridor.
Nelson led the charge to kill the Waterfront Connector project. If elected, he said he would look at interim solutions to see what could be done without a bridge. This could include purchasing an emergency vehicle for the west side of the tracks. Any long-term solution would have to be one that didn’t cause damage to the beach and shouldn’t be something the city has to take the lead on, he said.
The gun storage law was introduced by Nelson, a gun owner who said he pushed for the city to act because nothing was happening at the state level at the time.
“I’m the only one that has a proven record of working with and collaborating with our citizens and implementing things to make our city healthy and livable,” he said.
His endorsements include the Snohomish County Democrats.
Shipley, 41, was hired by the city as a planner in 2014.
If chosen to lead Edmonds, he said he would simultaneously allow for change while protecting Edmonds’ charm by adding duplexes, triplexes and small courtyard buildings while creating more walkable neighborhoods. Shipley said he would do this with citizen input.
“This wouldn’t drastically change the neighborhoods as they exist,” he said.
Higher density development would be focused along the Highway 99 corridor, Shipley said.
He agrees with recent council action that ended the Waterfront Connector plan, saying it wasn’t the best solution. Moving forward, Shipley said it’s the city’s responsibility to provide emergency services to the other side of the railroad tracks and he would look at other options identified in the study.
Shipley doesn’t support the council’s decision on gun storage, saying the ongoing lawsuit would be a liability for the city.
People should be responsible for their guns, he said, but “I’m not sure it’s the government’s role to tell people how to do that.”
On the campaign trail, he’s touted his experience working on the city’s staff.
“I believe I bring a different perspective, I’ve been in there and I’ve done the work,” Shipley said.
Tibbott, 61, is finishing up his first term on the City Council. Before taking office he served on the planning board. For his day job, Tibbott runs a human resource consulting firm.
If elected, he said he will preserve the unique character of Edmonds, which to him is making sure new development meets city design standards and improving walkability by building out sidewalks in the city.
After the council voted to kill the Waterfront Connector project, which he supported, Tibbott believes a pedestrian access would be enough in most situations.
As mayor, in the short-term he would look at ways to stock resources on the west side of the track for first responders and to build a pedestrian crossing. He’s unsure a vehicle bridge would ever be a solution.
He missed the gun storage law vote that was approved by the council in 2018. Tibbott remains unsure about the law, and is waiting to see how a similar state law pans out before taking a side. He believes the proper storage of firearms is the responsibility of every gun owner.
“We need both consensus building inside Cith Hall and to build bridges between Cith Hall and our community,” Tibbott said.
His endorsements include Mayor Earling.
Primary ballots must be returned or postmarked no later than Aug. 6. Voters can either mail their ballots back, no stamp required, or place them in one of the county’s 19 designated drop boxes which will be open until 8 p.m. Aug. 6.
The top two candidates will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.