Wright to lead a County Council with full to-do list

Snohomish County Councilwoman Stephanie Wright took the gavel Monday as the new council chairwoman, becoming the legislative body’s leader in the year ahead.

Planning for a new county courthouse, appointing a District Court judge and reviewing plans for a future sports complex in Maltby are some of the near-term tasks Wright and her peers must tackle.

“I just want to be as productive as possible,” Wright said after her appointment.

That’s important in the upcoming year, she said. By this time next year there will be new faces on the council. Two of her colleagues cannot serve beyond this year because of term limits and a third is up for re-election.

It’s been more than a decade since a woman has led the council, the previous being former Councilwoman Barbara Cothern in 2000. Wright took over from the previous chairman, Brian Sullivan.

Wright, a Democrat, was a high school librarian and teacher before being appointed to a County Council vacancy in 2010. She won election the following year. She previously served on the Lynnwood City Council.

Her County Council colleagues Monday were unanimous in backing her appointment to lead the group. They picked Councilman Dave Somers as vice chairman.

On top of running regular public meetings, Wright will head up the council’s role in preparing the county’s yearly budget.

One of the first important council decisions of 2013 will be helping select a District Court judge to serve in south Snohomish County through the fall elections. The appointee will replace retired Judge Timothy Ryan, who stirred up public anger last year by avoiding DUI charges following a traffic stop in Mill Creek. Tuesday is the last day for attorneys to apply for the opening, with interviews scheduled Jan. 18.

In a different sort of law-and-justice matter, the county this week will begin looking for an architect to start preliminary designs on a new county courthouse. The project, along with a new Cathcart-area precinct for the sheriff’s office, was approved as part of the county’s 2013 budget. Helping to pay for the projects is a property-tax increase that is expected to cost an average homeowner about $6.70 extra this year.

The county hopes to have selected an architect later this winter, Councilman Dave Gossett said.

After that, the council and other county leaders will be called upon to shape those plans.

The council also will review plans to build a regional sports complex on the 100-acre Wellington Hills property. The county bought the now-shuttered golf course last year from the University of Washington. The park plans are expected to reach the council during the spring, Wright said.

Wellington Hills has attracted interest from mountain bikers, youth soccer and other organized sports, though several neighbors worry about the scale of the county proposal.

The $20 million cost of the park’s purchase and construction is being paid for with settlement money connected to King County’s Brightwater sewage treatment plant.

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

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