Marysville — with a population now nearing 70,000 people — is often paired in Herald headlines with the words growth, traffic, public safety and parks as city leaders make room and provisions for a continuing influx of residents. Long carrying the label of “bedroom community” the city now is adding to that title as it welcomes an increasing number of jobs and visitors.
It’s also a time of change within the city as its police chief of 12 years and its long-time parks director have retired in recent months, both ceding leadership to veteran city staff.
The city has been led for nine years by Mayor Jon Nehring, who was appointed as mayor in 2010 following the departure of then-Mayor Dennis Kendall. Prior to his appointment, Nehring had served on the city council since 2001. Nehring won election as mayor in 2011 with 64 percent support and ran unopposed in 2015.
Nehring is a former small business owner and the father of Snohomish County Council member Nate Nehring.
He is challenged this election by “nearly lifelong” county resident Mike Patrick. Retired after 31 years at Boeing, Patrick said he has experience in operations management, human relations and facilities planning and has led strategic planning efforts.
Patrick, an affable opponent with a sincere desire to serve his community, admits to little disagreement with Nehring’s performance or focus but said he is running to give Marysville residents the opportunity to consider a different vision for the city.
One approach Patrick said he would take as mayor would be to confront issues of crime, addiction and homelessness more closely at their source, addressing the availability of drugs through education of family and friends, discouraging panhandling and increased enforcement of property crimes.
While more can always be done, the city’s record on those fronts under Nehring and the city council’s leadership seem to be achieving those goals. Nehring praised the work of the police department’s NITE team, the enforcement of its “Stay Out of Drug Areas” ordinance and social workers embedded with police patrols. It’s a successful carrot-and-stick approach that, Nehring said, has cut property crimes by 30 percent and — in the last 16 months — has moved more than 90 people off the streets and into treatment.
The police department’s leadership, following the retirement of Chief Rick Smith, has been turned over in the interim to former Assistant Chief Jeffrey Goldman. Nehring said he intends to take a few months for Goldman and the city to adjust before considering a nationwide search for a new chief. Patrick largely agrees with that approach but said a job search should commence soon with Goldman as an internal candidate.
Nehring also deserves credit — shared with Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert — for his insight and commitment to developing a joint industrial development area between the two cities, the Cascade Industrial Center. Winning grants from the Puget Sound Regional Council and the state, the two cities and the county have started work on infrastructure at the 4,00o-acre site that has helped win commitments from new employers. The development is seen as bringing more family-wage jobs to the region that won’t require a long commute.
Patrick supports the effort and said he would encourage clean-tech and similar industries, in particular a mill producing cross-laminated timber, a sustainable building material.
Regarding the city’s challenges with traffic, Patrick believes the city allowed residential growth to exceed the capacity of the city’s streets but said projects are in place to catch up and will require the patience of residents.
Patrick is supportive of nearly all of the projects planned, including a major state project to reconfigure Highway 529’s interchange with I-5, but he takes exception to a proposed overpass above the railroad at Grove Street. Nehring said the city has secured money to engineer the $24 million project, which would largely be paid by the state. But even if the state foots the bill, Patrick said, he questions the project’s value and the use of state taxpayer dollars for it. Nehring defended the need as one of public safety in providing first responders an emergency route over a stopped or derailed train.
If elected, Patrick said he has initiatives on other issues. He wants to do more to encourage small businesses in the downtown and also believes that Marysville is in need of its own hospital and should consider partnering with an existing hospital district or establish its own.
Patrick deserves appreciation for launching a challenge that has respectfully encouraged consideration and discussion of the issues facing the city.
Nehring in nine years as mayor, however, has shown steady leadership that has won results for the city’s residents as well as the region. City officials have shown discipline in city budgeting, declining even the 1 percent property tax increase the city is allowed each year. Living within its budget, Marysville continues to provide and even expand services, in particular new parks.
Because of the respect he has earned, Nehring is often called on to partner with other mayors in the county, adding his perspective and skill in communication. And he has developed a vital rapport with representatives in the Legislature and the region’s congressional districts.
Marysville’s voters should retain Nehring as mayor.