Top (L-R): Jon Nehring, Russell Wiita Bottom (L-R): Dan Rankin, Brett Gailey

Top (L-R): Jon Nehring, Russell Wiita Bottom (L-R): Dan Rankin, Brett Gailey

In Lake Stevens, Marysville, voters have just 1 choice for mayor

Without opponents, Brett Gailey, Jon Nehring and two other mayors in Snohomish County can start focusing on their next four years.

LAKE STEVENS — On the last day candidates could file to run for election, Lake Stevens Mayor Brett Gailey was at his computer at 5 p.m. “hitting the refresh button.”

“I hadn’t heard of anybody wanting to run against me,” he said. “But you just never know.”

He had already started thinking about what a campaign would look like.

Gailey is one of four Snohomish County mayors facing no competition for another term, along with Jon Nehring in Marysville, Dan Rankin in Darrington and Russell Wiita in Sultan.

Marysville, population 71,144, is the second-largest city in Snohomish County. Lake Stevens ranks fifth.

The last time four mayors ran unopposed was 2017, when candidates in Gold Bar, Stanwood, Woodway and Brier all coasted back into office in their small cities.

The office of mayor is nonpartisan in Washington cities.

“At a local level, you can’t be partisan,” Gailey said. “This is where citizens expect government to work.”

Voters elected Gailey in 2019, when he beat City Council member Kurt Hilt by 544 votes. In 2020, he became the growing city’s first full-time mayor, compensated at $80,000 per year.

Gailey hoped the lack of opposition this time around was a nod of approval from the community.

“Maybe people didn’t want to see a change,” he said.

In Darrington, population 1,460, Rankin didn’t check election filings until the next morning.

Dan Rankin

Dan Rankin

Rankin, who has been mayor for over a decade, also ran unopposed in 2019. He makes $500 per month.

Wiita checked the county elections website throughout the third week in May to see if anyone else had declared their candidacy.

“With everything going on in Sultan — the growth, traffic issues — I thought someone might run,” Wiita said.

Sultan’s population has grown by 30% in the past three years, to roughly 5,600 people.

Russell Wiita

Russell Wiita

Wiita became mayor in 2019, beating incumbent John Seehus by 197 votes. Wiita makes up to $2,000 per month.

It was “a pretty good feeling” when he realized no one else was running, Wiita said, but he’ll miss campaigning.

In 2019, Wiita worked on his campaign six to 10 hours a week, he said.

But in Marysville campaigning is a full-time job, Nehring said.

Nehring has been mayor since 2010. As of 2020, he was being paid $142,848. In 2019, he won by more than 7,000 votes.

“Most of your evenings and weekends are spent campaigning,” Nehring said. “It’s an enormous amount of time.”

Now that they don’t have to campaign, all four mayors are looking toward their next term — all of which will be four years.

Jon Nehring

Jon Nehring

All of the mayors are part of the Mayors and Business Leaders for Public Safety, a Snohomish County coalition that has pushed for tougher drug possession laws and pushed back on police reform. Some 16 mayors and more than 20 local business leaders are in the coalition. Gailey and Nehring both said they want to hire more officers.

“It’s not a funding problem, but a staffing problem,” Nehring said.

Lake Stevens is missing some police officers, said Gailey, a former Everett police officer. It is difficult to recruit officers due to the “political climate” and inadequate benefits, he said.

Gailey said he will also work on revitalizing the 91st Avenue NE corridor and attracting more businesses to Lake Stevens.

He’s concerned Lake Stevens will run out of space. Lake Stevens is one of the fastest-growing cities in Washington, partly due to major annexations in recent years. The population has grown by 2.4% since 2020.

“We’ve got a couple hundred lots left for housing, and then we’re done,” he said.

Gailey wants more restaurants and more space for young people. Nearly 30% of Lake Stevens’ population is under 18.

In June, some constituents were dismayed when Gailey refused to sign a proclamation celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride. Later, Gailey told a local conservative radio host that while he supports “the LGB portion of the community” (sic), he has issues with “some of the ones that are getting into parental rights and women’s issues.”

Gailey isn’t sure how declining to sign the proclamation will impact his relationship with the City Council.

Brett Gailey

Brett Gailey

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”

Wiita wants to continue easing traffic congestion on U.S. 2 and updating housing plans to accommodate Sultan’s growing population.

Sultan needs “a lot of housing types,” including townhouses, Wiita said.

Nehring hopes to continue working with local, state and federal officials to fund major transportation projects, such as the Grove Street overcrossing.

He also wants to invest in more water infrastructure, so that Marysville doesn’t have to purchase water from Everett.

“Water is a real commodity in today’s world,” Nehring said. “It’s always been my goal to be completely water-independent as a city.”

Kara Briggs, a board officer for the 38th Legislative District Democrats, said Nehring is “engaged with the community” in Marysville and on the nearby Tulalip reservation. However, “when someone has been in office for multiple terms, there are issues that maybe don’t come forward,” she said.

Marysville recently added senior housing and an Amazon warehouse, as well as a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce chapter, Briggs said. Marysville’s population is growing and changing, she said.

Briggs wondered how the city of Marysville was “recruiting the next generation of leadership” from its new population.

In Marysville, four incumbents will return to their seats in uncontested City Council races. Darrington has three council races this year, none of which are competitive.

Lake Stevens and Sultan each have three council races, and one council race in each city is contested.

Nearly half of this year’s county elections are uncontested. These races include judges and school board positions, as well as mayors.

There are also five positions with no candidates, including a Bothell fire commissioner and two parks commissioners. Candidates may file for these offices from 9:00 a.m. Aug. 2 to 5:00 p.m. Aug. 4.

Surya Hendry: 425-339-3104; surya.hendry@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @suryahendryy.

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