Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, leading Snohomish County’s largest city since November 2003, will leave office in January as its longest serving mayor.
Earlier in the year it appeared he would attempt to stretch that record and had announced his campaign for re-election. But two weeks later, in early February, Stephanson announced he had reconsidered and would not be a candidate for mayor. A race that had already attracted current Snohomish County Councilmember Brian Sullivan, opened wide with the subsequent candidacies of two city councilmembers, Judy Tuohy and Cassie Franklin, and a community member, Shean Nasin.
Everett’s next mayor will lead a city approaching a population of 110,000 residents with challenges in funding public safety and other government services under a constrained budget. At the same time it must address problems of addiction, homelessness and housing affordability, but also is presented with opportunities for economic development and community revitalization.
Voters choose among four qualified candidates, each who offers a mix of experience, knowledge, ideas and drive.
In the editorial board’s opinion, Councilmember Cassie Franklin presents the best balance of continuity, experience, fair-mindedness and fresh perspective and deserves the support of voters in Tuesday’s primary contest and again in the Nov. 7 general election.
Franklin leads a trio of more-than-capable candidates.
Profiled in the July 18 Herald, Brian Sullivan, in terms of years of elected service, has no equal in the race. He started his political career as young man on the Mukilteo City Council, became that city’s mayor for two terms, spent six years in the Legislature, and has served on the county council since 2008, most recently winning re-election in 2015. Term limits would prevent a run for a fourth term.
Sullivan’s tenure on the county council ably speaks to his leadership and policy skills. And that service has helped him attract numerous endorsements from other elected officials, Democratic Party groups, community members and organizations and labor unions, particularly the city’s firefighter and police locals.
Endorsements can have two edges, and some have questioned the motive behind the union endorsements. We accept Sullivan’s explanation that he has made no promises. Again his work on the county council has demonstrated his practice to balance contract issues, providing fairly for employees while looking out for the budget and taxpayers.
Profiled in the July 21 Herald, Shean Nasin represents the other end of the spectrum in terms of experience. He has never served in elected office, though he has volunteered his time on the Everett School District’s fiscal advisory council.
He works as a substitute teacher and is an assistant basketball coach for Everett High. He and his wife previously owned a clothing consignment shop downtown. Nasin was born and raised in Everett.
What Nasin lacks in elected experience he makes up for through ideas and force of will. Nasin, the race’s only proclaimed independent, believes that city policy has constrained development, particularly downtown, and discouraged growth that should be providing the revenue and economic boost the city needs. Nasin is particularly excited about what the arrival of commercial passenger service at Paine Field can bring to the city because it will connect it with technology and other economic centers around the nation.
Nasin has been impressive at community forums and has prompted his fellow candidates to adjust positions on some issues, in particular the campaign to elect some on the council by districts rather than at-large. Nasin supported the most recent proposal, though that effort now is in doubt after it failed to garner enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.
Profiled in the July 19 Herald, Judy Tuohy has served on the council since winning election in 2014 against a councilmember appointed to complete an unexpired term. She won election to a full term in 2015 and now serves as the council’s president. She has used that post to address the perception that city government is too focused on north Everett, establishing liaisons that have assigned each councilmember to two or more of the city’s 19 neighborhood groups.
Born and raised in Everett, her most notable accomplishment outside the council has been her work with the Schack Art Center, formerly the Arts Council of Snohomish County, as its executive director since 1995. Tuohy led the capital campaign to raise $6 million to build the Schack’s new home on a former city parking lot. The Schack now provides affordable housing for artists as well as gallery space, workshop space for classes and an art-glass hot shop that rivals facilities at the Pilchuck Glass School and Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. It’s a prime example of the revitalization that is happening downtown.
The campaign, undertaking during the recession, demonstrates Tuohy’s ability to lead and the level of respect she has developed throughout the community.
As impressive as the records of those three are, Cassie Franklin, profiled in the July 20 Herald, stands out.
Admittedly, her election to mayor would represent a rapid ascension to city leadership. She was elected to office in 2015, handily defeating long-time Councilmember Ron Gipson with 65 percent of the vote. But her time on the council is preceded by her service as one of the members of the city’s Community Streets Initiative task force, launched by Stephanson in 2014, to outline city and community responses to homelessness, addiction, mental illness and related issues.
Franklin was a natural fit and a valuable participant because of her background with Cocoon House, which provides shelter and other services for homeless and at-risk youths. Franklin was first hired to the social service agency in 2005, left in 2009, but was rehired as its chief executive officer in 2011.
When she returned to Cocoon, the agency was struggling financially. She has since turned its finances around. A measure of its success can be found at Charity Navigator, which rates charities nationally based on their transparency and financial performance. Cocoon House currently has a combined score of 91.3 on a scale of 1 to 100, averaging a score of 87.7 for its financial performance and 100 for its accountability and transparency.
Everett has a range of issues to address during the new mayor’s first term. It must fill a number of vacancies at its police department and is facing morale and contract issues within the fire department. It needs to build public confidence in how the city’s diverse neighborhoods are represented and encourage greater public participation. It needs to encourage growth yet address the impacts that result. And it must develop a deeper and more varied supply of housing that is affordable to all who want to live here, particularly those who already work in Everett.
But the primary responsibility for the next mayor will be to continue and build on the work that has begun to confront the issues of homelessness and addiction — especially opioids.
Because of her background and her success regarding that fight, Franklin is best equipped to serve the city as mayor.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial misstated Cassie Franklin’s position on the Streets Initiative task force. Franklin was a member of the task force.