SNOHOMISH — For the first time in decades, voters in Snohomish are directly choosing their mayor.
Four candidates are vying for the job, two of whom are serving on the Snohomish City Council.
The two people who receive the most votes during the Aug. 1 primary will proceed to the November general election.
For years, the city council has appointed one of its own to serve as mayor. The upcoming election is the result of a 2016 public vote to change how the city is governed. A measure passed in November setting the groundwork for a different form of government — one that’s led by an elected mayor.
The strong mayor would serve a four-year term and be paid $18,000 annually.
Derrick Burke, Karen Guzak, Elizabeth Larsen and John Kartak are campaigning for the job. They have shared thoughts on city growth, economic development and preserving Snohomish’s small town charm.
Burke, 45, has served on the Snohomish City Council since 2010. He owns Puget Sound Woodworking where he teaches classes. He also has worked as a financial adviser.
He emphasized the importance of economic development as more people move to Snohomish. As of this year, the city has exceeded a population of 10,000.
The city has considered annexing some land along Avenue D that is owned by Snohomish County. Burke suggested building condos there to offer a variety of living options. Single-family homes take up the vast majority of housing in the area.
He also plans to revisit the residency requirement for city boards and commissions. The current rule allows people who live outside of the city to serve as members.
“There needs to be a fair and adequate representation of citizens,” Burke said.
Guzak, 78, has served on the City Council since 2008. She was appointed as mayor for seven of those years.
“I’ve been in the business a long time and managed big and small projects,” she said.
Guzak owns and teaches at Yoga Circle Studio. She also started her own company focused on renovating historic buildings and converting them into work and living spaces for artists.
She hopes to continue projects the council has put in motion, such as development of the Hal Moe Pool and Carnegie Building, the city’s former library.
Guzak helped obtain funding for the construction of a new Highway 9 bridge that will span the Snohomish River and should help ease congestion at what is now a traffic choke point. Construction on the $142 million project could begin as early as 2021.
Outside of council meetings, Guzak plans to schedule office hours and coffee get-togethers with people from the community.
Larsen, 46, works as a senior environmental planner with Snohomish County Public Works. She also volunteers with the American Red Cross. She was looking for a way to become more involved in her community when the mayoral job opened.
Her campaign focuses on public safety and preparing the city for major emergencies, such as an earthquake. An engineer would be brought in to evaluate buildings around town and determine which can withstand an earthquake. Those sturdy enough could be designated as temporary shelters.
Larsen also hoped to launch a neighborhoods committee where leaders around town can meet to talk about sidewalk repairs, crime and noise problems. Each neighborhood has its own issues to talk through, she said.
Larsen said she would provide a fresh perspective as mayor.
Kartak, 51, was one of the advocates for the strong-mayor form of government. He pressed to get the proposition in front of voters.
Kartak is a semi-retired contractor. For many years, he co-owned a window repair business.
His campaign stresses being part of a small town and a government that is open to scrutiny.
“When it comes to small town values, we need someone who will speak up for the people,” Kartak said.
One of the first steps he would take as mayor is to conduct a review of the city’s budget focusing on sustainable growth.
With growth comes traffic.
Kartak promises to alleviate rush-hour troubles along Avenue D, Airport Road and Second Street.
All of the candidates shared at least one idea. They want to host town hall meetings.
As the strong mayor position is new for many in Snohomish, some aspects of the job remain unclear. Candidates can decide to work full time or part time if elected. Burke, Guzak and Kartak all expect to do the job full time, or nearly full time.
The mayor also has the choice to hire a city administrator who would be responsible for handling day-to-day operations. Each candidate said they would bring a city administrator on board.
Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org