Editorial: Retain Mead on Snohomish County Council

Appointed in April, Mead has shown leadership and the ability to work with the rest of the council.

By The Herald Editorial Board

Not infrequently, local and state government representatives are appointed, rather than elected, following a vacancy. But voters are left out only until the next election when they either confirm that appointment for the rest of the unexpired term or elect a different representative.

That’s the case for the 4th District seat of the Snohomish County Council, where Jared Mead was appointed following the departure of veteran Councilmember Terry Ryan, who left this February to lead a newly created position as the county’s director of aerospace economic development. Mead was appointed in April and was among four candidates who filed to complete the term, which will return to the ballot in 2021.

The council’s 4th District represents residents in the cities of Mill Creek, Bothell, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and parts of unincorporated Snohomish County.

On the primary ballot are:

Mead, who served a year of a two-year term in the state House in the 44th Legislative District prior to his appointment, and also served on the Mill Creek City Council and on the city’s planning commission. His past employment was in finance.

Delia O’Malley, running as an independent, has worked as an educator, paraprofessional and substitute teacher in special education and has also served as a paralegal, including more than a decade of volunteer service with the county’s Court Appointed Special Advocate office. She currently serves on the Northshore School District’s equity and diversity committee. O’Malley did not participate in a joint interview with The Herald Editorial Board.

Brenda Carrington, running as a Republican, has owned and operated small businesses in commercial construction, landscaping and interior design. She has lived in the county for 10 years. Carrington could not be reached through the email address provided when she filed for office.

Amber King, a Democrat, has previously served as a precinct committee officer and on Democratic Party boards and government councils. She works as a contract administrator in the construction industry, in medical billing and has worked in commercial fishing and the food and beverage industry.

In a joint interview, Mead and King differed only by degrees on most issues.

Among the most immediate concerns has been the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the local economy and on the county’s budget. Both saw a responsibility for the county to assist the county’s small businesses, including facilitating federal grant aid and working to keep the county from losing ground in the phased reopening of the economy.

Facing decreased revenue because of the earlier “stay home” orders, the county has already taken its first swing at budget cuts, requiring county departments last month to shed 3.5 percent of their budgets.

Coming at the same time as nationwide protests over abuses of use of force by police departments, the budget discussions focused additional attention on spending for the county sheriff’s office, with a group of public defenders seeking a 50 percent cut to that budget.

King and Mead differed on what percentage of the county’s budget goes toward criminal justice but agreed that a reallocation of spending should be considered.

King supported the goal of reallocating 50 percent of the sheriff’s office budget to other programs, citing the example of a Eugene, Ore., program that sends out social workers as first responders rather than law enforcement.

Clarifying that the sheriff’s office and jail account for about 40 percent to 45 percent of the county budget, Mead said that amount still is significant and requires a review that could better spend resources on issues of mental health and addiction. Even some deputies, Mead said, have said there are better ways to respond than sending out law enforcement to handle some of those calls. Beyond budget questions, Mead, who serves as chairman of the council’s law and justice committee and on a regional law and justice council, also said the county needs to consider reforms to policy, including an oversight panel of community members and review of use-of-force policies.

As both live in the south county, both have witnessed the explosive growth there and the unmet need for affordable housing. And both have called for a re-imagination of types of housing built, and an increased investment in public housing. Both also recommend cooperative efforts that encourage builders, environmental groups and others to find consensus that can provide more housing.

King warns that the need will become even more obvious as eviction moratoriums end and a federal jobless benefit bonus expires later this month. Most immediately, greater attention will be needed on housing assistance programs. She recommends a look at King County policies that limit the outlay and credit requirements that landlords require of renters.

Overall, King and Mead present themselves as the kind of young, prepared leaders that the county now needs in varied leadership roles in the county.

While his tenure on the county council has been brief, Mead has moved quickly to build solid working relationships with a politically diverse but largely cooperative council that includes fellow Democrats Stephanie Wright and Megan Dunn and Republicans Sam Low and Nate Nehring.

While acknowledging the need for action on the issues above and others, Mead has shown he counts on reliable information and thoughtful consideration of issues.

During last month’s budget debate, which included six hours of public testimony via teleconference, Mead expressed frustration with misinformation spread online about the meeting’s agenda. Still, Mead showed a commitment to continuing the discussion on community concerns about the county budget and policing: “We’re going to do this again. And we’re going to do it the right way. And we’re going to have some reforms,” Mead said following the June 10 meeting.

Mead has justified his nomination by party precinct leaders and the council’s unanimous appointment; voters can now give Mead a full year to further demonstrate his skills and commitment to the district and the county at large.

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