Brenda Stonecipher, left, and Mary Fosse

Brenda Stonecipher, left, and Mary Fosse

Everett council president pitches ban on serving in 2 elected offices

Departing City Council member Brenda Stonecipher’s ordinance would only apply to one current member, Mary Fosse, who feels “targeted.”

EVERETT — In a last effort before leaving office, an Everett City Council member wants to prohibit other members from holding another public office, like in the state Senate or House.

Council President Brenda Stonecipher introduced the idea at a City Council meeting last week. The only City Council member to hold another elected position is Mary Fosse, who serves as a state representative for the 38th Legislative District.

Fosse was taken by surprise at the meeting and didn’t comment at the time. In an interview, she said Stonecipher never reached out to her about the ordinance.

Stonecipher said she has been interested in this motion for a while, and thinks it’s relevant with the next state legislative session one month away. Her main concern is the amount of time it takes to be a state legislator, and the time it takes away from being a city council member.

“I think its hard to do that when you’ve got a job that draws you away for two, three or four months at a time in any given year,” she said.

Fosse’s counterpoint: The ordinance is undemocratic if voters elected her to the City Council knowing she was already working in Olympia.

“It’s unfortunate that I’m being targeted in this way instead of leveraging the knowledge that I have,” she said.

A block away from the City Council’s chambers, the Snohomish County Council has two members — one Democrat and one Republican — who have also served in the state House of Representatives for the past year.

Though it has provoked disagreements, the County Council has continued to allow it.

‘It’s a little heartbreaking’

In Stonecipher’s opinion, it’s too difficult to manage both elected positions without placing a burden of extra work on fellow City Council members.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are,” she said in an interview. “The best person can’t be in two places at once.”

Earlier this year during the legislative session, Stonecipher said Fosse had to delegate many of her assignments to other Council members to make up for her absence.

All Everett City Council members should be as devoted and focused on their work in the City Council as possible, Stonecipher said.

Fosse said she showed her dedication during the legislative session by making the drive from Olympia to Everett every week to be present at the City Council meetings.

Fosse said she made City Council meetings “at the same rate as everyone else” during the legislative session. And the only assignment that fell to other council members, to the best of Fosse’s recollection, was urging at-large members of the council to attend neighborhood association meetings, even though they don’t have assigned neighborhoods, she said.

The City Council position is part-time. Members are paid $30,132 per year. Next year, they will get a pay raise to $32,388. State legislators make $57,876 per year in their part-time gig.

Along with the time commitment, Stonecipher said serving in more than one elected position reduces “diversity of thought and opinions” in elected bodies.

“The beauty of having a City Council position, it allows many different people to serve our community,” she said.

Stonecipher thinks Fosse is taking up a position that someone else might be interested in. Fosse thinks her perspective is important to the City Council and state Legislature, as someone who understands the issues that affect both.

“I’m a hard-working mom and I have two part-time jobs,” Fosse said. “We want our council members to be representative of the communities they serve.”

Stonecipher is nearing the end of a 20-year tenure on the council. In November, former City Council member Scott Bader was elected to take her place.

“It’s a little heartbreaking that somebody that has sat in a seat for almost two decades has the desire to bring down a working mom as her legacy,” Fosse said.

‘Inconsistent loyalties’

Currently, nothing in Everett’s municipal code addresses holding an elected position outside of the city. The code does, however, prohibit mayors and council members from holding another public office on the city level.

In Washington, holding two offices is only prohibited when the positions are “incompatible,” which does not apply to the dual holding of a City Council seat and state legislative seat.

Offices are deemed incompatible when one office is subordinate to another. Separate offices can also be incompatible when duties are “statutorily interrelated” that holding both offices “would give rise to inconsistent loyalties to the public,” according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

The cities of Yakima, SeaTac and Bremerton prohibit council members from holding any other elected office, no matter if they are considered incompatible or not.

Last year, Strom Peterson, a Democrat from Edmonds, filled a vacated seat on the Snohomish County Council. He has served the 21st District in the House since 2015.

In the same year, Sam Low, a Republican from Lake Stevens, won a state seat in the 39th District. He has been on the County Council since 2016.

Unlike the City Council, County Council members work full-time and are paid $137,329.54 annually.

Low declined to comment on the ordinance in Everett, but did address his own workload over email: “I am the only County Council member who has not missed a county vote this year and I did not miss any of my floor votes in Olympia.”

The City Council is set to receive a briefing and first reading of the ordinance on Wednesday.

Fosse isn’t exactly sure what to expect. The first draft of the ordinance was published Tuesday.

“They’re trying to push it through so quickly,” she said.

As it stands now, the ordinance applies to candidates running for council in 2025. It would take effect in 2026.

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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