Snohomish residents get their first view of new government

In the packed meeting, one outgoing councilman urged folks to stay involved.

Snohomish Mayor John Kartak

Snohomish Mayor John Kartak

SNOHOMISH — People packed into the Snohomish City Council chambers to welcome a new mayor and four council members Tuesday.

Every chair was taken. Some found seats atop a table or stood by the backdoor.

They waited to get a first glimpse of what Snohomish will look like under its new form of government.

Tuesday’s meeting was a chance for people to invite the incoming council to meet with their respective committees or organizations, and to learn about their upcoming projects. Several people spoke of tolerance, after a campaign season that turned ugly. Bill Betten, a man who doesn’t live in town and pressed to change how the city does business, apologized for what he described as his “aggressive activism.”

Some things didn’t change.

Morgan Davis, who rarely misses a council meeting, continued his habit of offering public comments on nearly every agenda item.

Newly elected Mayor John Kartak started off the meeting. He skipped a procedural step of excusing Councilman Derrick Burke, who was absent. Veteran council members were quick to correct the oversight and to provide direction throughout the meeting.

“Excuse me, this is new for me,” Kartak said.

Someone from the crowd shouted: “Breathe, John.”

A stream of people stood up to speak during public comment. Meagan Gray, who unsuccessfully ran for council this year, shared word about a new group in town. They are encouraging people to discuss city issues face-to-face, rather than over computer forums.

“We’re going to build bridges, not talk about it,” Gray said.

The mayoral election divided much of the town, and it showed on social media. Betten, who was active on those sites, apologized Tuesday.

“Sometimes you need to be loud to be heard,” he said.

City attorney Grant Weed swore in Kartak as mayor. His term is four years. Some people stood and inched closer to the center of the room to get a better view. A woman in the audience recorded his oath of office. She told Kartak to say hello to his mother who couldn’t be there Tuesday night.

“Hi, Mom,” Kartak said.

Weed also swore in Tom Merrill, Linda Redmon, Larry Countryman and Steve Dana who will soon join the City Council. When Weed faced Dana to lead him through the oath he joked, “I feel like I should call him boss.” Weed used to cook for him years ago at the Hub Drive-In, Dana’s family business that has since closed.

The new council members are set to begin work Jan. 1. They sat in the audience among the crowd Tuesday. Current Councilman Jason Sanders also took his oath office for a two-year term.

Now that Snohomish voters have elected the town’s new leadership, the city is cleaning up its code to reflect the change in government. The council passed two ordinances Tuesday amending language that refers to the city manager. That position no longer exists under the strong-mayor form of government. The ordinances also transferred authority to the mayor where administrative matters are concerned. The council will continue to handle policy decisions.

The city recognized outgoing Councilmen Tom Hamilton, Dean Randall and Michael Rohrscheib. Each received a plaque for their service.

Randall laughed, thinking back to the first task he completed as a councilman. In 1996, he attended a ribbon cutting for the new sewage treatment plant.

Rohrscheib urged people in the packed room to stay involved in their town.

“Keep showing up. This room shouldn’t be empty, that’s a problem,” he said.

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

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