Karen Guzak steps down after 7 years as Snohomish mayor

SNOHOMISH — Karen Guzak stepped down as mayor of Snohomish on Tuesday after seven years on the job.

Councilman Tom Hamilton, who suggested she resign, has been appointed to take her place. She’ll remain on the city council.

A couple of months ago, Hamilton pulled Guzak aside. They discussed challenges that came up, particularly in council meetings over the past year.

Proposition 2, a successful bid to change how the city operates, has uprooted the current government structure. The city will be led by an elected mayor after the November election instead of a city manager. The city council will remain.

Some people in Snohomish have pressed for this change. Others argue the current form of government has been working well.

The divisiveness has made council meetings contentious and lengthy.

“The people who were promoting Prop. 2 made (Guzak) a lightning rod,” Hamilton said.

Guzak staunchly defended City Manager Larry Bauman and his work when supporters of Prop. 2 attacked him and recommended eliminating his position.

Bill Betten, who headed the proposition’s campaign, also launched a recall petition against Guzak in July. He withdrew his petition two weeks later. Betten was not a registered voter in Snohomish.

“It’s been a struggle to stay positive,” Guzak said. “I feel generally that I’ve handled that well and used principles of grace and humor to guide me.”

Hamilton recommended she step away from the appointed mayor role in hopes of fostering cohesiveness.

“I looked at our new council configuration, our new council member, and we’ve got this transition for our form of government,” Guzak said. “After seven years, I think we’ll let someone else step in.”

She said she felt lighter the morning after her announcement.

Guzak plans to remain on the council for the three years still on her term. She said she will consider running for the strong mayor job, only if she believes the candidates who apply won’t serve the city well.

In her capacity as a council member, she is turning her focus toward efforts to help Snohomish break down barriers of gender, social status, religion, race and culture. Guzak said she wants to make Snohomish a more compassionate and loving city.

Hamilton is expected to serve as mayor until November when voters elect a strong mayor. He doesn’t plan to run himself.

Hamilton has served on the Snohomish City Council since Jan. 2010, as well as the city’s planning commission.

His priority for his mayoral stint is to smooth the transition to a strong-mayor form of government.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins@heraldnet.com

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