Snohomish County council members Jared Mead and Nate Nehring talk with Marysville Pilchuck High School students during a Civic Engagement Day event hosted at the county campus in Everett, Washington. On Dec. 4 the council members will host Building Bridges, an event that aims to create a space to discuss political polarization in a respectful way. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Snohomish County council members Jared Mead and Nate Nehring talk with Marysville Pilchuck High School students during a Civic Engagement Day event hosted at the county campus in Everett, Washington. On Dec. 4 the council members will host Building Bridges, an event that aims to create a space to discuss political polarization in a respectful way. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

At Everett event, Mead, Nehring look to bridge partisan gap

Two Snohomish County Council members can pinpoint the day they really started talking about putting civility over partisanship. It was Jan. 6.

EVERETT — On Jan. 6, 2021, Snohomish County Council members Jared Mead and Nate Nehring texted each other.

What they saw unfold that day on television, in the other Washington, disturbed them.

“We were just like, I can’t believe this is where we’re at as a society, politically. We’re so divided. People are watching different news, people are hating each other without knowing facts,” Mead said in an interview this week. “It’s all based on politics.”

Mead, a Democrat, and Nehring, a Republican, then sat down and co-wrote a commentary that appeared 11 days later in The Daily Herald. In it, they wrote about division, hatred and political echo chambers. At the time, they’d only been serving on the council together about six months.

“Not engaging with each other on the important issues of the day has made it far too easy to dehumanize those whom we disagree with,” they wrote in the piece. “Rather than making the effort to understand and learn from their point of view, we carelessly discard not only the viewpoint, but the individual holding that viewpoint as well.”

Now, Mead is the County Council chair, while Nehring is vice chair.

That cowritten commentary was followed by more reflection and, eventually, public meetings for a campaign they call “Building Bridges.” This series of speaking events and panels is ongoing. Mead estimated they have visited about 20 schools, rotary clubs and other groups that asked if they would speak, after the op-ed.

On Monday, they will lead another panel at 6 p.m. at Washington State University’s Everett campus. Democratic Lt. Gov. Denny Heck and Republican ex-Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler are also headlining the event.

Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin and two local mayors — Lynnwood’s Christine Frizzell and Stanwood’s Sid Roberts — are expected to speak, too.

Garry Clark, the CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County, will moderate.

“I think what Jared and I are trying to do and show is that it doesn’t have to be that way, right?” Nehring said. “We can disagree but do it in a respectful and civil way and still treat people with dignity and respect. We’ve tried our best to model that at the county level.”

Not everyone was a fan of them working together.

“When we first started working together, we got a lot of pushback from our parties, and kind of the hyperpartisan part of our parties,” Nehring said. “And then you’d have your civics teachers and those sorts of people who are really excited about the effort.”

In a lot of ways, Nehring and Mead are similar. They’re both millennials with families. Nehring is 28. Mead is 32. Their wives are both teachers, Mead said.

They try to stress those similarities as a way to reach others.

“We both are the parents of young kids and don’t want to see our kids grow up in this real polarized and toxic society, we want to see something better,” Nehring said. “And I think that’s what kind of motivates us to do this work, because we want to be part of building a better future for our kids and the kids of others.”

Much of what Nehring and Mead are trying to stress is part of a broader push to improve the state of American politics. In 2011, the University of Arizona created the National Institute of Civil Discourse in the wake of the attempted assassination of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Former presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton were founding chairmen of that organization.

More locally, an organization called Civility First is also working against political polarization.

“We encourage curiosity instead of judgement, and work to give the community the skills to handle difficult conversations in a civil manner,” the organization’s website reads.

Civility First also emphasizes bipartisanship and working across party lines. The word “bipartisanship” can sometimes be misconstrued, Nehring said.

“When I think of the word bipartisanship, I don’t think, ‘Let’s drop all of our beliefs and let’s all sing Kumbaya,’ but it’s, ‘Let’s all find common ground,’” he said.

Mead agreed.

“Bipartisanship, to me, is being able to compartmentalize basically, that’s the root of it,” Mead said. “I mean Nate and I, we’ve had long, hours-long debates on certain policies that we will never agree on. And we know that. We’ve had the conversations, we’ve teased it out, I know why he believes it.”

Jared Mead, left, Nate Nehring

Jared Mead, left, Nate Nehring

How to attend the first ‘Building Bridges’ event

When: 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4.

Where: WSU’s Everett campus, 915 N. Broadway.

Why: “Let’s come together to discuss overcoming political polarization.”

Who: Hosted by Snohomish County Council members Jared Mead, a Democrat, and Nate Nehring, a Republican; Democratic Lt. Gov. Denny Heck; Republican ex-Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler; Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman Teri Gobin; Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell; Stanwood Mayor Sid Roberts; moderated by Garry Clark, CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County.


Cost: Free!

Jordan Hansen: 425-339-3046;; Twitter: @jordyhansen.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside WSP District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed in a collision on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
State trooper killed, 1 arrested in crash on I-5 near Marysville

Authorities said Trooper Chris Gadd had been stopped along the freeway around 3 a.m. near 136th Street NE. A Lynnwood driver, 32, was arrested.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

Madi Humphries, 9, Rose Austin, 13, and Eirene Ritting, 8, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No grades, no teachers: Inside a Bothell school run by student vote

Each day at The Clearwater School, 60 students choose their own lessons. It’s one vote per person, whether you’re staff or student.

SonShine Preschool inside First Baptist Church Monroe is pictured Friday, March 1, 2024, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
SonShine preschool in Monroe to close at the end of the year

The preschool, operated by First Baptist Church, served kids for 25 years. School leadership did not explain the reason behind the closure.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night on December 11, 2017. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Following lawsuit, Providence commits to improved care for Deaf patients

Three patients from Snohomish County sued Providence in 2022 for alleged Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

Cars drive through snow along I-5 in Snohomish County, Washington on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
In March, 7 p.m. sunsets are back for Western Washington

Washingtonians will finally start seeing more sun starting March 10. But a little more winter could be on the way first.

One of the parking lots at Stevens Pass Thursday afternoon on December 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Stevens Pass to charge $20 for parking reservations on busy days

Two-thirds of spaces will remain free for early arrivers on weekends. Cars with four or more occupants can also park free.

Days after shootout with Lynnwood police, suspect checks into hospital

Police learned the 18-year-old was in a hospital in Portland, Oregon. His alleged role in the shooting remained unclear.

Snohomish County pharmacy tech accused of stealing 2,500 opioid pills

Rachel Langdon stole oxycodone while working at a Snohomish County pharmacy, according to state Department of Health allegations.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.