New Lake Stevens administrator inspired by mayor’s vision

Gene Brazel will start as Lake Stevens city administrator in January. (Courtesy photo)

LAKE STEVENS — A longtime city of Monroe employee has been selected to take over as city administrator in Lake Stevens.

Gene Brazel is set to start his new job Jan. 4. He was chosen from 31 applicants and five finalists.

“We’re doing a lot. His plate’s going to be full,” Lake Stevens Mayor John Spencer said.

Brazel and the city agreed to a salary of $156,552 a year and a vehicle allowance of $500 a month. Under the employment agreement, the mayor has the ability to fire the city administrator.

Brazel, 47, has worked for the city of Monroe for 31 years. He started as a seasonal employee at the wastewater treatment plant when he was a teen. He graduated from Monroe High School in 1987. He lives near Storm Lake in Snohomish.

He moved up through various jobs in the water and sewer departments, eventually becoming public works director. He led the department for 10 years. At the end of 2009, he became Monroe’s city administrator.

Brazel became interested in the Lake Stevens job after going to an economic development meeting where Spencer spoke about his vision for the city. Lake Stevens is in the midst of planning for a new City Hall, library, community center, annexations and a transformation of the old downtown.

“It was just a calling for me to go and apply for the job and help them accomplish that vision,” Brazel said. “Until then, I really hadn’t put much thought to going anywhere other than Monroe.”

He’s interested in helping with the downtown subarea plan, which is being created now and should be reviewed by the City Council next year. After the plan is finished, years of work are ahead to make it a reality.

He also wants to focus on increasing the city’s retail base so the growing population doesn’t need to leave for shopping. That would help keep sales tax revenue in the city.

Plans for a new civic center on Chapel Hill with the police station, library and possibly City Hall are taking shape. Meanwhile, annexations could add thousands more people to the city. Regional planning for Highway 9, Highway 204 and the U.S. 2 Trestle also will impact Lake Stevens.

“I’ve experienced a lot of the same events that Lake Stevens is going through,” Brazel said. “They’ve got development up on Highway 9 and the lake is splitting the city in two segments, so you’ve got everything that’s going up on Highway 9 and you’ve still got everything going on in the old downtown. We have that same thing in Monroe, except we’re divided by Highway 2.”

Brazel was chosen for the job because he has a solid background in public works and economic development. He also has experience working with multiple parties on projects to find the best option, Spencer said.

“He knows Snohomish County,” Spencer said. “He knows the culture up here and he knows the people involved. It’s hard to put a value on that.”

Brazel is replacing Jan Berg, who resigned in November 2015. Berg recently was hired as assistant finance director in Marysville. A lawsuit against Berg and former Mayor Vern Little is ongoing. Dennis Taylor, a former Lake Stevens police commander, alleges that he was wrongfully fired in retaliation for challenging Berg.

For the past year, former Marysville city administrator Mary Swenson has been the interim administrator in Lake Stevens.

The Monroe City Council is set to vote next week on a contract with a consultant to select a new city administrator there, Brazel said.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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