Dozens of candidates in race to sit on county charter commission

EVERETT — Dozens of hopefuls want a shot at reworking the Snohomish County Charter, the document that functions much like a local constitution.

Sixty-one contenders are competing for 15 spots on the Charter Review Commission. Names on the Nov. 3 ballot run the gamut from seasoned current and former elected officials, to perennial candidates whom voters have turned down election after election. Voters can choose from Democratic and Republican activists, as well community pillars with long histories of civic engagement, often beyond the realm of politics.

“For me, the biggest thing is people who are thoughtful and willing to listen,” said Renee Radcliff Sinclair, a former Republican state lawmaker who was elected to the commission a decade ago. “Everybody comes with preconceived thoughts and ideas. The willingness to compromise your position to get part of what you’re looking for, those kinds of things are always good.”

Sinclair, who is now president of Washington’s TVW network, isn’t running this time.

The Charter Review Commission convenes every 10 years. Voters select three nonpartisan commissioners from each of the five County Council districts.

Commissioners have wide latitude to suggest changes to the structure of county government laid out in 1979. That can include getting rid of certain elected offices or tinkering with department structures.

Over a series of meetings and hearings, elected commissioners will brainstorm changes to offer up on the November 2016 ballot.

In 2006, voters approved five of six proposals from the commission. Changes included giving county leaders the option of doing two-year budgets, which they have not implemented, and changing the way salaries for elected leaders are determined.

One of the biggest upheavals from the charter review process occurred in the 1990s, when voters agreed to eliminate partisan political labels for the county sheriff, auditor, assessor, treasurer and clerk.

There’s been talk of revisiting the partisan status of the county executive’s job and County Council seats. That’s bound to go over better with Republicans, who hold only one of the five County Council seats, than with Democrats, who appear to have benefited more from the party label.

Discussion in previous years has touched on expanding the County Council to seven members from the current five, but that never moved forward.

In this year’s contest, the smallest number of contenders — five — is competing for District 1, representing north Snohomish County. The most — 17 — are competing in District 2, which covers Everett, Mukilteo, Tulalip and nearby unincorporated areas.

Three current candidates were elected as charter review commissioners a decade ago: Kristin Kelly, from Futurewise and the Pilchuck Audubon Society; Mike Cooper, a former Edmonds mayor, Democratic county councilman and state lawmaker; and Wendy Valentine, who has a background in nursing and agriculture plus an endorsement from local Democrats.

Elected officials now in the mix include: Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson; state Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood; Monroe City Councilman Kurt Goering; and Cross Valley Water Commissioner Chris Kuehn.

There are several candidates who are former elected officials. Lisa Utter and Jim Smith served on the Lynnwood City Council. John Koster is a former county ombudsman, three-term Republican county councilman and state House member. Bob Terwilliger, a Democrat, is the former county auditor and also was appointed as the county’s superior court administrator.

Jeff Sax served one term as a Republican county councilman. Doug Roulstone, a Republican, briefly filled in as a 44th District House member last year.

Brian McMahan is an assistant Mukilteo fire chief, a past commissioner for Fire District 1 and a Democratic Party precinct committee officer.

Several candidates have run unsuccessfully in recent contests.

Norm Nunnally, a Republican, came in last in the August primary for executive, with less than 3 percent of the vote.

Bob Reedy, a Republican, has tried for state, county and Mountlake Terrace city offices every year since 2011 without success.

Democrats Dick McManus and Justin McMahon were eliminated in a primary last year for a state House seat.

Jim Kellett, a past Snohomish County Republican Party chairman, lost a challenge last year to Democratic state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens.

Jim Upton ran unsuccessfully last year against Sheriff Ty Trenary.

Charter candidate B.J. Guillot, a libertarian-minded Republican, lost to Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen last year and previously ran for a seat on the Marysville City Council. Another candidate, Republican Dan Matthews, challenged Larsen in 2012 and Liias in 2014.

Commissioner candidates Heidi Munson, Ed Barton and Randy Hayden have all run as Republicans in unsuccessful state House campaigns. Hayden also tried for the Edmonds City Council in 2013.

Chris Vallo, a Republican, failed to unseat incumbents for the County Council in 2013 and assessor in 2011.

Republican Craig French put his name on last year’s ballot against state Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, but did not actively campaign.

Though commissioners are nonpartisan, most have a history in party politics.

Jim Donner earned the distinction of Snohomish County’s 2005 Republican of the Year. Shawn O’Donnell, who owns the eponymous restaurant in south Everett, has been active in GOP circles, as well as with local charities.

Candidates with Democratic Party histories include: Raymond Miller, Victor Harris, Marian Harrison, Joshua Wixson, Nancy Dawson, Mary Rollins, Mike Thompson, Carin Chase (also running for the Edmonds School Board), Natalia Fior, Michael Arendt, Herbie Martin, Rick DeWitt, Cheryl Stanford, Gregory Pratt, Seth Pilkey and Charlene Rawson (also running for the Everett City Council).

Those active in GOP circles include: Geoffrey Thorp, David Weston, Sam Wilson and Mark Young.

Then there’s Brandon Richards. The small business owner from southwestern Snohomish County said: “I am not a career politician, just a citizen, concerned for our future.”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Charter Review Commission

What’s at stake? A one-year term as an unpaid member of Snohomish County’s Charter Review Commission. When the commission convenes next year, members can recommend changes to the structure of county government. Voters must approve any changes.

Voters get to choose three candidates from within their county council district. There are 15 commissioners in all. The job is nonpartisan.

District 1 (north Snohomish County)

John Koster, Brian McMahan, Raymond Miller, B.J. Guillot and Jim Donner.

District 2 (Everett, Mukilteo, Tulalip and unincorporated areas)

Robert E. Burk (has withdrawn, but will appear on ballot), Victor Harris, Marian L. Harrison, Joshua T. Wixson, Sam Wilson, Clyde Franklin, Craig A. French, Kelli Kane, Charlene N. Rawson, Mary Rollins, Carol S. Canfield, Dan Matthews, Dick McManus, Jennifer Gregerson, Shawn O’Donnell, Norm Nunnally and Mike Thompson.

District 3 (Edmonds, Lynnwood, Woodway and unincorporated areas)

Randy J. Hayden, David S. Weston, Natalia Fior, Jared C. Karstetter Jr., Michael Arendt, Lisa Utter, Brandon Richards, Carin Chase, Mike Cooper, Mark Young, Jim Smith, Justin P. McMahon, Dustin Goodnight, Mike Luke, Marko Liias and Geoffrey W. Thorp.

District 4 (Bothell, Brier, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace and unincorporated areas)

Edward J. Barton, Robert Reedy, Cheryl Stanford, Herbie Martin, Heidi Munson, Nancy Dawson, Rick DeWitt, Bill Johnson, Brian Travis and Bob Terwilliger.

District 5 (Bothell, Gold Bar, Index, Lake Stevens, Monroe, Sultan, Snohomish and unincorporated areas)

Charles Whitfield, Chris Kuehn, Kristin Kelly, Jim Kellett, Jim Upton, Douglas R. Roulstone, Gregory Pratt, Seth Pilkey, Wendy Valentine, Chris Vallo, Jeff Sax, Kurt Goering and James Quinton Little.

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