Ex-Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson is retiring from his job as Snohomish County Executive Director this October – and, according to a Snohomish County news release, “he means it this time.”
Haakenson, who also served on the Edmonds City Council from 1996-1999, was Edmonds’ mayor from 2000-2010. He left in July 2010 to take a job as deputy director for then-Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon. Reardon left the county May 31, 2013 following a series of controversies, and after the Snohomish County Council appointed then-Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick to take Reardon’s place, Haakenson was asked to stay on.
“Gary Haakenson is regarded as one of Snohomish County’s most dedicated public servants,” Lovick said. “No matter what office he has held, nor the challenges he has encountered, he has handled it all with integrity and unmatched energy. He’s going to be terribly missed in this office and throughout county government.”
According to the county news release, Haakenson — who co-founded the Lynnwood-based international retailer Zumiez before being elected to the Edmonds City Council — was seen as a unifying force for elected officials and county employees following Reardon’s resignation.
“It was tough on everybody,” Haakenson said of those years. “What I’ll take away from this experience is the professionalism and dedication of Snohomish County employees. They did their jobs under the most trying circumstances. I’m honored to have worked alongside them.”
Haakenson was named executive director of public safety in June 2013 after John Lovick was appointed county executive. He was called on to serve as the county’s long-term disaster manager for the SR 530 Slide following the devastating March 22 mudslide near Oso that claimed 43 lives.
“I knew right away Gary was the right person to take on this critical role,” said Snohomish County Deputy Executive Mark Ericks. “Some leaders are great at reaching out to people in need and connecting with them; other leaders’ strength is in problem solving. Gary is that rare leader who can pull off both at the same time.”
The public is invited to celebrate his years of service from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23, in the public hearing rooms in the Robert J. Drewel Building on the main county campus in Everett. “Haakenson’s roast – we mean toast – begins at 2 p.m.,” the county announcement said.
Haakenson is a Northwest native, having grown up in the Seattle area. He attended Blanchet High School and Seattle University, where he received a degree in business administration. He is married to Dolly Haakenson, and they have two married sons, Brett and Bryan.