MILL CREEK — As Terry Ryan seeks a second term on the Snohomish County Council, he wants to convince voters in some of the state’s fastest-growing neighborhoods that he’s looking out for them.
The Democrat touts his work to help widen roads, build sidewalks and beef up police protection. Ryan said the bread-and-butter issues he’s taken on in county government are an extension of his earlier work as an elected Mill Creek city official for 17 years.
“I’ve worked hard to make Snohomish County better for everyone,” Ryan said. “And I’ve got a 21-year record to prove it.”
His opponent, Marcus Barton, is making his first run for office. The U.S. Army veteran isn’t afraid to mix it up with the seasoned pol.
“I know I don’t have the experience that Terry does, but I’m a hit-the-ground-running type of guy,” said Barton, who promises to bring his military logistics background to bear on the county’s legislative body.
The two candidates are competing for a four-year term in Council District 4, which spans suburban areas, mostly east of I-5. That includes Brier, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace and part of Bothell, along with unincorporated areas such as Silver Firs and Thrashers Corner. It takes in the North Creek area, which has been undergoing a home-building explosion unlike anywhere else in the region.
Election day is Nov. 7. The county auditor expects to mail ballots Thursday.
Ryan, 60, grew up in Seattle, but has long made his home in Mill Creek, where he’s been a potent political force, including eight years as mayor. The city’s current mayor, Pam Pruitt, works as his county legislative aide.
Ryan left a career in commercial real estate when he joined the council in 2014.
The councilman prides himself on keeping budgets in check. As evidence, he points to his immediate opposition to a new courthouse building when he joined the council. He helped stop the construction of a new eight-story justice building that would have cost $162 million, pushing instead for a courthouse remodeling plan set to break ground next year at less than half the cost. Ryan was among the council members who challenged 10 percent raises that top-level managers were awarded under the administration of former County Executive John Lovick.
Barton, 44, said he’s preparing to retire from a 20-year career in the Army. He grew up near Kansas City, Missouri, but has lived in Washington since the late 1990s and moved to Bothell in 2013. He was compelled to run for office by the development near his home and what seems like a lack of planning on the county’s part. He describes himself as a “left-leaning Republican.”
“I work for a recycling company that keeps fiberglass out of landfills,” he said. “I drive a Prius.”
He said his conservative tendencies would show at budget time.
“I can squeeze a penny so hard a dime pops out,” Barton said.
The challenger has taken an unorthodox stance over political donations that developers have made to Ryan’s campaign. In any race for county office, builders, along with public-sector unions, are typically the biggest donors.
Barton doesn’t think that looks right, given the problems he sees from the pace of development. He said he would turn down donations from the building industry, if any were offered.
“I would refuse it,” he said. “I would return it.”
Ryan said he tries to be fair — both to builders and competing interests. As evidence of balance, he highlights his endorsements from the Sierra Club and Washington Conservation Voters.
“My opponent, maybe he would be happy if they stopped building homes,” he said. “What he maybe doesn’t realize is that we’re growing by 10,000 people a year. And we have to put these people in homes.”
Barton has assailed Ryan for mentioning a “Friend of the Navy” award among his accomplishments on his campaign website. After Barton questioned the award’s authenticity, Ryan showed the original plaque and an email from the now-retired rear admiral who presented it to him. The naval leader praised Ryan’s support for active-duty and veteran sailors, as well as a Memorial Day parade that started while he was mayor of Mill Creek.
Barton criticized a program to fill in sidewalk gaps that Ryan proposed that now dedicates $575,000 per year for some of the county’s fastest-growing areas. It’s known by the acronym WIN, or Walkways in Neighborhoods.
“That means he wants to connect all of the new housing developments with sidewalks, but what about existing communities that are missing sidewalks?” Barton said in a Facebook post.
Ryan said Barton has it all wrong: The program isn’t only for new neighborhoods. And it’s one of several ways that county is trying to make life safer for pedestrians, along with a public works program that focuses on sidewalks near schools.
“If you look at all the needs countywide, it’s over $1 billion,” Ryan said. “Given that we don’t have $1 billion, we’re trying to make the highest impact in the highest-growth areas.”
Ryan said that’s only the start. He’s been pushing for upcoming corridor improvements that are set to take place in the district during the next six years: widening Seattle Hill Road and 35th Ave SE, as well as a project to widen and extend 43rd Avenue SE.
“Snohomish County didn’t upgrade the transportation infrastructure in that area for 20 years before I got on the council,” he said. “I’m fixing that.”
Past elections suggest Barton has a difficult path to victory.
In the August primary election, Ryan pulled more than 68 percent of the vote. Barton’s total was less than 32 percent.
Ryan got similar results in 2013, when he garnered nearly 62 percent. His predecessor, Democrat Dave Gossett, won the district three times by comfortable margins.
Ryan had raised nearly $90,000 in campaign funds by Thursday. Barton reported less than $3,500, only $710 of which was cash from outside contributors.
County Council District 4
A four-year term. The district covers Brier, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace and part of Bothell, as well as surrounding unincorporated areas. The salary for a County Council member will rise to $120,472, starting in 2018.
Terry Ryan (incumbent)
Residence: Mill Creek
Experience: Snohomish County Council, District 4 (2014 to present,); Mill Creek City Council, 17 years, including eight years as mayor, two years as mayor pro tem. Past career in commercial real estate.
Residence: unincorporated Bothell
Experience: logistics manager for a fiberglass recycling company; U.S. Army veteran, 20 years of service.