Members of the Snohomish County Council. From left: Nate Nehring, Stephanie Wright, Brian Sullivan, Terry Ryan and Sam Low. (Snohomish County Council)

Members of the Snohomish County Council. From left: Nate Nehring, Stephanie Wright, Brian Sullivan, Terry Ryan and Sam Low. (Snohomish County Council)

A stunning show of Snohomish County Council bipartisanship

The council has appointed a Republican vice chairman. But not every Democrat is on board.

EVERETT — With partisan gridlock festering in Washington, D.C., Snohomish County’s elected officials are eager to set themselves apart. They hope to demonstrate that around here, political folks of different strokes can get along.

An unusual arrangement for 2019 installed Republican Nate Nehring as vice chairman of the Democrat-majority County Council. Democrat Terry Ryan will serve as council chairman.

“We’re going to show everybody in government that Republicans and Democrats can work together to get things done for the county,” Ryan said. “In the end, the most important thing is that we’re all working for the betterment of Snohomish County.”

Nehring, grateful for the support, expected “significant progress on our most pressing issues this year.” This year’s goals include attracting jobs and development to Paine Field and to the industrial area on the east side of I-5 between Arlington and Marysville.

This is the first time in more than a decade that the council’s two leadership roles have been split between the parties. Democrats control three of the five council seats.

Meanwhile, a partial shutdown of the federal government has lingered into the middle of its third week. It started after congressional Democrats and President Donald Trump failed to reach an agreement over paying for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Snohomish County Councilman Nate Nehring. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Snohomish County Councilman Nate Nehring. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Trump has insisted on getting $5.7 billion for the barrier, which Democrats oppose. The president planned to address the nation Tuesday at 6 p.m. Pacific time about what he describes as a crisis along the southern U.S. border.

In Snohomish County, leaders have little say on policing the national frontier. They’re more worried about widening highways and opening parks.

On the council, they typically rotate leadership roles among members of the majority party, although they have made at least one exception in the past. The vice chairperson customarily becomes the chairperson the next year. Under that pattern, this would have been Councilman Brian Sullivan’s turn to take on the second-ranking position.

Sullivan, however, is entering his 12th and final year on the council. Term limits will force him to step down at the end of December. He’s preparing to run for another post, county treasurer, this fall.

“The unique circumstance of Brian being term-limited opened this opportunity,” Ryan said

Not everybody was on board with the arrangement, namely the two Democrats not named Terry Ryan.

Sullivan abstained from supporting Ryan and voted against Nehring. Councilwoman Stephanie Wright, last year’s chairperson, voted against Ryan as her successor and abstained from supporting Nehring.

Nevertheless, they both signaled they’re ready to work across the aisle.

“I’m looking forward to a year of bipartisanship and cooperation,” Sullivan said. “Let’s keep the peace and have tranquility in my last year in office.”

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

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