Ken Klein addresses supporters after his election to the Snohomish County Council in 2013. (Genna Martin / The Herald)

Somers adds Republican Ken Klein to Snohomish County staff

EVERETT — Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers has reached across party lines to hire County Councilman Ken Klein as part of his administration.

Klein, an Arlington Republican, is due to join Somers’ staff Jan. 1 as an executive director. In that capacity, he’s likely to be handed oversight of county technology needs, initiatives to fight homelessness and some operations.

“Working with him at the council, he was bright, extremely honest and ethical,” Somers said Wednesday, as he announced the move. “He represents the northern part of the county, which we will benefit from.”

Klein, 37, is in his freshman term on the County Council. He would have been up for re-election next year. In keeping with the county charter, the local Republican Party will nominate potential replacements.

Klein previously served on the nonpartisan Arlington City Council and on the county planning commission. Before going into politics full time, his job was managing operations for a food-services company. He has a business and finance degree from Western Washington University.

Klein said he was excited to get to work on initiatives that could move the county forward. In a statement, he also reflected on his time on the council.

“The opportunity to represent the people of north Snohomish County has been a tremendous honor and I am grateful for the many accomplishments that we have worked on together as a community,” Klein said. “I am especially proud of the Stilly Valley Youth Project, the Arlington-Marysville Manufacturing Industrial Center, the increases in grant funding for water management in Stanwood and road projects in Granite Falls.”

While on the County Council, Klein was the youngest of the five members and, until the Nov. 8 election, the only Republican. He served with Somers there through last year, when Somers defeated fellow Democrat John Lovick to become executive. Lovick now serves in the state House.

At the council dais, Klein joined Somers and another Democrat, Councilman Terry Ryan, to form a de facto bloc that regularly favored more fiscal restraint. The trio opposed plans to build a new county courthouse and often found themselves at odds with Lovick’s administration over how the county was being run.

Somers said he and Klein often differed in political outlook, but he believes executive office staff stand to benefit from the new perspective.

“We can disagree without being disagreeable,” the executive said. “Frankly, local government issues we’re dealing with are way less partisan than at the state and federal levels.”

Deputy Executive Marcia Isenberg, who used to work as the council’s chief of staff, said Klein, “understands and appreciates the fiscal challenges we face.”

“As we thought about it, it made more and more sense to make the offer,” Isenberg said.

“Despite the differences, we never doubted his dedication to the county,” she added.

The move had been under discussion informally for weeks.

The job pays $154,000 per year.

Klein’s arrival also is intended to help long-term succession, as the county government prepares for a wave of retirements from people in the Baby Boom generation who now fill most top management jobs.

His council legislative aide, Alessandra Durham, also is set to join the executive’s staff as an adviser.

The county did not increase costs or the number of employees to make the move, but instead reshuffled other positions, Isenberg and Somers said.

A position for an economic development manager has remained vacant all year. Wendy Poischbeg also is leaving her job as the county’s economic and cultural development manager, which is being reconfigured. Klein will join two other executive directors, Kendee Yamaguchi and Susan Neely.

The County Council authorized creating the third executive director position during the budget process that concluded in mid-November.

The departure will bring more churn to the council. Snohomish County Republicans will nominate three potential replacements to fill the District 1 seat after Klein leaves, with the final decision up to the remaining council members. The only other Republican county councilman, Sam Low of Lake Stevens, is just days into the job, after defeating appointed Democrat Hans Dunshee in the Nov. 8 election.

District 1 covers almost all of northern Snohomish County, with the exception of the Tulalip area. It encompasses Marysville, Arlington, Stanwood, Granite Falls and Darrington.

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

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