It will surprise no one that issues related to growth in Snohomish County are foremost on the agenda of the Snohomish County Council, the five-member legislative panel that adopts the county’s budget and puts policy priorities into law.
While growth in the county slowed a bit in 2018 from the 2 percent pace of 2017, the county still added more than 13,500 residents last year, bringing the total population to nearly 819,000. By 2035, the county is expected to grow by nearly 200,000, likely topping the 1 million mark.
With that growth comes opportunities for business and jobs, but also impacts on housing, schools, transportation, parks, neighborhoods, health and myriad county services, all at a time of constrained budgets.
Fortunately, experienced candidates have not been hesitant to step up to the challenges coming before the county council. The council’s District 2 seat — representing the Tulalip reservation, Everett and Mukilteo — drew eight candidates, a large and diverse field.
District 3, represented by incumbent Stephanie Wright, has drawn two challengers.
For both races, primary voters will determine the two candidates who will move on to the Nov. 5 general election.
District 2: The seat — open this election because current council member Brian Sullivan has met his term limit — features seven Democrats and one Republican for the four-year term, each with individual perspectives and experience of use to the council.
During interviews with The Herald Editorial Board, all demonstrated detailed understanding of the issues facing the county and the tools available to address those issues.
Louis Harris, Democrat, is vice-president for the county NAACP chapter and works as a financial specialist with the state Department of Social and Health Services. He has volunteered on the Everett police chief’s community advisory board, with Tulalip Youth Services, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross and was this year’s Everett Elks Citizen of the Year.
Megan Dunn, Democrat, is a program director for the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, and has proved her political skill by leading the campaign to change representation on the Everett City Council from at-large posts to districts. With a masters in policy studies, Dunn also served as an alternate for the city planning commission and on the city’s Safe Streets Initiative committee to recommend policies and programs to address homelessness, addiction and mental health issues.
Tyler Verda, Democrat, is a homeless housing and community services specialist with the county, and previously served as an aide to former council member Hans Dunshee and a legislative aide to state Rep. Mike Sells. He has volunteered with Adopt-A-Stream and the Mountain to Sound Greenway Trust.
Sharita Burton, Democrat, a small business owner and formerly a legal assistant at a law firm, also has worked with the Port of Seattle, as a volunteer recruiter for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and as a liaison with the state convention center. She has volunteered with HopeWorks on its diversity advisory council, on the Everett School District’s fiscal advisory committee and organized discussions among business, education and public service stakeholders for the North Broadway district.
Alex Lark, a Democrat, works as philanthropy manager for Housing Hope and serves in the U.S. Army Reserve. He also worked as a legislative researcher for former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird. He has served on the Everett planning commission, the Camano Island Housing task force, and the Everett Station District Alliance.
Anna Rohrbough, a Republican, is a current Mukilteo city council member, a personal consulting business owner and a TEDx speaker and coach. Rohrbough, elected to the Mukilteo council in 2017, has challenged the city’s administration on issues of budget and contract transparency. She has volunteered with Rotary, the Sno-Isle Library Foundation and Economic Alliance Snohomish County Ambassadors program.
Jennifer Gregerson, a Democrat, is the current Mukilteo mayor and previously served on the city council. She owns a small business. A Kamiak High graduate, she has a masters in urban planning. She has served as chairwoman on the Alliance for Housing Affordability and on the board of Domestic Violence Services of Snohomish County. She also serves on the board of Community Transit.
As impressive as the above resumes are, that of Cecilia Wilson offers some 25 years of experience that is directly related to the council and service to the county and its residents.
Wilson, a Democrat, has worked for three years as an adviser to County Executive Dave Somers on issues related to the budget, affordable housing, equity and inclusion and the opioid crisis. She also has been responsible for constituent services, a responsibility of county council members that gets little attention but is important to connecting residents with needed services and resolutions to problems and concerns.
Prior to her role with Somers, Wilson served in a similar capacity for more than 20 years to county council members.
Her work with the executive’s office and council members involved her in the establishment of programs that address mental health and chemical dependency, the county’s prescription drug discount card, the county’s Human Rights Commission and the county’s drug court, which diverts those with nonviolent drug charges from jail time into treatment, support and other services.
Any of the eight candidates would be an asset on the county council, but Wilson, with more than two decades of service to the county already and broad and detailed background on the range of issues, has prepared herself to be a leader on the council.
Wilson has earned election.
District 3: Incumbent Stephanie Wright faces a challenge from Meier Lowenthal of Edmonds and Willie Russell of south Everett. District 3 represents residents in Lynnwood and Edmonds and neighboring unincorporated areas.
Lowenthal, running as a Democrat, is a home loan officer. Russell, indicating no party preference, owns his own business that he said places veterans and former felons in housing. Both expressed a desire to serve the county and their communities, but neither has the background necessary for a position of leadership in the county. It must also be noted that Russell is a registered sex offender, related to three convictions in 1989, including second-degree rape, to which he pleaded guilty.
It isn’t by default, however, that Wright has earned the endorsement.
She is a lifelong county resident, who has held her post since 2010. Having served four years on the Lynnwood City Council, Wright was appointed by the county council to fill the vacancy caused by the departure of Mike Cooper to serve as Edmonds mayor. Wright has since won election twice to the county council.
Wright, with a masters in teaching and certification in library and media sciences, is a former teacher and librarian.
Noting the county’s growth and its needs for housing and investments in transportation, parks and health issues, Wright has accepted appointments that address those issues. She currently serves on the Community Transit board, guiding that agency as it expands its routes and service, particularly in preparation of Sound Transit’s extension of its light rail service to Lynnwood. She also serves on the county’s housing affordability task force and on the county health district Board of Health.
Regarding housing affordability. Wright said the county is considering methods to increase the stock of housing, making it easier to build duplexes, town homes and other housing that allows for greater density in appropriate areas.
Regarding budget issues, Wright has joined the rest of the council in seeking constraints on spending, sometimes to the objection of other county officials and fellow Democrats.