EDMONDS — Mayor Dave Earling expects to close the curtain on his political career at the end of 2019, setting up a political shift for this city of creative ferment and changing demographics.
Earling has been in public office for two decades: He served 12 years on the City Council. He’s closing in on his eighth year as mayor.
In deciding not to seek a third term, he said he hoped “to clear the field for a robust race to produce a qualified new mayor.”
“We’ve had a very good run here,” Earling said last week. “I’m proud of the work I’ve done and I’m proud of the community and the support they’ve given me.”
Earling, 75, said he originally planned to make his announcement this spring but moved up those plans after other candidates started showing interest.
As of Friday, only Edmonds City Councilman Mike Nelson had launched a mayoral campaign, though others are rumored to be considering it.
Also this fall, three of the four City Council members are up for re-election.
Earling, a trumpet player, has a background in musical performance and teaching. He was the musical director at Shoreline Community College for 11 years before he started thinking about a new line of work.
“It just kind of wore me down,” he said.
He launched a career in real estate and ended up buying the business. That work got him involved with city government.
In 1991, he was elected to the City Council.
While in office, then and now, he served on the governing boards of Sound Transit and Community Transit, as well as other regional governing bodies.
A Republican, Earling said he found role models in political moderates of both parties: former Republican U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, former Democratic County Executive Bob Drewel and Gary Haakenson, a Republican who served as Edmonds’ nonpartisan mayor and helped lead a Democratic county administration.
In 2003, Earling made an unsuccessful bid to become county executive. The winner that year was an up-and-coming Democratic state senator, Aaron Reardon, who would go on to serve 10 years as executive, before resigning amid scandal.
The aftermath of that election left Earling out of office. He worked for a think tank and was appointed to the Growth Management Hearings Board.
In 2011, he decided to run for mayor. At the time, Mike Cooper, a former Democratic state lawmaker and county councilman, was running the city as the appointed mayor. Widespread staff complaints dogged Cooper’s administration, and his firing of the city’s human resources director would later lead to Edmonds paying out $1 million in a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Earling won the election with 65 percent of the vote.
“City Hall was in chaos then and I’m proud it’s more stable, prosperous, and productive now,” he said.
At the time, the country was still in the throes of an economic downturn, and Edmonds was no exception.
Since then, new businesses have cropped up in the city’s historic downtown, and housing turnover has brought an influx of younger families to a community often associated with seniors.
Edmonds’ population now checks in around 42,000. The home of the Edmonds Arts Festival, which will be celebrating its 62nd year this June, also hosts popular holiday festivals throughout the year. The downtown area was recently certified as the state’s first Creative District.
There are challenges as well. They include studying the idea of building a new access road to the Edmonds waterfront to avoid stalled trains, sprucing up the Highway 99 corridor and increasing the city’s stock of affordable housing.
City Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, whose seat is not up for election this cycle, said she’s looking to support a candidate who can address those topics and more. Her other goals include better government transparency and extending civic involvement beyond the more affluent area known as The Bowl.
“Dave Earling has put Edmonds’ name on the map, to a point, but (now we should) focus on the issues that are of importance to the people in Edmonds,” Fraley-Monillas said. “I think it’s time for perhaps younger leadership.”
The official candidate filing period is in May. The mayor’s job currently pays about $126,000 per year.
As for Earling, he’s glad to have helped bring the city to where it is now — much better, in his opinion, than when he arrived.