LYNNWOOD — Three city council members — Christine Frizzell, George Hurst, and Jim Smith — are competing to be Lynnwood’s next mayor in the Aug. 3 primary.
The two who emerge with the most votes in next month’s election will square off in November with the winner succeeding Mayor Nicola Smith who is retiring after eight years.
The three colleagues turned competitors are looking to take the helm as Lynnwood confronts demands for more affordable housing, concerns about public safety and homelessness, and a local economy attempting to recover after the pandemic.
The city is also expecting the arrival of the Link light rail by 2024. This will make the Lynnwood Transit Center one of the busiest centers in the region. City officials anticipate the new system will bring tens of thousands of daily travelers, spur new housing developments, and boost the values of land in the area.
“It’s a balancing act,” Hurst, who has served on the city council since 2015, said. “We need to be able to continue growth so that new people feel welcome, but we need to recognize that we have people who have lived in Lynnwood for a long time; all these changes are unsettling for them.”
Lynnwood lacks housing priced in between apartments and million-dollar homes, Hurst said, creating the “missing middle” and leaving a lot of people unable to join the community. Building townhomes or duplexes could resolve this by ensuring there are types of housing available for community members of all incomes, he said.
He said he wants to use housing in a creative way to increase diversity and equity in the community, ensuring that anyone can live anywhere.
Hurst says if you look at a map of Lynnwood it seems to be a “segregated city” along economic lines. Residents are forced to certain areas based on housing prices.
For Frizzell, a member of the city council since 2017, the divide among Lynnwood residents goes beyond economics. The city council needs to ensure all residents feel welcome by reaching across barriers to provide access and create relationships, she said.
“If the system doesn’t work for one person, it doesn’t work for anyone,” Frizzell said.
Smith, who is in his second stint on council after serving from 1989 to 2011, said he is making a concerted effort to connect with groups that have felt left out of the community. He said his campaign has a director of outreach to help engage and connect with the Latino community.
Smith too is concerned about current residents being priced out. Long-term residents are the most affected by population growth and development, he said.
“We have a responsibility to not just run the business that is called Lynnwood,” Smith said, “but we are here to make sure that all the families are represented.”
Part of that representation includes reducing high taxes, such as car tabs or utility taxes, that hurt the most vulnerable, Smith said.
I-976, also known as the “$30 car tab” measure, was on the 2019 state ballot and sought to repeal the ability of cities to establish transportation benefit districts to create car tab fees that would be designated for transportation improvements. The initiative was passed, but was overturned by the state Supreme Court in 2020.
Lynnwood currently has a $40 car tab fee for its transportation benefit district.
The majority of Lynnwood voters supported the initiative. Both Smith and Hurst say that the city must listen and respect the voice of the voters by re-evaluating the local car tab fee.
As the state reopens, local businesses are still struggling, and Hurst wants to repair the relationship between the city and businesses. On his campaign website, he said “the city needs to reassess the head tax charged on every employee and the fees we place on our businesses.”
“We are the tax and fee collector,” Hurst said in an interview, “but we don’t look at them as partners.”
Working with businesses is also important for Frizzell as she wants to make sure shopping local isn’t a second thought after big name companies such as Amazon.
“We’ve been shuttered behind our doors for a year and a half and it’s easy to go on a website and order something that will just be at our door,” Frizzell said, “but it takes away from businesses that really make community for us.”
For Smith, public safety is the all-encompassing umbrella under which other issues lie. His goal is to make Lynnwood the “gemstone of South Snohomish County” by reducing homelessness, fixing roads, and supporting police.
He intends to work with regional authorities to tackle homelessness “effectively and with compassion.”
“Homeless people need help, but we need to give them tough love and services to get off the streets,” Smith said. “We need to give them options to help themselves.”
Frizzell and Hurst both support the re-imagined Community Justice Center which has a partnership with the Community Health Center of Snohomish County to bring rehabilitative and support services that offer an alternative path to the traditional criminal justice system.
Each candidate has a bounty of endorsements from established civic leaders and groups.
Mayor Nicola Smith has made her pick, backing Frizzell for the position.
Frizzell is also endorsed by fellow Lynnwood council members Shannon Sessions and Ruth Ross, Snohomish County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright, and Democratic state representatives John Lovick of Mill Creek and Cindy Ryu of Shoreline.
Hurst has been endorsed by former city council members Shirley Sutton, Van Aubuchon, Ian Cotton, and Ted Hikel, the Snohomish and Island County Labor Council, and the 21st and 32nd legislative district Democrat organizations.
Smith is backed by former Lynnwood Mayor Tina Roberts-Martinez, former Lynnwood council members Ed dos Remedios, Bill Hubbard, and Kerri Lonnergan-Dreke, Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney and the Snohomish County Deputy Sheriff’s Association.
Meet the Candidates
Experience: City Council, 2017-present; Regional Fire Authority, commissioner
Experience: City Council, 2015-present, currently serves as council president; Snohomish County 911, board member; Snohomish Emergency Radio, advisory board
Experience: City Council, 1989-2011, 2019-present; Lynnwood Chamber of Commerce, former president; Rotary Officer, former