Recount shows Snohomish strong-mayor vote passed by 11 votes

SNOHOMISH — Despite a recount, it appears the city of Snohomish is still moving forward with a strong-mayor leadership.

The recount showed Proposition 2 passed by 11 votes, according to unofficial results released Friday. That’s two more votes than after the original final tally in November.

The Snohomish County Auditor’s office plans to certify the recount results Monday.

Snohomish Mayor Karen Guzak and a few others observed the recount in person.

“The professionalism of the folks there at the auditor’s office was exemplary,” she said. “However, I’m personally very disappointed.”

All seven City Council members originally voted against the change from a council-manager system to a strong-mayor government.

The city of Snohomish was led by a strong mayor until 1971 when voters backed a switch to the existing structure.

Guzak said conflict between the strong mayor and the council earlier prompted the change.

A different type of conflict fueled this change.

“We literally fought City Hall and won,” Proposition 2 supporter John Kartak said in a statement.

The committee supporting Proposition 2 said the results are indicative of people in Snohomish wanting to make a positive change in local government.

The council scheduled a meeting for Tuesday. They hope to clarify the path for transition.

Agenda items include scheduling a special election, setting the mayor’s salary and deciding whether to establish a city administrator position.

Monday evening’s council meeting demonstrated the transition may not be an easy feat.

Much of the meeting focused on the city staff’s recommendation that the strong mayor’s salary be set at $18,000 a year. That was based on comparing salaries for mayors with similar duties at comparable cities around Washington.

That’s much too low and might scare potential candidates away, said Bill Betten, one of the leaders of the Proposition 2 effort. He lives 300 feet outside of city limits and didn’t vote on the measure.

The possibility of establishing a city administrator position also was met with opposition by proposition backers.

It would essentially replace the current city manager’s position. The pay would be similar, too.

City Manager Larry Bauman had recommended a city administrator salary of $152,808 annually based on a survey of pay for similar officials at comparable cities. Bauman earns $146,067.

“Hopefully our new mayor will hire a city administrator, a professional,” Guzak said. “Running a city is not a job for an amateur.”

The auditor’s office has established filing dates for those who hope to run for mayor. People can declare their candidacy between Dec. 19 and Dec. 21.

Under the law, people seeking election to the mayor’s job must be registered to vote in Snohomish for at least a year.

The primary election is likely to take place on Feb. 14. A run-off election, also required by state law, is expected to take place in late April.

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

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