Rob Toyer (left) and Brian Sullivan

Rob Toyer (left) and Brian Sullivan

Rivals for treasurer’s job tout political and business skills

It’s city vs. county, wealth management vs. the restaurant industry in this electoral contest.

EVERETT — By January, either Rob Toyer or Brian Sullivan could be sworn in as Snohomish County’s next treasurer.

The other one will be out of elected office for the first time in years.

Sullivan, who’s closing out his third term on the County Council, and Toyer, a two-term Marysville city councilman, are vying to be the top financial steward for all of Snohomish County.

Each touts experience in government and private business.

Sullivan’s resume leans heavier toward politics. For nearly 12 years, he has held a full-time position on the County Council, where he has overseen the council’s Finance and Economic Development Committee. He cannot run for re-election because of term limits.

Earlier in his career, Sullivan served as a Democratic state representative for seven years, and a dozen years as an elected leader in Mukilteo as that city underwent tremendous growth.

“It’s a small, elegant office that’s analogous to running a small city, which is in my wheelhouse,” Sullivan said of the treasurer’s job. “Public service is a big part of it. You know I served on a city council, you know I was mayor for eight years.”

Sullivan later moved from Mukilteo to Everett, where he ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2017. He also lost a bid for county treasurer two decades ago.

Outside of government, Sullivan has long worked in the restaurant industry. He co-owns Sully’s Pizza in Old Town Mukilteo, and owns the building where it’s located.

Toyer’s political experience as a Marysville city official has been part-time. His main job has been running his own business, Toyer Wealth Management, out of his home. His company handles tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll, investments, insurance and mortgages.

Through city government, Toyer has served on the governing board for the Marysville Fire District, including a stint as chairman. He’s also active in the city’s finance committee.

“I think the message I’ve always carried from Day 1 is that people want to see a treasurer with an accounting and an investment background because it is so critical to that role,” Toyer said. “And I’m the candidate who has that experience. To me, it’s not just about holding a political office. It’s about doing a job and doing a service for the county. The fact that I got licensed through the Securities and Exchange Commission should speak volumes to the voters.”

They’ve kept the race cordial, as they’ve faced off in political forums this fall.

The treasurer’s job is open because of term limits. The outgoing treasurer, Kirke Sievers, is approaching the end of his third consecutive term.

Sievers, a Democrat, served 12 years in the same County Council seat that Sullivan now occupies. He’s staying neutral as to who takes over as treasurer.

The county treasurer is best known for sending out property-tax bills each February. The treasurer is in the process of collecting more than $1.3 billion in taxes owed this year.

The office also oversees the foreclosure process when property owners fall delinquent in taxes. The treasurer’s office is responsible for investing money on behalf of the county and its junior taxing districts.

The office employs about 30 people and commands a budget of nearly $4 million.

Talk to Toyer, and he gets excited about the investment aspect of the job. He’d like to find more lucrative places to park public money, without risking it in volatile markets.

“The old way of doing things where it’s always municipal bonds, always U.S. government securities, Treasury bills — in my world that’s good,” he said. “But what’s to say that there’s not going to be something with the same risk tolerance that would come out that we can keep an eye on?”

He adds: “Technology continues to change in the industry, so it should be applicable to the treasurer’s office as well.”

“There’s a lot of upside potential we’re missing out on,” he said.

Sullivan is eager to step back into an executive role to run the office. He’d like to perform a management audit before embarking on major changes. He has some ideas about programs he might tweak.

One would be putting unclaimed money from property foreclosures toward housing programs. He notes that the County Council has authority over spending that money, which goes to the general fund.

“If we’re taking homes away from people, then it’s reasonable to say that any leftover monies from these public auctions, after a three-year wait period, if we cannot find the underlying original owner and that money is finally freed up, that it be used to put people back in homes,” Sullivan said. “And veterans are one example.”

If not housing, he said, the foreclosure money should go toward paying for expensive software systems or to bulk up the county’s rainy-day fund.

The job may be nonpartisan, but the candidates are not.

Sullivan is a lifelong Democrat. Toyer is an active member of the Republican Party.

The state Democratic Party contributed $4,180 to Sullivan’s campaign, according to the Public Disclosure Commission. Union groups account for most of his top-tier contributors.

Sullivan reported raising more than $33,000 in cash and in-kind contributions as of earlier this week, compared to nearly $10,550 by Toyer.

Snohomish County Republicans gave Toyer $2,500.

A pro-business, free-market political action committee spent more on Toyer’s behalf than his actual campaign had raised. Forge Washington shelled out $15,000 to support him with digital advertising.

After the 2016 presidential election, a Facebook friend chided Toyer that president-elect Donald Trump, given his anti-tax stance, could reduce his tax-preparation business.

“That’s fine,” Toyer wrote. “… as long as he doesn’t make it too easy for people to file their own taxes he can nuke China for all I care. Toyer Tax must carry on !”

When asked about the exchange last week, Toyer said, “It was obviously a joke.” He identified other people in the thread as family friends, business associates and clients.

“To try to pull something from ‘Rob wants to nuke China,’ what does that have to do with anything?” he said. “Even if you tried to spin it, I don’t even know what you’d say. But it is one of those reminders that social media, that people can look at it and twist it however they want, I guess.”

Both candidates have pleaded guilty to a DUI while in office, Toyer in 2016, and Sullivan in 2013.

Sullivan paid late penalties in 2013 and 2015 for property taxes on the commercial land he owns in Mukilteo.

“This was circumstantial, not due to negligence,” Sullivan said. “Although they were with penalty, they were paid.”

The election is Nov. 5. Ballots were mailed last week.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

What’s at stake?

A four-year term as Snohomish County treasurer. Incumbent Kirke Sievers is approaching the end of his third term in office, and term limits bar him from running again.

The treasurer collects more than a billion dollars in annual property taxes. The office also is responsible for investing money on behalf of Snohomish County and junior taxing districts.

The treasurer’s salary is set to rise to nearly $140,000 next year.

Meet the candidates

ROB TOYER

Hometown: Marysville

Age: 38

Experience: Marysville City Council, 2012 to present; registered broker and investment adviser; owner of Toyer Wealth Management, LLC; Marine Corps Reserve.

Website: www.robtoyer.com

BRIAN SULLIVAN

Hometown: Everett

Age: 61

Experience: Snohomish County Council, 2008 to present; state representative, 2001 to 2007; Mukilteo mayor, 1990 to 1997; Mukilteo City Council, 1986 to 1989; co-owner of Sully’s Pizza in Mukilteo.

Website: www.sullivan4treasurer.com

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