Koster gets early start on council

Herald staff

John Koster hadn’t hung pictures on the walls of his new office or changed the voice-mail greeting, but Wednesday afternoon he was already casting votes as the newest member of the Snohomish County Council.

The Arlington Republican and former state lawmaker was sworn in Wednesday, just two weeks after winning election. He got an early crack at the council because he replaces a councilman appointed to fill the end of another person’s term.

In a political triangle, Koster defeated Democratic incumbent Mike Ashley, who was appointed in January to fill the District 1 spot of Rick Larsen, who won a 2000 congressional race against Koster.

Koster said a top priority would be boosting the local economy at a time when the state’s unemployment rate is rising and Boeing is about to lay off thousands of workers.

"I look at the job situation, and I think the council’s got to focus on what we can do in terms of economic stimulus," he said.

Such steps could include speeding up permitting for businesses and making sure regulations are helping the business climate and dealing with traffic problems, he said.

During the campaign, Koster was a critic of property tax increases, recent land-use regulations and the county’s response to growing traffic congestion.

The remaining two new additions to the council, 4th District Democrat Dave Gossett and 5th District Republican Jeff Sax, are expected to be sworn in at the start of 2002.

That will complete the switch of council control from Democrats to Republicans, with the GOP having a 3-2 majority. Koster’s addition leaves Democrats with a 3-2 edge through December.

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