What stood out from the Edmonds City Council interviews of potential mayoral candidates Tuesday night? The extended qualifications of several, and the realization that the council will have a tough choice on its hands when it makes a decision via majority vote next Tuesday. If you didn’t have a chance to attend in person, you can watch all the interviews on Channel Comcast channel 21 and Verizon channel 39 at 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. Also be sure to share your opinions with your councilmembers prior to the July 20 meeting.
Meanwhile, here are some highlights:
Richard Marin, a 32-year Edmonds resident, told the council that three qualities set him apart from the other seven candidates: first, his long-term and broad policy experience, including time as a commanding officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, seven years as an Edmonds City Councilmember, four years on the Community Transit Board of Directors 2004-08 and three years on the Sound Transit Board of Directors; second, his leadership experience, including being appointed or elected to 13 different leadership roles; and third, his experience solving “long-term budget deficiencies.”
As mayor, he said he would address Edmonds’ budget problems by re-examining “every service Edmonds delivers and the processes we use to deliver them,” and would also “compare our allocation of resources against comparable cities in terms of tax base, to see where we might be underspending or overspending.”
Marin said his leadership style is to make sure employees are inspired and know that they are trusted to make good decisions. As a council member, he said, “I also made it a practice to be thoughtful to staff.”
He also said he would encourage people who don’t normally attend council meetings to express their opinions about city issues. “There are a lot of people who don’t take the trouble and don’t have the courage to give public testimony,” Marin said. “You’ve got to be listening to everybody and be sensitive to those who don’t speak up frequently or at all.”
Ron Wambolt, who left the city council in December after serving one term, told councilmembers that with his significant business experience (he is a former senior vice president for Fluke in Everett) and council service, he offers “the opportunity for the most seamless transition in the mayor’s office.
“This is not the time for on-the-job training,” Wambolt said.
He said that one of the first things he would do as mayor was call employees together, “communicate with them and fully support them.”
Under questioning from councilmembers, Wambolt said there is “no doubt in my mind that we need a levy. I’m very comfortable there won’t be enough money to cut (from the budget) to solve the problem.”
He chose not to express an opinion about a proposal, to be discussed at next Tuesday’s council meeting, that would change Edmonds from a mayor to city manager form of government, stating that “it has to be decided by voters.” But he didn’t hesitate to answer the question posed by Councilmember D.J. Wilson regarding how things in the city would be different 18 months after Wambolt took office. “Improve communications of financial information to the council,” Wambolt said. “When you have (council) finance committee meetings and they only get their information that night, that’s unacceptable. And that will end immediately.”
Mike Cooper, a current Snohomish County Councilmember, cited his “unique set of experiences that no other candidates bring,” including eight years in the state Legislature, his current county council role and 25 years as a professional firefighter.
“I’m not afraid to sit down to make the hard decisions that have to be made,” Cooper said. “There will never be a question of where I stand on the issue.”
Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas asked Cooper how he would address what she described as the council’s “dysfunctional relationship — because I can’t think of a better word. How can you bring us all together to work better together?”
As mayor, Cooper said he would improve the relationship between councilmembers and the mayor’s office by encouraging two-way conversation. A side benefit: Having a civil dialogue between councilmembers and the mayor will increase public confidence in the city government’s ability to do business, Cooper said. “Everyone gets a chance under a new mayor for a fresh start, to pull together and succeed,” he added.
Noting that Cooper is a former firefighters union official, Councilmember Diane Buckshnis asked how that background might affect the city’s current bargaining efforts with its union employees.
“I don’t think it will be a problem at all,” he said. “I’m not afraid to sit down and look in the eyes of the union leaders in the city and say it’s going to take a collective approach by the union employees and the city council and the mayor to find our way into the future.”
He also indicated, under council questioning, that he supports Edmonds’ current mayor-led government, noting that the ability of people to directly elect their mayor gives them a more vested interest in their city.
Dick Van Hollebeke, who ran his own insurance and investment company for 30 years before retiring — and who also is a past member of the Edmonds City Council — described his leadership style as “one of respect and collaboration.” He noted that he had included with his application 16 letters of support from a wide range of people in the community that “attest to my ability to work respectfully and collaboratively with a broad spectrum of people to achieve a common goal.”
“I am well-prepared to assume the job of mayor,” Van Hollebeke said. “I’m well-versed in the concerns of the citizens of Edmonds and what challenges lie ahead in weeks and months.” While the council has its work cut out for it, with budget problems, a possible levy, union negotiations and proposed shift to a city manager form of government, “there is nothing to stop us from being the envy of every other city in the Puget sound region,” he said.
Van Hollebeke said he has spent the past couple of weeks meeting with members of the city’s employee leadership team to determine their needs and issues. “I am a builder of consensus — that’s how I see my job,” he said. He sees his job during the next 18 months as “to set the table. That’s probably a realistic expeectation in a year and a half’s time. I will set the wheels in motion so that we can stabilize our budget.”
Roger Hertrich, another former city councilmember who has been a longtime watchdog and critic of council activities, came under sharp questioning from Wilson, who asked Hertrich if he would be willing to be “less critical and more constructive” while serving as mayor. Under the leadership of Council President Steve Bernheim, councilmembers in recent weeks “are all trying to let bygones be bygones and focus on being a team rather than opponents, and I think we need to have the mayor do that,” Wilson said.
Hertrich agreed he would be committed to working in a positive manner, adding “there are no hard feelings on my part about anyone at this time.”
Frank Yamamoto, owner of the Running in Motion store in downtown Edmonds and chair of the council-appointed Economic Development Commission as well as president of the Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association and a Chamber of Commerce Board member, cited his experience managing people and businesses as two areas that make him well-qualified to be mayor.
“My proficient skill is working with people at all levels,” he said, along with being a good listener and showing respect. “A sense of humor never hurts and a sincere smile goes a long way,” he added.
Yamamoto’s consistent theme during his interview was the importance of everyone working together for a common goal. “We need to be on the same page, in the same boat rowing in the same direction,” he said.
When asked by Fraley-Monillas what steps he would take to improve communication among the mayor, council and city staff, Yamamoto said that “all have to work in harmony as much as possible. It doesn’t do any good to go off in different directions.”