Forum: Making Marysville stronger takes investment in schools

Citizen participation in the city’s problems has turned things around. Now, the schools need our support.

Ron Friesen

Ron Friesen

By Ron Friesen / Herald Forum

In 2015 I started attending Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring’s “Koffee Klatches.” At the time I was concerned about “zombie” homes and the buildup of garbage and junk all over the city, which I believed was not being addressed.

At one meeting, then police chief, Rick Smith responded passionately to the concerns and complaints of the citizens present. His reply rocked my world, both because of its frankness from a public official, and because I was forced to look in the mirror. The old saying, “When you point your finger at others, there are three more pointing back at the real problem” was made very clear.

The word Chief Smith used when describing his biggest frustration trying to solve problems in Marysville was “apathy.”

“Everyone wants someone else to address and fix the problems, and then complain when it is not fixed the way they want,” he said.

Well, I was stunned and my ears were burning. I was there to complain, not dive in and help. So, in 2016 I dove in.

Neighbors gathered and attended city council meetings asking for change and improvements. I got to know the mayor and city council members and learned some valuable lessons.

The first lesson was that in local politics, issues matter more than party or ideology. I love that! Our community group had libertarians, liberals, and everything in between. As I got to know Mayor Nehring, I discovered he is pretty conservative, while I, on the other hand, am much more liberal. But he and I forged a strong, respectful working relationship that I value to this day. We focussed on issues. Period.

The second lesson was that a single voice is a lonely voice. A single voice repeating a gripe over and over is just sidelined as a “complainer.” But once several voices unite with the same message, people in power start to listen, as well they should. And when the message is repeated again and again, something finally gets done. Why? Because people chose to speak up, dive in and act, not just complain. No apathy.

As a result of a unified message and a united community, our mayor and city council improved our city codes and enforcement tremendously, and Marysville has benefited as a result with higher property values, lower crime rates and a cleaner community.

Fast forward to 2022-2023.

Complainers, nay-sayers and conspiracy theorists have hobbled the Marysville School District for a decade now. And our school district sometimes managed to shoot itself in the foot. Meanwhile, business and political leaders wanted to stay far, far away from the controversy and negativity.

Marysville has made incredible progress in all areas this last decade. Except for our schools. But something remarkable is starting to happen. Everyone is starting to see that families looking for their “forever” home look at affordability and school quality equally. Families looking for “forever homes” have not been coming to Marysville the last several years. This affects the city, our businesses and even our police department. The “a-ha” moment is dawning: “Strong communities rely on strong schools!”

Best Schools Marysville is a new nonprofit group spearheading the effort to reclaim and restore our schools. Community support is growing. Especially notable is support from Tulalip Tribes, Rotary, Marysville-Tulalip Chamber of Commerce as well as our city leaders. This is unprecedented! But most importantly, our mainstream voters are finding their voices! And unlike the negative voices who only wish to destroy our schools, we are getting ready to build starting with a critical vote on our operations levy on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.

Stay tuned. This story is just beginning.

Ron Friesen is a longtime Marysville resident, a retired music teacher and community and church musician and is committed to community improvement.

Herald Forum

The Herald Forum invites community members to submit essays on topics of importance and interest to them. Essays typically are between 400 and 600 words in length, although exceptions for longer pieces can be made. To submit essays or for more information about the Herald Forum, write Herald Opinion editor Jon Bauer at or call him at 425-339-3466.

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