Farewell to Marysville

City administrator leaves after 20 years to lead Bothell public works

By KATHY KORENGEL

Herald Writer

MARYSVILLE — City administrator Dave Zabell has spent almost half his life working for Marysville.

And he said that makes it hard to leave to take a position starting Nov. 1 as public works director with the city of Bothell.

"I left home when I was 18. I’ve been more time here than I lived at home," said Zabell, 42, as he sat in his City Hall office on his last official day as city administrator Friday, struggling to compose himself.

"In many ways, it’s like leaving home. It’s like leaving brothers and sisters. I grew up here," he said. "We grew up together," he said, referring to the many longtime members of the city staff he’s worked with over 20 years.

And although Zabell had many stories to tell about his time with the city — projects, challenges — he kept coming back to the people he worked with.

He praised city staff members for their "loyalty, professionalism, dedication, their can-do attitude."

And Zabell said it’s partly people, the city staff and council, that drew him to Bothell, as well as new professional challenges.

Zabell started as a traffic signal technician with the city of Marysville in 1980, moving to the public works department, then to public works director in the late 1980s, and, lastly, to city administrator in 1993.

He had a hand in numerous projects: a new library, City Hall, senior center, municipal golf course, a major water transmission line from Everett and several annexations. There were challenges, as well: a two-year lawsuit tangle with a developer, sometimes difficult labor negotiations. Earlier this year his performance became the focus of city council executive sessions. No actions were taken as a result of the council discussions.

But on his last day, Zabell focused most on the things he’s gained from his time with the city.

He said there were many rewards: "The projects you build, the impact those projects may have on the lives of the citizens," he said.

The biggest rewards, however, were helping others develop and grow and having others help him develop.

He recalled two of those mentors, especially Bill Butler, from whom he took over the position of public works director, and John Garner, his predecessor as city administrator.

He praised them both for encouraging him to finish his education while he worked for the city. Garner even allowed Zabell to work flexible hours to finish his bachelor’s degree in public administration.

Zabell said he also learned about how to be a city administrator from Garner: how to sell others on your good ideas by understanding where they’re coming from and providing them with the information they need, as well as how to accept decisions you may not agree with.

Several of those who worked with Zabell gave their own impressions of Zabell as a co-worker and boss during an Oct. 9 city council meeting. They described him as a good boss who let them do their jobs but provided support when they needed it, and a nice person, according to meeting minutes.

On Friday, Mayor David Weiser described Zabell as "smart, articulate, a lot of fun to work with." He also said his knowledge of the city and community, and memory of how and why things happened was helpful in coming up with solutions for current challenges.

And although Zabell is sad to go, he said he’s looking forward to his new position, partly because of the people he’ll work for and partly because of the new challenges he’ll face.

He said some of his new tasks will include trying to bring "an even hand" to Bothell’s public works department, which has gone through some transitions recently.

He’ll also work on some transportation improvements; help the water/sewer utility, which is at a crossroads, figure out where to go next; and maybe work on a regional project with Metro to build a new wastewater treatment facility in the area.

He won’t forget where he got his start in civil service, however, he said.

"I love Marysville," he said. "I’ll never forget this place."

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Pablo Garduno and the team at Barbacoa Judith’s churn out pit-roasted lamb tacos by the dozen at the Hidden Gems Weekend Market on Sunday, April 28, 2024, at Boom City in Tulalip, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Eating our way through Tulalip’s Hidden Gems weekend market

Don’t miss the pupusas, pit-roasted lamb tacos, elotes and even produce for your next meal.

Reed Macdonald, magniX CEO. Photo: magniX
Everett-based magniX appoints longtime aerospace exec as new CEO

Reed Macdonald will take the helm at a pivotal time for the company that builds electric motors for airplanes.

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.