South county city officials compete for Cooper’s seat

City Council members from Edmonds and Lynnwood are vying to fill Mike Cooper’s soon-to-be vacant Snohomish County Council seat, now that Cooper is set to be Edmonds’ next mayor.

So far, Lynnwood City Council Vice President Stephanie Wright and Edmonds City Councilman D.J. Wilson have said they want the job. Both are Democrats in their 30s who were first elected in 2007.

If Wright gets the county job, she said her priorities would be land use and finance.

“I have a real interest in the land-use issues,” she said. “Budgeting has been my focus in Lynnwood, and that would translate well at the county.”

Wilson frames the top challenges at the county as ones of growth and economic recovery.

“The issue is similar to Edmonds but of a different magnitude,” he said.

Because Cooper is a Democrat, party precinct committee officers in Snohomish County will choose three candidates eligible to serve out his County Council term through 2011. A naming convention to decide those choices is expected at the end of July. Until then, there’s room for others to join the field.

“With 10 days to go before the convention, anybody can jump in,” said Bill Phillips, Snohomish County Democratic Party chairman.

Cooper won the mayor’s job when the Edmonds City Council chose him by a 4-3 vote Tuesday night. He will serve out the remainder of popular former Mayor Gary Haakenson’s term through 2011. Haakenson, who was partway into his third term, left last month to take a job as Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon’s top deputy.

Cooper’s resignation is scheduled to take effect at 4 p.m. Friday, County Council Chairman Dave Gossett said. By Aug. 2, the County Council should receive the names of three nominees from the party, Phillips said. Gossett said the council would interview the nominees and make a selection later that month.

Both Wright and Wilson can point to experience dealing with significant budget problems in their respective cities as a qualification for the county job. The county is facing a multimillion budget shortfall.

Wright, 37, is a teacher and librarian in the Northshore School District. She grew up on Priest Point in Tulalip and marvels that nearby Marysville grew to become the county’s second-largest city.

“I’ve seen Snohomish County change so much, living here my whole life,” she said. “The county is where those decisions are made. To be on the forefront of that, for me, that’s an exciting opportunity.”

Wilson, 34, grew up in Bend, Ore., and has lived in Edmonds for more than a decade. He runs his own public policy consulting firm, Wilson Strategic Communications. He also has taught economics at Edmonds Community College.

In 2003, Wilson tried unsuccessfully to unseat Republican County Councilman Gary Nelson, garnering 47 percent of the vote. Cooper was elected to the seat in 2007 after term limits forced Nelson to leave office.

Wilson said it’s important to have a policy vision. A Facebook page set up for his County Council bid says, “From effectively managing future growth, to fostering a climate of job creation and economic recovery, Snohomish County should be a leader in addressing these challenges first.”

A third official, state Rep. Marko Liias, D-Mukilteo, announced Wednesday he would not seek the County Council seat, ending speculation that he would.

The District 3 County Council seat covers Edmonds, Lynnwood and Woodway, plus some unincorporated areas. It pays $102,770 per year.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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