Wright resigns to serve as Somers’ senior policy adviser

Wright is the third sitting county council member to land a top post in Somers’ administration. She was in her final term.

Stephanie Wright (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Wright)

Stephanie Wright (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Wright)

LYNNWOOD — Snohomish County Councilmember Stephanie Wright announced Monday she is resigning to join the administration of County Executive Dave Somers as a senior policy advisor.

Wright, a Lynnwood Democrat and council member since 2010, will begin Tuesday as Somers’ executive policy officer tasked with advancing the county’s legislative priorities and working with leaders of local governments and regional agencies on transportation, planning, environmental and other issues.

Somers offered Wright the job about a week ago. This is the third time Somers has hired a sitting County Council member onto his staff.

“I’m excited to take on this new role with Snohomish County. We have many challenges ahead of us as we work to increase public safety, address the affordable housing crisis, protect our critical areas, and prepare for a new generation of transit options,” she said in a statement.

Wright will also oversee specific initiatives such as the county’s absorption of Snohomish Health District operations, according to a release from Somers’ office. The position, which pays $187,000 a year, was created in the 2022 county budget. Her annual council salary is $126,571.

“Stephanie has a sharp mind and deep well of experience in every policy area important to Snohomish County’s residents,” Somers said in a statement. “Stephanie led the Board of Health through the pandemic, has been Chair of the Council for many years, and knows county government in minute detail. I want leaders in our office who not only can solve problems but also ensure county government is working for everyone.”

Wright, 50, is in her third and final term representing District 3, which encompasses Lynnwood, Edmonds, Woodway and a swath of unincorporated Snohomish County. She is a former high school teacher and librarian in the Northshore School District.

She was elected to the Lynnwood City Council in 2007, then appointed to the county post in 2010 when then-Councilmember Mike Cooper stepped down after getting elected mayor of Edmonds. She won her first full term in 2011. Voters re-elected her twice. She is one of three Democrats on the five-member council.

In her tenure, she helped convince The Boeing Co. to build its 777X passenger jet in Everett. She noted she was attending the air show in Dubai on the day the company announced its decision.

She served as chair of the Board of Health for the Snohomish Health District in the early stages of the pandemic. She has also served as president of the Washington State Association of Counties, a role in which she advocated for all 39 counties in conversations with state and federal lawmakers.

“We’re sorry to lose her on the council. I’m glad we’ll still have her expertise and that will benefit everyone in the county,” council chair Megan Dunn said Monday.

Councilmember Nate Nehring, a Republican who endorsed Wright in her 2019 election, said it is an “honor to call her my friend.”

“Stephanie has been a pragmatic and sensible voice on the council,” he said. “She’ll be greatly missed and she will leave some big shoes to fill.”

Wright becomes the third council member to sign on with the Democrat county executive in the past six years.

In 2016, Somers tapped Ken Klein, an Arlington Republican, to become executive director in charge of county technology needs and other initiatives.

In early 2020, he hired Terry Ryan, a Mill Creek Democrat, as the county’s first-ever director of aerospace economic development.

Also in 2020, Somers brought on the former county sheriff, Ty Trenary, on as a senior policy analyst focused on law and justice and emergency services issues. The move came three months after Trenary lost his re-election bid to Adam Fortney, the current sheriff.

Snohomish County Democrats will nominate three people to fill the vacancy created by Wright’s departure. The appointment will be made by the remaining council members.

Dunn said she’d like to see the new member seated before early October when the council will begin its work on 2023 budget proposals.

State Rep. Strom Peterson and Edmonds school board member Carin Chase are reportedly among those interested in the post.

Peterson, a former Edmonds City Council member, was elected to the state House in 2014 and is currently running for a fifth term.

Chase won a seat on the school board in 2015. She was re-elected in 2019.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dospueblos.

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