Snohomish City Council to interview for departed Wilde’s seat

SNOHOMISH —The Snohomish City Council is planning to interview candidates to fill an unexpected vacant seat.

Former councilman Zachary Wilde resigned three weeks ago after questions were raised about where he lives.

Wilde had previously been living in Snohomish. However, he has since moved outside of the city to take care of his parents who were dealing with health challenges, Snohomish City Manager Larry Bauman said during Tuesday’s meeting.

Council members are required to live in the city they are serving.

Wilde left a note in the city’s mail box apologizing for his misunderstanding of the residency requirement. He also returned the nearly $4,100 he was paid last year while serving on the council, Bauman said.

The application for the council member position is now open. The last day to apply is Jan. 20.

If more than seven people file for the position, the council plans to hold a special meeting on Jan. 24 to narrow down the candidate pool. The candidates would be vetted in a closed-door executive session, not open to the public.

Council interviews with the candidates would be public, however. Those are now scheduled for a Jan. 31 special council meeting.

Since the council is down one member, the issue of setting a salary for the newly created strong-mayor position was again set aside Tuesday evening. Voters in November narrowly approved changing the city’s government from the council-manager system to one run by a directly elected mayor and a separate city council.

Council members have discussed next steps during recent meetings without finding agreement. The new mayor’s salary is proving to be a sticking point.

“I think we’re getting to a point where we’re losing clarity,” Mayor Karen Guzak said. “How many times do we want to talk about this?”

They hope to make a final decision once the seventh council member is appointed.

By that time, the council also hopes to have a better idea of what the strong-mayor position might look like.

At this point, they don’t know if the new strong mayor will work part time or full time. This could impact the proposed salary.

Guzak supports setting the salary at $18,000, as Bauman had suggested. His recommendation came after reviewing compensation for strong mayors from comparable cities around Washington. Most of those mayors work in concert with a city administrator. And the going rate for a city administrator is actually more than what Bauman has been paid, council members were told earlier.

Both Guzak and Councilman Derrick Burke have said they may run for the strong-mayor job. A primary election for the position is scheduled for August.

Councilwoman Lynn Schilaty said finding the right salary for an elected official is “a different beast” compared to negotiating compensation with a hired employee, such as a city manager.

Councilman Dean Randall suggested keeping the mayor’s salary at $8,700 a year, the compensation now offered Guzak for her part-time role. If they need to bump it up later, they can.

“I really wish I had the magic number,” Councilman Tom Hamilton said.

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